Friday, September 19, 2014

Livestream for early birds; The Nielsen Competition

Flute Lovers,
Updated: Watch Nielsen 2014 flute performance competition live, Saturday morning Sept. 20th, flute soloists with orchestra; Semifinals: 3 players tomorrow morningat 10 am West Coast North America (1pm East Coast NA, and at 19:00 Denmark) with orchestra.

Live stream Nielsen competition:

These three flute players are advancing to the finals of the Carl Nielsen International Flute Competition 2014: Listen Saturday Sept. 20th at above link.

S├ębastien Jacot (27 years / Switzerland)
Yukie Ota (29 years / Japan)
Yaeram Park (18 y / South Korea)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Flutterby does not faze flutist

Dear Flute lovers,

Now that's a player who can concentrate. A beautiful moment.

Flutterby does not faze flutist (video)\

Youkie Ota was joined by a butterfly on stage, that seemed to enjoy her playing, waving its wings to Sancan's Sonatine for flute and piano.

Enjoy. Unbelievable.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Joshua Smith plays Widmann's Suite

Well flutey dudes,
if I listened to this new piece twice in a row,
and enjoyed the playing and writing THAT much,
well... I thought you flute-lovers would too:
Listen to a new flute work:

Joshua Smith, Flutist
audio recording BBC Proms - Sept. 7th 2014
Starts 19:26 minute mark.
Composer: Jorg Widmann
Title Flute En Suite (2011)

Well WELL worth a listen. :>D Yowza!
Best, Jen

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

How to Organize Your Flute Music

Dear Flute Lovers,
It's that time of year; everyone is asking what to bring to their fall flute lessons, and is sorting through piles of flute sheet music, wondering how to organize it. I've had some questions about this by email from my own students, and so I'll tell you all I know. :>)

1. The Big Flute Binder

Firstly, do you have a flute binder? These three-ringers are very useful things to have.
All your current flute music all in one place?
Only one flute book to put into your bag (along with your flute and your flute swab) and you're out the door?
Oh wow, you say. Well,

 Voila, the simplest way to keep everything in one place.

(click on picture to enlarge).

If you can find the three-ring binders that are about 1-inch wide at the spine, and have two interior pockets, buy five of them. They will take you through the next two decades of flutey business.
Note the tabs. Note the pockets. (Note that you cannot have a flimsy music stand to hold a full binder....)

And those readers who are well informed-about-office-supply-equipment and all its oddities, will mention at this point that for a three-hole binder, you need a three-hole punch and access to a photocopier in order to have working copies of all your music all in one binder, but I swear the binder system really works! 

Just find that dern three hole punch, and your life will be simplified. All your beautifully new fresh published sheetmusic will stay safely out of the rain, at home on your shelves, for reference, while you write all over your photocopies, and create a working book of all that you're working on in lessons. No time wasted. See what you think. Bit brilliant. :>)

2. Storing Your Flute Music

At home on your bookshelf, the easiest way to store flute music is in cardboard, upright file folders (buy four pack of file folders at stationary store and unorigami them). The easiest way to catagorize flute sheetmusic is:

Love it
Might be useful
Hate it (also known as 'Yuckeroo-holiday').

(click on picture to enlarge).

Lay all your music out on a bed or table, and put it in those three piles. Then transfer them to the upright boxes. Again; Voila.

And you'll notice after ten years that you almost never need to look at the "Yuckola" file, and that you'll seldom need the "might be useful" file, (unless you get a new ensemble or a new gig, or a new outlook.)

But the "love it" file boxes, they'll start to grow.

Put them on the easiest place to reach on your bookshelf.
If you get too many, subdivide them again (see 3 below).

And put the unloved music in the hard to reach place in the dark end of the shelf; be ergonomic. :>)

You'll soon find it easy to put music back where it goes if there are only three categories, plus, you'll know which file box you're looking for when you're in a rush to find something. Love and hate are easy to remember.

3. Sorting Sheetmusic By Category

If you own a large amount of sheetmusic, and you find at least half of it lovable and/or useful, you may want to buy a few more file boxes, and put it into standard categories. I still put the "love it" music on the right hand side of each file box, so I don't have to look very far when I'm looking up solos or etudes that are always fave-raves. The right hand side of the box is easiest to reach for if you're right handed. If you're left handed, or have another system, put the best loved music where it's easiest to reach.

(click on picture to enlarge).

If you have a gigantic sheetmusic collection (as do flute teachers) you will eventually have all these categories in your WALL of sheetmusic.

Solos - Etudes - Ensemble
With subcategories: 
Solo: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern (fave ones on "easy to reach" side)
Etudes: By level of difficulty (fave ones on one side)
Technique Books: sorted by usefulness (good ones on one side)
Ensemble Music: Duets, Trios, Quartets, Choir, Orchestral, Band, Woodwind Chamber Music, String and Flute Chamber Music, Pop/Folk Band Music etc.

(click on picture of all categories, to enlarge).

And there's no reason not to design your own categories. I know I did. They grow as does your career as a performer.

My main concern is being able to find exactly what I'm looking for extremely quickly, with zero frustration. But that's just me. :>)

4. Getting the Right Music To Your Lesson

Getting the particular solos, duets and etudes that you need for each lesson can be made easiest by the big flute binder (no. 1 above), with its tab markers so you can flip to what you need on the music stand without having to hunt for anything.

Flip to your duet, flip to your etude; flip to your scales.
Fabulouso. And they tell flutists, "Don't be Flip"....ha!

But if you prefer, you can buy or find an old-school over-sized music folder, and use that instead.

Here's your big black folder and notebook on its way to your flute lesson, showing the music you're currently playing, the flute in its case,  and the notebook most students use to write down their lesson pointers.  Put all this in a bag the night before. Note the pencil. Very zen. Note the pencil.

(click on picture to enlarge).

The "Flute Lessons Notebook" is something that I, as the teacher, use to write down everything I'm telling the student. Other teachers have the students write things down so that they re-phrase them to suit themselves. The student then uses those notes (and sketches) during the week for their practicing, and then write down questions they come up with during their practice. When the student starts lessons with the notebook with them, they can ask the questions that pertain to this past week's practice, right at the start of the lesson, so they don't forget, and the teacher can write the answers during warm-ups.

It's just a spiral ring pad, but it's a lifetime of memories for what that teacher taught you, when you look back. Ask anyone who has one. It's like a photo album of what you learned.
If you have a binder, just put lined paper into the back for the teacher to write on, if needed.

Notebooks rock. Over-sized fake leatherette brass-reinforced music folders rock.

And...not forgetting your flute and the correct sheetmusic when you get to your lesson also, bigtime, rocks.

5. Keeping the Binder Updated: emptying it of last year's stuff

(click on picture to enlarge).

When you finish with a piece or an etude, you can take it out of the binder, or folder, and re-sort it back onto your book shelves. See above picture.
That way your binder will only have your current materials in it, and not be over-stuffed.

Binders For All Occasions:

You can also have a separate binder or music folder for a particular weekly rehearsal or group that you belong to, so that all you need for those occasions is in its own folder or binder. For example, I was in a "Cello, Flute, Piano Trio", and had a separate binder and over-size folder for those rehearsals.
Then I knew I had everything for that group when I arrived.

Or for performing gigs, I put the whole show in a binder specific to that gig. Those are the occasions where I need to walk on with a plain binder under one arm, and place it on a stand and start to play. I have the entire program in order already, page turns secured, no fussing with music at all, just open the gig-binder and play the show. So soothing.

6. All Flute Related Equipment; At Home, and At Lesson.

Here's a basic view of all the stuff you need for flute lessons, both at home, and when you travel to your lessons.

At home:
Flute with cleaning rod or cleaning swab.
Music stand (Manhasset tall black ones are best for heavy binders, wind storms and dogs with huge wagging tails, like Labradors.)
Flute Sheetmusic
You may also add:
The Tuning CD (disc or mp3s)
A Metronome w or w/o Tuner (inexpensive is fine.)

(click on picture to enlarge).
At your flute lesson:
Flute with cleaning rod or cleaning swab.
Big Flute Binder with blank paper and pencil
or Music Folder with Pencil and Notebook.

I find a picture says a thousand words, and also is a simple way to picture how you can quickly get organized for September's lessons.
If you have any questions, use the comment button. Love to know other systems that people use too.

Enjoy the colourful life of being an organized flutist who knows where their sheetmusic is. :>)
Wish they sold "cover-pocketed one-inch navy binders, sprial notebooks,  three hole punches and over-sized music folders with pencil pocket and sharpener' as a starter packet for music students.

Best, Jen

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.