Friday, November 06, 2015

High D4 embouchure change

(click on illustration to enlarge)
Question: I have been preparing Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, 4th mvmt. (second flute) for auditions. I have been practicing the eighth note passages that lead up to the high D in different rhythms, articulations, tempos, etc. And I have used different fingerings for the high notes (such as using the alternate fingering for the high F# and regular fingerings for the high C# and the D in an attempt to lessen the motion in the right hand/not rely on the foot joint fingerings as much.) However, it is still difficult getting the higher notes to speak clearly (if at all at times) with any fingering I use. I have determined that the air needs to do most of the work here but I have trouble remaining relaxed in the embouchure as I go higher. Since it is our tendency to create a smaller embouchure as we go higher in range and that combined with the intense air speed can be a cause for disaster in this situation. Any tips?
Also, of course the eighth note passages with the cross fingerings that trade off between the first and second flutist are also tricky, however I have found this passage to be much easier than the other as I just need to keep a supple embouchure as I work my diaphragm through that section. But any tips on this are also welcome.
Thank you! A
Dear A,
The difference between third octave and fourth octave embouchure is shown with diagrams  in Volume Two of Roger Mather's book "The Art of Playing the Flute". See diagram at top of this post.

Notice that the lower lip is covering only 1/4 of the blow hole for high C#4, D4, which is the fourth octave. Notice the angle of air stream suggested in the above picture too. It works best if it is "almost horizontal".

In a dramatic comparison, the embouchure used for our regular third register (high G, A, B3 to high C4) the lower lip is covering more than 2/3rds of the blow hole and the upper lip is blowing downward at a 45 degree angle. This is to make the third octave mellow, and correct sharpness of pitch.

Knowing about this dramatic embouchure change will help you pop out high Ds with ease. :>)
It's just a question of knowing when to move the lips and then finding a happy medium of adjustment that is more subtle as you play up that high in your longtones everyday.
As for the Prokofiev fourth movement Classical Symphony fingerings, all the flute parts have been re-written for ease, and the info. is at a previous blog post: here. Naturally these re-written parts won't be appropriate for auditions, but they certainly help in real life performances (several orchestral flutists have emailed that they work really well with short preparation time, and that no one can hear the difference; the flutists just have more fun!).
 So here is the pdf of the rewritten Prokofiev Classical Symphony parts complete and ready to print; makes life much much easier:

(note: Errata correction Nov 8th 2015: Bar 34, F naturals  on beat 3 and 4 should be F#s in both parts on beats 3 & 4. The above is corrected now.)
My personal opinion is that when composers (who play piano) don't understand the difficulty of what they've written (for flutists), that it's perfectly fine to perform identical re-writes, in order to save practice time for making the truly musical parts a joy to play, while the impossible parts become easy to play well.
Best, Jen

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Recording Duets Easily on a Zoom H4n

Recording Duets on Zoom
I have several adult students who play at the grade 9+ level who are just about to start using a Zoom H4n recorder to play duets at home. It's a blast! It's the best! There are tons of free duets of high quality to play (scroll down to print them for free)! And even if you don't have a Zoom you can still do all this and more: see below for ZoomLess".

As a help to my students, I found all the links to a large number of high quality duets that are free at the imslp music library and I drew up the world's easiest instructions for recording just two tracks on the Zoom.

Here are the easiest possible duet recording instructions: (800kb pdf):

There are also basic instructions for multi-tracking on a Zoom H4n in an earlier blog post. The basic functions are all written out in plain language due to the Zoom booklet being so opaque to moi :>)
 The free printable pdf that I wrote in 2012 covers duets, trios and quartets plus saving the mp3s to your computer. If you own a Zoom, do print out this earlier  pdf : How to Record Multiple Tracks on H4n.

Why? When you go to record duets, you do need to set the Zoom to MTR which stands for Multi-Tracking. To set the Zoom to "MTR" you use the menu (press and hold the menu button) then use the scrolling jog-wheel to choose MODE, and then MTR.
Once you are set on MTR, you can leave it there and proceed with the Easy Recording of Duet instructions above.

Steps in recording a simple duet with only one flutist:

1. Choose a duet you can play easily and well. (there are easier grades linked below too.)

2. Practice the parts up, and choose a recording metronome speed that allows you to be relaxed.
Have a good look at the difficult parts, and use etudes and easy exercises to make the hard parts easy.

3. Turn the Recording machine on. Announce the name of the piece (pg. number etc.). Set the metronome going, warm up your flute,  and count yourself in.  (You can also play along with a CD playing the drone of the tonic note from the Tuning CD.  It's very satisfying to input the recording with good tuning from the start.)

4. Play Flute 1 and record it. If you stop, just count yourself back in again.

5. Play back Flute1, and play Flute 2 overtop of Flute 1. Ta-Da!

Note how fun this is; you're playing with good rhythm, good style and good tuning, and you're listening carefully. Again: Ta-Da! There is nothing more fun to do during practice time.

And you can re-record either part to improve it, if you like.

 It's super nice to re-record flute 1 without the metronome, but with the count-in re-announced when recording Flute 2. Extremely satisfying work.

You're simultaneously improving your rhythm, your sense of style and your intonation. Amazing and inspiring and will get you racing back to practice next time too. I'm not kidding. :>D Try it!
ZoomLess? No problemo!
You don't need a multi-tracking Zoom to play duets like this. You only need some type of recording machine: seriously. A tape recorder (!), mini-disc recorder, a good-ish microphone, one that plugs into in your computer, for example, and then add Audacity free software for editing the recordings if you're going to save them (and you don't have to save them).

 Just use any kind of recording machine that doesn't distort your flute sound quality when you hear it play back.

The actual key component is the metronome.
As it turns out, yes, it's almost completely and utterly (and I don't use those words lightly, ha ha.) impossible to play the second flute part over top of the first flute part if there is any unevenness to the rhythm or any wonkiness in the counting.

You choose the speed after learning the Flute 1 part. You set the metronome to be playable (not too fast) and you count yourself in and play and record it.

But wait, you say: What if I get lost? What if I make a mistake? What if I run out of breath? What if I play out of tune? Do I have to start all over again?!

Answer: No thank heaven. Not at all.
What you do is you just pretend you're at a rehearsal: you just talk to yourself.
You say aloud something like:
"Okay, that fell apart. I'm going to restart 68, which is five before, click, click (goes the metronome), two, three, four, one two three_________"

Then, it's so simple. You just finish recording Flute 1 with the metronome and with all the gaps you just created by talking to yourself (you'll have a nice resting spot when you go to play Flute 2 overtop too.)
Yes.... It's okay if you start and stop, and count yourself back in a dozen times, it's still totally fun.
It still sounds great.
When you rewind to the beginning again, you play back Flute 1 over the speakers, and play Flute 2 over top, live if you only have a simple recording machine. Either part can be recorded first.

You don't need to multi-track, you just play one part live. (!)

Fantastic Free Duets
And now to the fahhbulous flute duets that would suit Grade 8+ and up for gigs, for teaching, and for preparing at home with your recording machine. These are some of the best! And they are FREE!

Best flute duets for recording yourself on both parts - Advanced Intermediate
These are all printable and readable; I checked.

1. Blavet Sonatas 1-6 (I like no. 4-5 best myself.)
2. Telemann Opus 2 (flute urtext edition is the third one when you scroll down):
3. Mozart Duets K. 156 and K. 157
4. Kuhlau Op. 81
5. Kuhlau Op. 10
6. Kuhlau Op. 80
7. Kuhlau Op. 102
8. Galli Op. 68 Rigoletto Duo
9. Galli Op. 95 La Traviata Duo
10. Mozart K 279; 1st Piano Sonata in C Major (excellent scales and arpeggios)
1st mvmt: Fl1 - Fl2 - Score
2nd mvmt: Fl1 - Fl2 - Score
3rd mvmt: Fl1 - Fl2 - Score
The above duets are too difficult at first?

More free online flute duets for grade 2-6 students:

And grade 5-8 students:

Gariboldi Op. 145
Berbiguier Op. 59
Boismortier Op. 8
I haven't tried zooming those last three yet, but let me know if they are winners! They look good. :>)

For more ideas:
List of graded duets

Hope this helps everyone enjoy keeping their chops up through Zooming!

Best, Jen

Monday, October 05, 2015

Being James Galway (documentary)

Being James Galway - A 1 hr. documentary

Very interesting to watch; lots to think about. (video

Best, Jen

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jacot wins ARD - view videos

Dear Flutelovers,

One of my fave flutists played online for the ARD, livestream: Sébastian Jacot. He of lightest arms and most divine phrasing and style.
Have a look at his Gaubert Ballade from earlier in his career (video):

At the ARD competition, Jacot played his wooden flute for the CPE Bach in the semifinals and then a gold headjoint on a silver flute for the contemporary piece. Then he played the Finals, Reinecke Concerto, with the gold headjoint on a wooden body.  Amazing dexterity of lip.  (I just found the link to the video replay, so see the Semifinal and Final round by Jacot for yourself!)

Replay of all ARD Competition Videos.

Note: Scroll down to FLUTE FINALS - Jacot.

My feeling?
The man *is* music.

Watching the semifinals again (and now the Reinecke which stunned me!), of all the competitors in the semi-finals, he was the only one who played the  contemporary piece for solo flute in a rhythmically fascinating way. He used freer air-sculpting and then long arcs of continuous pulse. He performs to the live space, and fills it with his fascinating ideas; so well thought out; so many ideas!  But most moving was his use of both human rhythmic pulse as well as nature-sound rhythms. (Ex: the almost random rhythms of birdcall, followed by connected phrases within a slow beating pulse). No other player seemed to do that; they played without pulse over long phrases I found and became disassociated quite quickly. (the contemporary "squeaks and squawks with no dramatic direction" problem).

 So, here is a fellow who listens to his world very closely and embodies it in time and space to make the acoustic space come alive for the audience NOW.
Amazing man with amazing ears. What a musician! Can't wait to hear him play again.
Interesting to see the five microphones used for the contemporary piece. Fascinating to know that we need those to play the quietest end of the modern flute (faint-wind, hiss and key-click sound effects).

Replay Jacot Semi-finals video.

Update 10 am (Pacific time), 

Dear Flutists,
This just in, Jacot has won first prize for Flute at the ARD competition in the Final round with the Reinecke Concerto.

If there will be replays of the Finals for Flute (the Reinecke), then I believe they will appear at the Replay link below, later today. Be sure and scroll down to FLUTE and then Finals when you arrive:

Replay of all ARD Competition Videos. (Finals were posted Sept. 14/15)

Meanwhile, you can see and hear Jacot and the other semi-finalists on replay.

Replays of the videos of the Flute semi finalists

Scroll down to find Flute (there is also Trombone/Voice etc.) when you arrive;
there's a big blank white space at the top.  Scroll, scroll, (sings: " scroll in zee hay......." an obscure Young Frank- Terry Garr quote). (ha ha.)

Hear Jacot wooden flute on CPE Bach then gold headjoint/silver body on Sciarrino:

Replay Jacot Semi-finals video.

All flute participants and read results for three rounds;
Read:  Participants Flute.

ARD website

Best, Jen (last update Sept. 14th)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Barile plays Khachaturian... whoa: 8va!!!

Bravo Claudio!!!!

Claudio Barile plays Khachaturian (video)

Up the octave, by memory and at 1000 miles an hour.
Stunning! Goosebumps! Loved it! Genius!

Best, Jen

Friday, July 17, 2015

How to Get Started on the Flute

Dear Flute-lovers,

In the five years that I've been selling Roger Mather's "The Art of Playing the Flute", I've had five adult beginners write by email and order the book, telling me "I'm a complete beginner; I hope this will help."
I always write back and say: "Roger Mather's "The Art of Playing the Flute" book is for teachers and more advanced flutists who already know how to play, but want to improve the higher skill levels and teach them clearly to others."

However, inevitably, the adult beginners who order Mather's brilliant three volumes on Embouchure, Breathing and intricate flute skills, are still incredibly curious and want to read the Mather book (I can hardly blame them, it's that good!)
So if you too are a beginner who hasn't yet begun, and you're searching around about how to get started on the flute, here's my advice that I wrote this morning for a recent book-buyer who wanted to know:

How to Get Started on the Flute

If you're a complete beginner and don't yet have a flute, here's my best advice:

1. Singing is the closest thing to flute playing. So if you don't have a flute yet, there's nothing stopping you from singing and listening to music. It gets the chest open and the breath flowing and the ears working. Feel free. Even if you're not a great singer, (or you even think you're tone-deaf), you still need to move the air stream. So sing away.

2. Book: The cheapest and best book on how to begin flute playing is $10 and is also in the public library; HOW TO PLAY THE FLUTE by Howard Harrison.
It uses the musical terms used in the UK (Crochet instead of quarter note.) but it has everything you need even if you later use different nomenclature. Great tunes; great advice; big print, illustrations and quality ideas.

3. Rent a flute: The cheapest way to get a great flute to start on is to rent a Yamaha 200 (closed hole C-foot student level flute) from a flute shop. It costs about $25 or less a month.
You will learn (from the Harrison book) that you start with the headjoint only, learning to blow the air at an angle to make a good sound. This is the technique for the first two weeks of playing the flute; head-joint ONLY.

4. Old flute: If you are using an old flute that was given to you, take it to the repair shop first, before you struggle with it. Flutes typically suffer from leaking pads (the soft cotton part that closes the key firmly, and gives you each new note). If you have an old flute that hasn't been to the repair shop in a year or more, then this is a necessary maintenance that cannot be avoided.
If you play a flute with leaking pads you will be frustrated very quickly. Check this out. Terribly important, even in a rental flute (where they will fix the rented flute for free, or give you a better one.)

5. Lessons: The fastest way to progress is with a teacher.
We like to think that we can do it all with a book and some concentration, but it's too three-dimensional (actually more dimensions than that!) like gymnastics, and you would never think of becoming a gymnast without a teacher; too many angles and fine points for you to guess at just using a book! So get a teacher. Even if you only take ten lessons, you will save yourself up to five years of fruitless effort.

6. Playing Duets: The fastest way to get music into your life is to find people to play with.
This motivates and engages. Without people to play with or to talk to about your music, you can become isolated, which erodes your enthusiasm.
Get involved in duets with your teacher, and eventually duets and trios with your fellow adult-beginner students; then you'll be swept up in the incredible beauty that you used to dream of, and you'll be learning in a real and true way; by having excellent quality music being made around you and with you everyday.

Hope this helps.
More adult beginner flute links at

Comments welcome (just click the comments button)


Monday, July 13, 2015

Underwood - Flute Fundamentals (for doublers esp.)

Dear Flute-lovers,

A fantastically interesting video for your summer viewing interest:
Keith Underwood—Flute Fundamentals
(especially of interest for flute doublers)

The brilliant Keith Underwood explains an incredible amount of detailed infomation about forming the flute embouchure. Such great information; lots to try. Lots of the tips work immediately.  (Video)

Thanks to the interviewer. See at host's website - read bio.

Also of interest: Keith refers to a number of Julius Baker videos on youtube:

Here is one mentioned.

Shost 5 - Baker - Bernstein

If any of the avid super-flute-nerds (like me) have time to find more links to more Baker videos where one can see the Baker lips in action, please put the links in the comments. That would so excellent to put them all here. Thanks if you can help!

I am also a super huge fan of all the Keith Underwood Masterclasses that I've viewed online.
Advanced flutists will find them endlessly interesting:
Underwood masterclasses 
(you can pay to watch online all previous ones).

previous blog post on Underwood has even more "how-to" videos where Keith specifically demonstrates each of his concepts.


What I've been up to lately:
Thanks for all the kind emails I've received about my blog being quiet, while, secretly, unbeknownst to any silent readers.......
 my house is full of flute noise day and night,
because I'm working on my book full-time over the spring and summer.

Going great. Thanks for not emailing too often. :>)
 I really appreciate the time to do good work.
Super fun being had hopefully by all! :>D
Happy days.