Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jen's feature interview

Dear Flute-lovers,

I had a wonderful interview with this writer, and here is the profile article that resulted:

The three photos are interesting to me too, because I know when and how they were shot.

The first photo in the above article is taken by a newspaper photographer standing high up on a cement parapet, looking down on the rehearsal entrance where the musicans spill out to cool off. It's just before an orchestral concert. It's outdoors in early summer. The photographer said "Concert dress --- get your instrument".  Secretly I am wearing bare feet. I have the original photo from the news photographer; it's been cropped to hide the feet. :>)

The second photo was taken at Ryerson Polytech College photography department back in 1979 by a fellow arts student.

I had just finished eating salt and vinegar potato chips, and before being able to wipe my hands, the student-photographer said: "Stand over here". (clicks on lights) "Play your flute."

(click on picture to enlarge)

The student photographer is now an instructor of photography there! And thanks to their project to shoot this series, I can now see from this photo the stress on my left arm before it became a "musician's injury". Note the flute:  in-line G, open holes, keys tilting slightly backwards,
Note the player: tension in left hand and forearm, neck askew etc.
This is five years before the injury occurred. (left scapula, followed by left wrist and forearm).

Finally, the third photo in the interview article was taken at home in the garden and was also the one used in Flutist's Quarterly biography. That is the most recent photo, obviously. I'm in my fifties now.

But I love that there was at least one from that 1979 salt and vinegar Gemeinhardt with a gold lip plate time of life. :>) Now I know what "brings back alot of memories" really means.

Enjoy! The article is so enthusiastic it's refreshing!
I love it! Thanks to the author a zillion thanks!!

Best, Jen

Bonus flutey items:

Leonard Garrison has Intermediate French Flute Repertoire teaching guides and performances now:

See the lower layer of videos: at his youtube channel.

And read the performance guides on Garrison's blog.

14 year old Emma Resmini plays Nielsen Concerto I:
Another amazing performance! Wow! (video).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Michael Cox (BBC) teaches Bizet's Entr'acte

Dear Flute Lovers,

 I hope you're all having a lovely summer.
It's hot here, and I've been practising with a full-on fan blowing at myself and the music stand.
Most amusing! :>)

In between bouts of wind, there are some inspiring flutey things on the net (wherein I turn the fan to face the computer and have a good inspirational listen.)

Today's "must see" is this:
Michael Cox of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, teaching Bizet's "Entr'acte" or "Intermezzo from Carmen" by Bizet. Brilliant!

Michael Cox Masterclass Entr'acte by Bizet. (video)

Note about slow download speeds such as I have:
If you can press the pause button, let the movie load, and go and say,  make a cold beverage, water the plants, and then come back to the computer, you can see the video once it has all loaded; much better than watching a jerky version which will make you bonkers.

In yesterday's blog post I was talking about tension in the neck and shoulders and arms, and it's interesting to observe Michael Cox's tension level when he plays emotively vs. when he plays calmly and centered, without excessive emotion. This relates to the scale of 1 to 10 tension from my gosh-darn essay on the topic. :>)

All totally fascinating stuff! Your comments and observations are welcome!

On the same website "Principal Chairs", there's a Paul Edmund-Davies interview.
Part 1 and Part 2.
Tons of interesting details about the real life of a real orchestral flutist in the real world.

So enjoy, and don't let the flute slip off your sweat soaked chins, dudes. :>)
(information is here, for those flutists with "sweaty chin in summer" see no. 2 at: )

Best, Jen

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Question about Neck Tension

Click on picture to enlarge

Question about Neck Tension from flute playing.

Dear Jen
I'm currently meeting with yet another orthodontist for a 3rd opinion for my jaw problem, which is likely TMJ.

(Jen's note: Read: What should a flutist with TMJ do? half way down article here.)

I have another question. I've read your article about neck pain.

I've just realizing that after two years of having back and neck pains. They both reached a climax a few weeks ago. And now I have to go for physical therapy for a week .

It's likely by my use of the flute, said the doctor.
 The proper way to hold the flute is straight and perpendicular.
But I've seen Denis Bouriakov, Emmanuel Pahud, and James Galway, all of whom are playing in the very wrong non-ergonomic posture. Yet they don't have neck pain and back pain.
Can you explain about this phenomenon?

Since playing in a straight and perpendicular position I notice that that seems to make a brighter sound, whereas playing at certain flute-angles produces a darker tone.  ( I like darker tone colours). 

It's really hard to change my habits and play the flute in a perpendicular position, and also it gives pain in my arms (triceps). Thank you, in advance, and sorry for the long question
Dear K.
This is indeed the exact problem with the flute. Many people who play several hours a day end up with jaw pain, neck pain and arm pain, but not all.  And of course, those with pain do not perform for a living, so you rarely see them or hear from them. And then, as you say, there are professionals who play (on a slant as you mention) who by luck and by genetics, never have experienced any pain at all.
So far there is no clear explanation, and it all needs further research and study, but here is my advice in general:

Steps to recovery from flute-related pain:

1. Firstly, when you're recovering, you may find you must rest the sore areas, and therefore NOT play the flute at all. Yes, this can mean several months off flute playing. You have to accept this, and turn your attention to other musical issues. You can play a second instrument. You can play piano. You can still practice singing for tone, rhythm and pitch. You can sing your parts with a metronome, and sing all knids of excerpts and solos with the tuning CD for tuning (just sing low octaves), and you can be learning all your flute parts and piano parts/orchestral parts by score reading and listening.
Now is your chance to do all the other musical things you never had time for. And the time you spend singing will also really open up your tone when you get back to the flute, and allow your voice-ear connection to really develop.
So rest the sore muscles and use your brain to continue your musical involvement during recovery.

2. The best therapy I found for permanent relief from muscular aches and pain was Rolfing. This is a deep massage technique that unlocks bound ligaments and bound muscles in the center of the body.
They start with the lower half of the body, and move sequentially through different sections. Therfore Rolfing requires ten sessions and can cost $100 a session.
When you're in pain, and you are considering spending $1000 on a new flute, or on masterclasses or flute event airfare, consider instead that it's much more worth spending on getting rid of tight twists in your muscles. You will feel 12 years old again after only three sessions. My experience is that the body will right itself under the hands of an experienced Rolfing practitioner (this massage technique is named for inventor Ida Rolf.  Read more here). I hope you can afford this.

3. As you use your body during and after recovery, you will have to re-learn how not to over-tense your muscles. A good easy method is to imagine a scale of 1-10 where 1 is almost completely relaxed (zero
would equal lying on the floor and falling asleep) and 10 is as tense as a muscle can be.
Make a fist and tighten it as hard as you can; that's a ten.
Now go backwards, relaxing the hand from ten down to zero.
Notice how easy it is to gain control over relaxing.
Flute playing needs to take place on a 2 or 3 on the scale of muscle tension.
Lots more on this topic here;

4. Jaw tension can be caused by holding your head in a strange way because your posture is misaligned. An Alexander Technique class can help you find out what it is that you're doing with your head and neck (all day long, in all your standing and sitting) that may be adding to stress at the jaw hinge.
Read more:

5. When you return to the flute, do not attempt to play hard and fast
ever again. Injuries are usually directly related to practicing too hard and for too long without awareness, and without a proper slow warmup.

Be sure and develop a slow warmup that allows:

- letting the voice and ear lead ( see 1 above)
- letting the body feel springy and youthful (2)
- letting all muscles function at a 2 or 3 on the tension scale of 1-10. (3)
- letting your head balance flexibly at the top of your spine. (4)

6. All the arm involvement in flute playing is reliant on the torso being a balanced center to the body. The head lifts, the neck floats, there are constant minute adjustments. You can see the video of Alexander Technique trained flutists here. Both do not try to stay still, nor do they hold the flute parallel to the ground:

What many people don't realize is that the arms actually HANG from the shoulder area, and are not attached except by hanging tissue.  If you can order Lea Pearson's book ' Body Mapping for Flutists - Lea Pearson' from the library, you will see this.
 Book -
 (video of Lea Pearson Flute Class: )

When you return to flute playing, hang your arm bones from the relaxed shoulders and let the arms feel free,  make their easiest, low tension
method of placing the flute in the playing position.
I have a video on this called "easy posture" on my blog.


7.  Very important; height of music stand should be eye-level.

click on picture to enlarge

Also read "how to stand using a music stand" when practicing at home. This also helps necks stay loose and flexible.

Many people go to concerts and see the performers playing with very low music stands, and think that having a very low music stand height is normal. Not so. It is only normal in concerts.

 Music stands should be eye-level for daily practice. That means if you are standing to practice (which I recommend for easy-access-to-the-lungs) your stand has to be able to go high enough.

Music stands being lowered for concerts means that the player has practised having a low stand, after weeks of practising with the music at eye-level.

The music stand are set low when the piece of music  is practically memorized, and the player needs to watch the other musicians and/or the conductor.

The stand is also purposely set low in a performance so that the audience can see and hear the performer clearly; not to be blocked by the music stand in front of the performer's face.

This is a common misconception; lots of people don't seem to know this.
So check this in your own practising for sure. Music stand; eye-level.

So, good luck and I hope this turns out well after a rest and re-training.

Sorry there's not more info. on this. I wrote all I know in my "deathgrip" article.
I still have to conscientiously perform all the exercises for slow warmup to avoid re-injuring myself.

Comments welcome from folks who are more up-to-date than I. :>)

Also; dark and bright tones are both required of any performing flutist.
Don't let yourself get too narrow about your preferences; you'll need all tone colours from bright to dark and everything in between. Try getting a bright or dark sound in all positions.
Then choose the position that gives the most comfort, and continue to experiment with bright and dark.


Follow up:

Hello Jen, 

Once again thank you for the advice.
Just sharing my experience:
I've have successfully relieved my pain by taking physiotherapy for a week previously.
At the climax of my previous neck pain I would say that using the scale from 1-10 is typically, probably 9/10.  Whenever I played, the pain occured again and again.

So I guess what you're saying is that this does happen to many flautists.
 I've been thinking it is probably not because of my actual flute, because my friends don't have any injuries at all.

My flute is Yamaha YFL 221.
I had pad leaks repaired 3-4 months ago. 
Then one month ago I switched to a Muramatsu EX.
So maybe the problem is the flute has never been repaired, but the Yamaha is more light-weight than the Muramatsu,  and I was thinking now, that perhaps there are leaks here too.

I've seen my self in a flute-playing photo. I play by bending neck downward and tend to put my head to the right  (so the flute can have some angle to play darker)

My conclusion?
1. I really need to stop playing for a few months, don't  I ? This is my last year in university orchestra
It is really heartbreaking, since I usually play it almost everyday haha..

2. When I play flute again, probably I will follow Jasmine Choi's posture, since she looks very perpendicular when holding the flute.

3. I do play with muscle tension sometimes. especially when playing the open hole Muramatsu, since it is new and it's really hard to play an open hole. 

4. I will try an alternative Rolfing therapy, since there is none here. And I think it costs too much for a student's pocket haha. But, probably I will try it if I can find a practitioner.

Thank you very much for your help,,
best wishes, K.

Dear K.
The neck poking forward like a turtle is a common problem.
One of the comment writers put a photo; have a look: neck jutting forward photo.
Put hole-plugs in your open hole flute. It might reduce hand/arm tension which will allow the neck to relax more. Adjusting to a new flute takes slow, well-paced warmups where you re-adjust everything.
Lack of tension and posture openness is key to making tiny new adjustments.

It's not surprising to here that tension is getting to you right at this juncture of your life.
I didn't have all this information from your first letter.

Having a new flute that requires you to place your fingers much more precisely, and trying to practice fast music, when you're tired from your other book work and paper writing,  are both components to injury. Your neck is tense already, and then you add arm tension and finger tension, and poke your head forward, and lean......

All this is very common; and it does directly lead to injury.
The muscles complain!

It also sounds like you don't have a flute teacher right now.
So your posture problems haven't had the benefit of an observer who can help notice them for you.

What a flute teacher can do for you is be a live "coach" who can spot posture problems and tension problems and teach you how to undo them.

You've probably had tension problems (you say a 9 out of 10) for a long time, but it's catching up with you just as you try and practice HARD and FAST for a concert with your ensemble.
That's what happened to me.
That's what happens to at least one student a year out of twenty; just around exam time, or fourth year paper-writing, or whatever other study-stressor that is taking a toll on their tension habits and muscle health.

This is exactly the typical time when students injure themselves.
(see my "Deathgrip" article, and also "Why do my muscles hurt during exam time?")

Finally, your new flute:
Have you had it checked for leaks? Leaks appear every three months if you play for three hours a day.
The flute pads naturally form leaks over time; that's what repair technicians are for; fixing leaks twice a year or more on the same flute.

Have you had a repair person go over it and tweak it into top playing condition?
Whenever you have a new flute, this is the first thing you should do.
Every flute needs "tweaking". It is not expensive. It prevents injury.

When the flute comes back from repair play it with a feather light touch and don't go back to your "deathgrip" tension level; keep fingers light light light.

What you should do right now is have your current flute checked.
Ask a professional flute performer, or a professional flute-teacher to play-test your flute. You need to know for sure that the flute is working properly. (no pad leaks, no mechanical problems). Don't just guess. Have it checked by someone who really knows. Usually this would be your private teacher.

A substitute for Rolfing is "deep tissue massage".
It's possible that there are student massage people at your school who could give free massage or low-cost massage.
Good luck and try to play at a 2-3 on the tension scale.

If you can play without pain, of course you don't have to quit.
You only have to stop playing long enough to let the pain and inflamation (sore muscles) go away.

Best, Jen

P.S. I went and watched Jasmine Choi on youtube, and I have to say that you don't have to copy ANYONE'S posture.
She plays tense when the piece is difficult, and she has the flute on a downward slant when she is more relaxed.
It is more useful to observe what her tension level is; when is she playing at a 9 out of 10?
When is she playing at a 3 out of 10?
That will really give you insights.

Just because "friends in your orchestra have no injuries" doesn't mean your flute is not needing repair.
It is unlikely that all flutists would all suffer the same injuries at the same time.
About 1 in 20 student or amateur flutists has a muscle pain at any one time, and all for different reasons.
About 1 in 10 serious flute students gets muscle pain around a big concert where they are stressed and over-practicing.

The reasons for the pain are, as you can see, individualistic and multifaceted.
We have to do our own personal assessment and find our own cures.

This is why more scientific studies are needed on muscular tension in the performing arts....we're all still guessing.

Again, good luck.
I hope to hear what the final solutions were.


Friday, June 13, 2014

How to clean and repair a flute? Take it to the shop.

(click on picture to enlarge it.)


Hi Jen

I'm preparing a speech about basic flute repair for my demonstrative speech assignment for a college class.  As I was doing some research to help cite my sources, I stumbled upon your blog and ended up checking it out. 
By any chance could you possibly give me some tips for basic cleaning? Although I've played the flute since middle school, I would love some tips from professional.


 Hi there, you probably have found them already, but you can find my care tips here: Flute Care.

And here are my main pointers:

Firstly, flutes are the opposite of say, brass trumpets or trombones that can be bathed and polished.
Flutes should never be "bathed and polished" or even oiled at home.

Fluteplayers are not advised to "clean" their flute themselves because of all the possible damage that can result from the exuberance of an inexperienced enthusiast.

Ask any professional flutist and you will find, even among those who have taken re-padding courses and general repair courses, that the true expertise and tools required would take more time and focus than you actually have to hand. If you need that flute working now, short of putting rubber bands on it to hold the pieces together, there is nothing to be done but to take it to the repair expert in your area.

Leave it to a reputable technician who ONLY fixes flutes and woodwinds for a living, and the flute will be repaired (in a fraction of the time it would take for you to make the problem way way worse!), and the price for the visit to the repair shop may be much lower than you think.
(Disclaimer: I am not saying this to make a profit for anyone; I'm saying this like an Olympic athlete talks about needing their daily equipment to be expertly repaired.)

Here are my main points from 40 years experience:

1. Working flutes need to be free of common "pad-leaks".

Pad-leaks occur every few months due to the wet-dry effect on natural pad materials (cotton batting, fish skin membrane etc), plus the unevenness of finger pressure and moisture collection affecting certain pads (gravity pulls moisture onto pads that are facing downward during play).

Experienced professional flutists will notice pad leaks immediately, whereas beginners and amateurs only notice them when they become truly bad; for example, when "notes don't come out". A flute technician finds leaks through very careful testing and can transform your flute from a bungler to an amazing machine in a day and a half. It's all about pad shimming. They have the tools and the eye. Trust them. You cannot shim your own pads.

Afterall, the key parts of a flute that are  most affected by weather, daily use, and wet-dry cycles, are not the great hulking tubes and round keys made of silver, they are surprisingly, the hidden tiny elements of a flute; things such as cork, glue, leather and paper. (padding expertise is really paper-shim expertise.)
These tiny important parts are invisible when you look at the flute.
You'll never find them. And if you find them, you won't know what to do with them.
 Leave it to a trained technician.

The main tube and the moving metal parts of a flute cannot be properly cleaned at home with any success. Most tarnish is unreachable (under the rods) and most tarnish returns.

And the unseen parts that truly affect the flute (paper shims, corks etc.) are not fixable by the home user without the experience of working on many many flutes; ask anyone who's taken repair courses.
You need to have successfully padded about 1000 pads before you even begin to know what you're doing. Don't start with your own flute. :>)

All tarnish removal requires a technician to disassemble the mechanism
 (and household or jewellry silver-polish is not for flutes!).

So 99% of all flute cleaning should be done by an experienced flute repair technician when they are doing their annual clean-oil-adjust maintenance on every flute, and they will oil it and clean it all at once.

 How do you find these amazing technicians?
The flute professionals know who the good technicians are in your area. Just ask.

2. The flute owner needs only to do the following:

- swab the moisture out after playing

- handle the flute carefully avoiding bumbs and knocks

- protect the flute from household dust and animal hair (super-thin dog and cat hair can wind around rods and lurk clingingly in the flute case; vaccuum the case and keep it closed.)

- don't let the flute sit upsidedown on its keys (water droplets cause pads to harden unevenly)

- don't mishandle the flute by assembling/dissassembling while grasping the bendable moving parts ( grasp smooth parts of tube only.)

- ask who the professional flutists take their flutes to.

3. Flute owners can also keep their lip plate clean for comfort:
If there is unseen gunk build-up inside the blow-hole you can clean that once a year.
Gunk can be removed gently with a Q-tip dipped in isopropyl alcohol.
A microfibre cloth and spit can be used to clean the lip-plate when you're putting it away each time.

4.  Ask any flute repair expert; it is the lack of proper oiling (every 6-12 months by technician) is the cause of longterm mechanical wear and tear on a flute, making it lose its value (oil-dry flutes wear out the fine fit of metal parts). Without oil the metal eventually grinds down and finally, through much wear, fits loosely causing whole chunks of rods and therefore keys to move out of position during play.
Once at this stage, the flute is usually a write-off. So annual oiling is key, and goes along with the cleaning and adjusting in the "Clean-Oil-Adjust" once a year.

5. Fingerprints don't need constant polishing off. But spit and microfibre cloths will eliminate sticky marks. (Don't rub against the pad edges under the keys.)
 Most owner-caused problems are caused by trying too hard to keep the flute clean. The flute body stays cleaner if you wash your hands, brush your teeth. Isopropyl alcohol can be used to wipe a lip plate between those sharing a flute.

Almost everyone who tries to clean or repair their own flute ends up having to take it to the shop afterwards, and THAT becomes incrementally more expensive.

I have had the ghastly experience of hearing what students do to their flutes when they only meant to polish them, and ended up taking a screwdriver to them.

(I once had a student who took all the keys off herself and then, as she said,  "reefed on them" to fix a pad leak. She lost track of which way to reef.
She bent several keys and rods, and then the repair shop had a heck of a time trying to bend them back. And this was a very smart student.....gad! Flute was written off.)

Some pictures are below that show some of the specifics, from an earlier blog post on knowing when a flute needs repair. There is also an article called "Is it the flute, or is it me?" on my website, with a checklist for noticing repair needs.

click on pictures to enlarge them.

Hope this helps.
Best, Jen

Friday, May 30, 2014

Now that is mighty fine chamber coaching

Dear Flute Lovers,

A fabulous chamber music coaching session with a woodwind quintet and a flute-bassoon-harp trio in New York at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Totally everything you need to know and more!

Master Class with Tara Helen O'Connor (video)
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

(Starts 0:15:25) The art of interpretation and details of technique are explained as master artists share their wisdom with the next generation of chamber musicians. In today's master class, Tara Helen O'Connor, flute, works with two ensembles.

-Table of Contents-
0:15:25 Introduction from CMS Artistic Director Wu Han
0:16:53 O'Connor introduction to Reicha
0:18:03 Reicha Woodwind Quintet in A minor, Op. 100, No. 5. I. Lento, allegro
0:28:24 O'Connor commentary on Reicha, I.
0:57:07 Reicha, II. Andante con variationi - performance & commentary
1:18:09 O'Connor introduction to Jolivet
1:19:25 Jolivet Pastorales de Noel, I. L'Etoile
1:23:00 O'Connor commentary on Jolivet, I.
1:41:35 Jolivet, II. Les Mages
1:44:43 O'Connor commentary on Jolivet, II.
1:56:07 Jolivet, III. La Vierge et L'enfant
1:58:54 O'Connor commentary on Jolivet, III.
2:07:50 Jolivet, IV. Entree et Danse des Bergers
2:10:33 O'Connor commentary on Jolivet, IV.

Sheetmusic links:

Jolivet "Pastorales de Noel" (at music stores, see at sheetmusicplus.)
Reicha - Op 100 No.5 (free pdf).

Jen's students will notice a lot of similarities. :>)

Also quite inspiring:

Joyce DiDonato Speaks at Juilliard's 109th Commencement (video)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Post-Pahud Live

Dear Flute Lovers,

I just listened to and watched the livestream of Emmanuel Pahud answering questions on PlaywithaPro.
Wow. A fantastic learning experience!
He spoke about many diverse topics, and the questions were both from live listeners and from those who'd previously sent in questions.
I'm very happy to see that the video of the event will be posted for free shortly. (I'll put the link here later when it's actualized.)

One of the areas of "specific-flute-skill" (ie: double-tonguing, vibrato etc.)  questions that Pahud spoke about as being tricky to answer quickly, are those questions from flute students who are still "practicing" and not performing daily. A professional performer like Pahud no longer "practices" but actually "performs" all the skills like double-tonguing, staccato, low register fortissimos etc.

In my opinion, it's important to realize that there are at least three or four stages to any skill on the flute.
1. You learn it for the first time
2. You perfect it through practicing daily.
3. You finally can do the skill quite well and you add it to your performances.
4. You perform the skill so frequently you no longer actually "think" how to do it.

Pahud is brilliant and he immediately pointed out that the question-asker had not made clear whether they were at level 1 or 2 or 3.
This happens all the time on the internet; the person asking the question does not yet know the differences between 1,2,3 and 4.
When the expert answers they might answer from number 4 (if they are short on time, or cannot know the level of the person who is asking.). Intelligently, Pahud answers at the 1-2 level for those questions that were like this.

One person asked a question that Pahud did not know the answer to, off-hand, and without time to think about it, and I'd like to address that question here, while I am thinking about it. :>)

They asked: "After an illness, or hospital stay, or long-time-away from the flute, how do you start to play again without injuring yourself?"

Pahud said that he could not imagine how injuries could occur with such a light and small instrument.
He said he plays everyday from 8-10 hours, and never injures himself.

He also often pointed out that he could help a student if he could see everything about how they stand, how they hold the flute, how they use their body, how they breathe, how they respond to the flute skills over a few minutes, how their body supports or subtracts from them continuing to play a technique etc.
So without being able to see the person, he can only answer generally.

Well here's where I'd like to insert my knowledge in this area.

When people injure themselves, or haven't played for many months (or years) coming back to the flute requires that they review their:
- feet, legs, knees, hips, spine, neck, head positions
- breathing ease, large breaths, controlled breathing, free breathing
- flute holding, flute repair level, flute fingering ease

If a person who always had a posture problem, breathing problem or tension problem goes back to the flute with the muscle memory for all these problems, they might indeed injure themselves by practicing too much too soon.

But if the person's muscle memory was for all the best possible posture, breathing and ease-of-play, then they will recover these skills more quickly because of their CORRECT muscle memory.

So if you don't have top-notch muscle memory for top-notch playing, but only wonky muscle-memory of your old wonky or tense, or uneven method of tension for playing the flute, then yes, starting again and playing too much can make any individual area of tension worse, and risk a possible injury (wrist strain, neck pain etc.)

So it's always best to seek out a professional flute lesson or two to get you back on track with the fundamentals before you re-start the flute.

Who knows, your accident or broken arm, or dental work or operation could have tensed up your posture in some new way that needs to be balanced and re-relaxed before adding your flute skills back on top of your changed body.

So be aware of developing the muscle memory of optimum flute skills; not for wonky flute skills. :>)

Another person asked:
How can I practise to diminish the risk of failing, how can I improve my infallibility during the concerts? 

My answer would be: "The Performer Prepares" a book by Robert Caldwell.

This book has everything you need. Seriously.

Comments welcome. It's funny to be a "live" reporter. hahhahahaa.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pahud live-stream masterclass May 24

Dear Flutists, Here are some high quality flutey points of interest today:

FREE Live Streamed Masterclass with Emmanuel Pahud on Saturday the 24th of May. 


Play with a Pro , (home of Pahud masterclasses on film), is streaming a one hour LIVE Q&A masterclass where you can ask questions and get immediate answers from Emmanuel Pahud.
Pahud will focus on the technical aspects of flute playing, meaning not so much interpretation but rather development of sound, technique to help improve your own flute playing.

It works like this: On Saturday the 24th of May you go to the live streaming link at
6 pm CET ( Central European time)
12 pm EDT ( Eastern Daylight Time - NY- Washington etc)
9 AM Pacific Time Zone ( Los Angeles, San Fransisco etc)

Be sure you have a STABLE and FAST internet connection in order to get the best user experience. You can watch it on your smart phones and tablets as well- as long as your connection is good.

If you want to ask Emmanuel a personal question please write them to 'contact(at)' and he will try to answer as many as possible during the 1 hour masterclass.

Audition Article: 

Auditioning for the Met Orchestra

This is a very well written article with an honest account of how top-level auditions really feel.
The article contains this interesting chart showing the numbers of auditioners and how many progress.
As it is said of many of the arts (dance, theatre, visual arts, music), you must be prepared to bounce back after rejection since rejection is far more common in these fields than acceptance.
But as pointed out here, following a clarinetist and percussionist, practice, perspicacity (ability to clearly perceive), persistence and expert training really do help those who get this far!

(click picture above to enlarge it.)

Piccolo Intonation:

Why is This Instrument So Hard to Play in Tune?

The answer comes down to physics. When two concurrently played notes are close to—but not quite—a perfectly tuned unison, the sound waves interfere with one another and produce beats that can be heard as a distinct buzzing. As the two notes get further apart, the buzzing, or "beats" speeds up.
Now, using some simple math, let’s apply this knowledge to some theoretical orchestral situations. Let’s say you and a colleague are playing the flute and both of you are asked to play A440. Easy enough, you might say. But let’s assume you are having a bad day and, instead of playing perfectly in tune, you play the note 10 cents sharp. I won’t bore you with the more complicated math of cents-to-hertz conversion, so you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that when played 10 cents sharp, A440 becomes A443 (rounded to the nearest whole number)—a difference of 3Hz. You will produce 3 beats per second—not ideal, but not such a big problem.

Let’s compare that with a slightly different scenario. You and your colleague are now asked to switch to piccolo and to play, in unison, A3520, the highest A on the instrument. And let’s assume that your day still hasn’t improved and you play this note 10 cents sharp too. Your sharp note would actually be A3540—a difference of 20Hz. You will now produce 20 beats per second. Bzzzzzzzzz!! This can start to be really painful for everyone within earshot.


The unfairness of the situation becomes even more clear when you start looking around the orchestra. All of those other musicians (who at this point are glaring at you) don’t have anywhere near the same challenges as you, the poor piccoloist. Take the cellists for example. Pretend two cellists are attempting to play A220 (the A just below middle C) in unison. For them to be to be producing 20 beats per second, one of the cellists would have to be playing 150 cents sharp (or flat). That’s one-and-a-half semi-tones apart—the difference between an A and a really flat B. That’s one bad cellist. 

We could go through the rest of the instruments of the orchestra in this same way but, while that might make us feel better, it should be clear by now why the piccolo is the most difficult of any instrument to play in tune. So what to do? Unfortunately, even though it’s not your fault, you still have to fix the problem.

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And this is for flutists, not just piccoloists, as the flute has the same problems, especially when playing high register!

The above article also discusses not using a tuner (because it trains eyes not ears), but using a droning pitch to play along with.

A downloadable itunes or Amazon mp3 of the twelve semitones is available for this purpose and is fun to use. (See links at "The Tuning CD" website.)
This I highly recommend, as it trains the ear to respond to "beats", to hear the harmonic structure of everything you play, and to play truly in tune very very very quickly.

If after you play beautifully in tune, you then get out your old electronic tuner again here's what you will see:

When you play beautifully in tune, you will actually be OFF by this number of cents on the equal-temperament electronic tuner. ( Example: '-14' means play fourteen cents flat on the tuner, to play a just-intonationally delicious-sounding major third.:>)

Comments and questions welcome.
Best, Jen

(click pictures to enlarge. This is the same "what will your electronic tuner tell you when you're actually in tune?" chart that was also featured in previous tuning articles. You are not alone if it is blowing your tiny excellent mind! :>)