Mike Oitzman's Blog

Mike Oitzman is the leader of the Northern California Flute Circle, and is an avid blogger, a well respected teacher, musician and advocate of the Native American Flute.

Lesson 3 – Help jumpstarting your music career

2009 April 17
by Mike Oitzman
The Native American Flute Portal - Flute School Blog

The Native American Flute Portal - Flute School Blog

This week, I thought that I would share a couple links and encourage Gary and Scott to share their thoughts in subsequent posts regarding tips for jumpstarting your music career.

I recently discovered the CDBaby DIY Musician Podcast. This is a great resource if you want to learn more about how to build your career as an artist. This market is so small that most of the recording artists that we know about have all had to make it where they are through their own sweat and tears. Scott August and Mark Holland can certainly assest to that. Even well known artists like Mary Youngblood, still have to do the majority of marketing themselves.

So if you are thinking about recording that first album, or even if you’re already well down the path of your recording career, here are some resources to help you with new ideas in the world of Do It Yourself (DIY) music marketing.

CDBaby Music Discovery Podcast: http://cdbabypodcast.com/

RSS Feed: http://feeds2.feedburner.com/cdbabydiymusicpodcast

Another great resource is Bob Baker’s Indie Music Promotion Blog

Bob Baker is one of the most popular online marketing guru’s around today. He tirelessly promotes himself and his music through a variety of avenues. If you want to get serious about building an audience and them continuing to hold on to them, you can learn a lot from Bob. A “must read” for all DIY musicians is Bob’s book:  Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook, the classic guide to indie music promotion.

Another online resource is a site called New Music Strategies: http://newmusicstrategies.com/

Andrew Drubber has written a free ebook on new music strategies, it outlines some of the newest thoughts on ways to reach and connect with your audience. You can download it here: http://newmusicstrategies.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/nms.pdf

Also worth a read is the New Music Manifesto, which breaks down some of the barriers which exist in the current music market (e.g. the big publishers…). You can read that online here: http://newmusicstrategies.com/manifesto/

RSS Feed: http://feeds2.feedburner.com/newmusicstrategies

One last link that I’ll mention is: Music Marketing [dot] com

Lesson 2 – Figuring out your favorite song

2009 April 3
by Mike Oitzman
The Native American Flute Portal - Flute School Blog

The Native American Flute Portal - Flute School Blog

This weeks lesson is about discovering a great tool that you can use to help figure out the notes in that favorite flute song, or even determine what key flute was used to play the recording. (Maybe you can even use it to discover the “Forbidden Note” from Cliff’s post)

I discovered a cool software tool called: “Transcribe!” that will slow down (or speed up) an MP3 or WAV file by 15% to 150% while still keeping the correct pitch in the playback. This is an awesome way to help train your ear for finding the right note.

Here’s a screenshot of the software:

Transcribe User Interface

Notice that you have some real simple choices to slow down the playback. Note also that when you select a region of the song/phrase, it shows what pitch the note is, on the virtual keyboard below. In the example above the highlighted note is an F above middle C. You can also use Transcribe! as a simple recording interface and then play back your piece while you relearn what you just played (or notate it…).

Transcribe! is not free, but you can download and try it for 30 days. Cost is $50, for MAC, PC and Linux.

Link: http://www.seventhstring.com/xscribe/download.html

They also have a free, online metronome: http://www.seventhstring.com/metronome/metronome.html

And an online digital tuner: http://www.seventhstring.com/tuner/tuner.html

Lesson 1 – Breathing

2009 March 27
by Mike Oitzman
The Native American Flute Portal - Flute School Blog

The Native American Flute Portal - Flute School Blog

Ah, so you thought that this was gonna be hard? No way. The first lesson starts with something you’ve been doing everyday of your life: breathing. The question is, do you know how to breathe and play the flute at the same time? How hard could it be? I want to give you two simple things to think about, and two exercises to start with as you rethink the way you’ve been breathing all these years.

It’s simple, there are the two C’s of breathing for the flute: Capacity and Control


If you’re like me, then you drive your car around until the “gas light” goes on, and then you start looking for a gas station to refill. Well, if you breathe into the flute the same way, you’re in for a train wreck. So the first thing that we want to learn is how much capacity our lungs can hold. Everyone is different. Our bodies are different shapes and sizes, and I’ll bet that you are all in different states of physical fitness. But all that really matters is that you know your own body (you’re the one living in it after all).

Exercise 1a – “The Long Blow”:

  1. Sit comfortably, straighten your spine, arms at your sides.
  2. Take a deep breath, fill your lungs, in through your nose.
  3. Hold for a count of 3, then exhale through your mouth, like your blowing out candles on a birthday cake a foot away (yeah, go ahead, celebrate, you deserve it).
  4. Repeat.
  5. On the third time, try to make the breath last as long as possible.

What did you learn? Did you improve the length of your exhale significantly with each repeat? Do you feel more relaxed? Did you tighten up your shoulders or breathe with your stomach?


Now that you’ve learned your lungs’ capacity, it’s time to think about the second “C”, which is control. Capacity, without control, just means you’re a blow hard. But put the two together, and you’ve got all of the elements to really strengthen your flute playing. With control, you want to learn all of the subtleties between a “whisper” and a “shout”. Try this simple exercise: In a whisper say “Hello”. Now shout  the word “Hello”. (anyone answer you?) :-)
Did you feel your stomach tighten when you shouted? You should have.

Exercise 1b – “Blowing Zen”:

Now, with a flute in your hands we’re going to attempt the second exercise. In this exercise, “listening” will be as important as blowing, because your ears are the feedback device for this exercise.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Blow into your flute, gently as first (think whisper…)
  3. Increase the air pressure and volume as you blow (think shout…)
  4. Take a second deep breath.
  5. Now try to blow a constant tone (no wavering) from the beginning of the note until the end.
  6. Repeat as necessary.

What happened? Did your flute squeak when you blew hard? Did you notice that the tone was FLAT when you whispered into the flute and grew increasingly SHARPER (in pitch) as you blew harder? We’ll come back to this phenomena in a future post, but for now it’s sufficient to observe that your breath controls the pitch on a single note. Thus CONTROL is a critical skill to learn early in your playing.

What did we learn?

Well, first we learned that you need to figure out your body and your actual lung capacity. This will be critical to understanding if you have enough air to make it through a given phrase, and knowing when you can take another breath. Also, learning to control your breath while you’re playing will be the absolute most important skill to master early on your flute playing path. I would recommend that you begin every practice session with the two exercises above as a warm up period.

Opening your mind to the Possibilities

2009 March 20
by Mike Oitzman

Welcome everyone, I am very excited to be starting down this path with you as we learn and grow together. My intentions in communicating to you with the flute portal blog and specifically the “Flute School” is to inspire you to try new things. I have no expectations other than that you all will be open to trying the exercises and seeing where it takes you.
With that in mind, I wanted to start this first article by passing along an inspirational link on what it means to open your mind to the possibilities. This link is a short Pop!Cast presentation by Benjamin Zander, who by the way, is the only conductor ever to lead the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. In this presentation, he talks about what it means to get over your fear and competition in playing and play for yourself and the greater good.
Total runtime is about 30 minutes.
Link: http://www.poptech.com/popcasts/popcasts.aspx?lang=&viewcastid=211