Explore, Expand, Energize

Mary Karen Clardy

After the excitement of marching season in summer and fall months, rehearsals often become routine when preparing for festival or competition performances. Here are a few ideas to mix things up.


Simple adjustments such as changing rehearsal order in sectionals, switching assigned parts, or sight-reading a new tune add variety and interest. Another option is to reverse the section seating arrangement (top to bottom reorders from bottom to top) in long tone or technical warmups. This approach improves balance, blend, and intonation in the section as players hear and adjust to new sounds from different locations.


Consider including piccolo, alto, or bass flute to add color, variety, and fun in rehearsals. Piccolo and/or bass flute are non-transposing instruments, sounding an octave higher or lower and will expand the ensemble sound with additional range and color. Alto flute sounds a 4th lower than the printed score. With computer programs designed to transpose easily, the task is simple to add alto color in the middle of the texture. Rotate players on the instruments.

Other ideas to expand the section are adding keyboard percussion (such as marimba, xylophone, or vibraphone) or Latin percussion instruments (congas, maracas, or bongos) to add energy in concerts. Many scores are easy to modify, particularly Bach Chorales printed in score form or simple Latin folk/popular music published for flute ensembles.


Experiment with amplification to add energy to performances. Most marching programs use amplification on the field for solo features, and using the equipment indoors enhances sound to the flute section for performances in large, open spaces like the foyer of an auditorium, a gymnasium, or in a local shopping mall.

Performance opportunities for the expanded flute section include pre-concerts, senior centers, or as a demonstration group at recruiting events. Community involvement builds support through the year and maintains the momentum of marching season. The options are endless, so be creative.

About author

Mary Karen Clardy

Mary Karen Clardy, professor of flute at the University of North Texas in Denton, appears as a soloist, chamber artist and teacher throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia and South America. A renowned author, she has published more than 10 books from European American Music, Leduc, Schott and Universal Edition. Her students are consistent prizewinners in international competitions and occupy prominent orchestral and faculty positions throughout the world. Visit www.mkclardy.com.

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