Relieve Upper Body Tension

With marching season in full swing, flutists often suffer from upper body tension and head and arm fatigue as longer and more rehearsals are scheduled for upcoming festivals and competitions. The flute’s position to the right side of the body, with arms raised to hold the instrument up while marching, puts an unnatural strain on the head, neck, arms, hands, back, and upper body muscles.

Follow these steps during each practice to lessen fatigue and manage the flute like a pro!


Marching band warmups often include stretching exercises to prepare, strengthen, and maintain body health. Stretch first, focusing on large muscle groups such as the upper back, shoulders, and arms, then add simple calisthenics to warm up and avoid muscle strain. Examples include reaching for the sky, touching toes, jumping jacks, or running in place.

Bring Shoulders Down, Not Up

As tension increases through physical exertion in a long practice, remember to avoid raising the shoulders by thinking down, not up.

Relax Arms Frequently

When the band breaks to reset or repeat a chart, remember to drop your arms to increase blood flow and eliminate strain on tired muscles. If the brass section or pit is rehearsing, relax the body by breathing deeply and loosening the upper body and back.

Loosen Your Wrists

Hand tension can lead to permanent injury, and tight wrists behind the hand limits motion and blood circulation to the fingers. Remember that finger motion begins in the arms, travels through the wrist, and goes across the bridge of the hand to reach the fingers. If wrists are tight, particularly in cold temperatures on the marching field, injuries often result.

Maintain Air Support

Deep breathing supports physical movement and develops endurance needed for success on the marching field, so add deep breathing exercises before, during, and after practice.

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

Chris Dillon

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