Saturday, September 15, 2018

How to practice when you have two weeks between lessons:

Hint: don't just stare off into the afternoon, waiting  for tea to be served with your mangoes. :>)

Dear Jen,
 How can I make the most of my two lessons monthly?
I have difficulty staying focused in my practicing, for the two weeks between lessons. H.
Dear H.

There's a great illustration in Burton Kaplan's book: Practicing for Artistic Success.
The Pi-graph shows four parts: Expression, Tone, Intonation, and Rhythm. You listen to yourself (record yourself!) and decide where you would shade your pi-graph. What is your weakest skill today?

Click on jpg to enlarge; use BACK BUTTON to return here.

The above "Pie" or pi-graph  helps you analyse what needs working on in your playing everyday.
You can also record your lessons (on your phone or mp3 recording device) and listen back to the entire lesson, listening closely. Or you can simply take notes immediately after your lessons, and read back over them, and/or email your teacher for help or more direction, if you need clarification.
For example:

What volume of work will you be covering?

For a weekly lesson, most flute teachers expect you to prepare and polish:

A Solo piece (for flute and piano, or flute alone), or single movement of a solo work.
This is repertoire that teaches skills. The accumulated learning of solo repertoire is vital for any developing flutist, so your teacher is likely to expect dozens of flute solo works covered in a year. (note to highschool flutists; this is not three pieces per year like in your band, this is dozens of works per year; be prepared to learn quickly as you may only have 2-3 lesson on each work, or less!)

An Etude (from your grade or level) per week, that shows a constrasting technique to your last week's etude or an improvement of the techniques of your last etude. If the last was about staccatos, this week's should be about a different skill (wide leaps all slurred for example.)
 A flute teacher will expect you to cover some two dozen etudes in a year, or more. Often preparing two contrasting etudes per lesson is considered normal etude coverage.

Technical exercises
Perhaps you're working on double tonguing, or dynamics, or wide interval slurs concurrently?
Every grade level has it's skills that will need to be experimented with and brought into your playing.

There are lots of interesting flute skills that will come up through your etudes and solos.

Examples of technical flute skills areas are:

Tone (getting amazingly beautiful tone in all musical circumstances.)
Tone Colour as it relates to Expression
Smooth Slurring between ever widening intervals
Keeping the tone during demanding breathing
Breath use in accents: Staccato, legato, martellato, accents, breath pulses etc.
Dynamics (playing dynamics as the composer intended/acoustics of space demand)
Tone & tuning in dynamics
Note endings; tapers, shimmer, feathering off etc.
Vibrato use choices, blending with unlike instruments, accompanist vs. soloist, tuning chords.
Articulation (playing articulations that suit the composer's style & fellow musicians.)
single, double, triple, combinations
combining articulations with breath accents effectively
Special Effects (Contemporary sound effects or extended/tech)
Finger position and action (finding the easiest way to achieve finger fluency)
Super smooth legato fingers
Fast and rhythmic fingers
Crossed fingerings worked carefully for relaxation and co-ordination
Unusual fingerings (trill fingerings/aternate fingerings)

You may also be preparing:

Finger Pattern Familiarity for Sight Reading/Arpeggio & Scale Fluidity
If there is time in a lesson you may also be preparing to play for your teacher:
Scales, arpeggios and other basics-of-music. (see flute scale info here and here).

Ensemble Music or Orchestral Excerpts:
You may also have: Chamber music, band music, and your trio/quartet/duet music.
Serious flutists will also be interested in Orchestral Excerpts.

So be sure on work on each of those items that your teacher has given you, in turn, preparing slowly and carefully for:

Intonation (use The Tuning CD) and
as shown in the Kaplan diagram above. Listen for distinct and self-directed improvements everyday.

 Expression includes the musical ideas, the rhythmic vitality (speed up, slow down, stay steady, stay light and bouncy? stay martial and detached?), the printed dynamics, the chosen dynamics, the phrasing, the energy, the mood, the architecture and design of the musical work and of course, the musical message that the composer is conveying. Obviously our musical expression can always be slightly improved. :>) But not all at once. Listening back to your own playing is key.

The absolutely most straightforward way to work is to use  pure audio.
Seriously. I kid you not at all. :>)

Record yourself when you practice at home, and quite seriously listen back and make notes about what you hear. Then you will honestly be your own best teacher in between lessons.
Practicing is most effective in focused 20 minute sessions, followed by listening back and taking notes. Use the metronome, AND the Tuning CD for a really accurate point of view.

You will get more done by listening back and taking notes than you think, because it will laser-focus what you want to change in your playing, and you will engage with your own developmental successes.

Lots of advice on how to practice flute here, if you haven't found all these articles before:

How to get back into flute after a long break

How to practice flute

Technique with a Purpose

Soul Satisfying (summer style) practicing

What do I do about very short amount of practice time?

Just one lesson: How much can the teacher hear in just one lesson?

How to Warm-Up, before practicing flute:

And one more pointer, I know it's hard, because we love to socialize, but:

Be sure to keep chatting to a minimum during your lesson as you'll be needing to cover double the normal amount of items in half the amount of time. Chatting can be done anytime, but lesson time is kept for playing and hearing the flute.
In the same way, prepare your presented work with the minimum of fuss. Have your books well marked with sticky notes so you can quickly place the music on the stand and be ready to play in seconds. Your teacher will have alot of help to give if you're well prepared, and have already observed your own playing, and done your best. Be prepared to make the most of each lesson and it will spur you on by becoming more and more inspiring and fun.

Comments welcome.

Best, Jen

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

How to get ready for a first rehearsal

Dear Flute-Lovers,

 Top quality ideas for "Preparing for the First Rehearsal" from Mark Nuccio, principal clarinet of the Houston Symphony and former associate principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic. Such fantastic advice!
Read his entire article here.
(Photo at left: a local bird perhaps mistakenly, prepares from inside his instrument.)

I'll just add some quick pointers for intermediate flutists who haven't yet encountered professional-level rehearsals yet:

Premiere piece of advice:  Study the written music score, learn the piece by listening to it (via youtube or other mp3/cd recordings), and feel free  mark your score in pencil so that you understand important features that will affect your part. Be familiar with the overall architecture and lines of the piece of music. If you own the piano part, play through the piano part. If you are playing a flute duet/trio/quartet, and there is no score available, record your rehearsal, or learn all three parts and record them on your multi-track recorder, if you have one (I have a Zoom H4N as do several of my adult students.)
Note: You probably already know this, but, er, semi-sight-reading at a first rehearsal, unless specifically a "sight reading fun-hour", is not the thing at all.

For Intermediate Flutists:

Take a photo-copy of your parts, and leave the originals safely tucked away, so that you can mark up your own personal copy to your heart's content. You can even three-hole-punch it (I know, I'm so analog! :>) and put your parts in a binder. That way when the performance arrives, you'll be used to reading the whole show, in order, out of a thin black binder, and can take those parts home with you again. Brilliant right? Do not overmark the original sheetmusic that has to be handed back in and ONLY mark in pencil, lightly if you have found note-errors or truly important changes to the part.

Now, here's how to start preparing:

From listening to several recordings and studying the actual score (if available):

1. Mark the typical tempo for the piece of music in pencil on your part (and you can mark and erase which tempi you are currently working on if you are learning everything slowly, as you should always do.)

2. If you have a tricky entrance: write penciled-in notation cues into your part (from listening to recordings) that tell you which instruments are playing, audibly, just before you re-enter after your rests. Example: "Fl,1 - and then in notation: "three eighth notes pick up" written before your next entrance will cue you to enter correctly. Practice entering tricky parts along with the recording until you're sure.

3. As you listen to recordings, take note of whether your parts are melody, or harmony parts.

I'ts likely that in an ensemble, you will increase one dynamic level if you are the melody from the printed dynamic.

If in a given section of music, you are the harmony part, you will likely play down one or even two dynamic levels so the melody is clearly heard. But be supportive in your sound quality, so that you enrich the melodic soloist's tone quality.

Mark your part in pencil with instrumental cues. For example, if you are playing together with a clarient, the short hand is "w clr."
Everyone playing together is, in shorthand: Tutti.
If you're together with Flute 3 and it's important to note that, you write: "w Fl3" over that section of melody.

Then at the first rehearsal, you have a pencil marking that tells you listen carefully to the melody instrument, so that you will be able to follow the style and tempo of that melody instrument as a terrific support person in terms of sound and style.

Mind you, this is providing you can hear them clearly in your rehearsal space.
If you cannot hear them clearly, likely everyone is probably playing too loudly. (exhuberance can equal cacophony, doh.)
 Room acoustics also play a role. Sometimes you can be defeated by them. (more on this at the original article). Asking everyone to play at half-volume until they can hear properly is a suggestion that conductor's would make under these circumstances.

4. Very very long rests can have intrumental counting cues penciled in by you, in advance, from listening to recordings, that tell you which instrument you will hear clearly at a specific place in your counting of long reams of bars-rest. It's always corroborating to be counting "53-2,3,4" and hear a French Horn in that very same bar when your fifty-eight-bar-long rest says "Horn -53-".

5. Listen to the quality of sound of the instruments on the recordings, at the points just before you enter after a long rest and make a point of learning to join in their style, colour, timbre, dynamic, tuning and tempo when you join in and play along. Prepare your part with the knowledge of the interweaving of different voices, and where your voice fits into the entirety, in terms of quality of your sound and the style at that exact point in the piece.

(Note: Just facially glazing over and then suddenly/alarmingly blatting your way back in like Hercules the Insane Destroyer, is not a great way to re-enter after a long hiatus where others have woven intricate, delicate otherworldly filmaments, ....ur......ha ha. :>)

6. Pre-tune all your home practice by using The Tuning CD.
 (Amazon/itunes has mp3s of these 'open-fifth-octave' three minute drones for tuning. My own Tuning CD blog-article is here.) I actually own the CD!!! That's how long I've been using it: nothing like it for developing your ear in a truly real and useful way.

7. Play everything you're preparing with a metronome. Make it come alive with the metronome. No one truly realizes how un-rhythmically they are warping it until it's too late. Be well-prepared to play accurately at several different tempi. And hey, honestly, don't think others won't notice what you don't notice about your wonky rhythm. eek. Best possible preparation would be play along with the Tuning CD and the metronome! Then record it! Then listen back!
What do you hear? Ah ha? Ah ha, ah HA???!!   :>D

8. Match the style of articulation to your fellow players, and practice various note lengths (how short should the staccatos be? How liquid the legato? How bouncy the accents? How forceful the sforzando?)
You can preview the style by listening to a variety of recordings, and then be ready to match what your fellow musicians have chosen instantly when you hear them at the first rehearsal.

9. Get your page turns sorted out before the first rehearsal. The cutting of copied-pages to reduce page turns is nothing new; scotch tape and scissors are often faster than computer-image-cut-and-paste. But since you're using your own copies, and not cutting original printed music, you can place the pages how you best need them (three across, zig-zag folded/book folded etc.)
With careful forethought, oversized pages can be reduced to fit a binder, with all page turns made easily.

The best tape for the spines of pages being made into booklets is masking tape for the spine, clear tape for the inside folds.
Don't leave page turn problems any later than first rehearsal if you can clearly see a way to preprepare your part to avoid sheetmusic mishaps.

And my wisest advice for a first rehearsal:

10. Be gracious under pressure; listen more, say much much less. Listen listen listen. :>)

See more:

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Bach Sarabande Hilary Hahn

Dear Flute Lovers,

Getting ready for September?
Need a thrilling way to warm up and play all inspired-like?
Here's what I found fun:

Play this piece of gorgeousness: (free pdf Bach Sarabande)
And play this youtube at the same time:

Hilary Hahn plays Sarabande in D Minor by JS   Bach (video)

If you play in unison with the violin you are approaching greatness. :>)

A thrill to have private lessons in how to do it at home, in your own living room.


Best, Jen getting ready for September

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Free Piano Acccompaniments

Free Piano Acccompaniments for flute repertoire, on youtube:

Advanced repertoire:

You  can play along with Ganne, Faure, Mozart, Burton, Taktakishvili and Bach and watch the pianist's hands too! Various tempi offered for fast movements. Interesting that this person is so generous with their time to offer it to all. :>)
The "varied repertoire" has score visible instead of hands; tricky for tempo changes.
Terrific resources!


Saturday, July 07, 2018

Vitali Chaconne (free pdf) & Fluteloops

Dear Flute lovers,

A few fun and nice things for you!

Firstly, UK flutist Thomas Sargeaunt  has given us for free, two very beautiful pieces.
You'll have read on my blog, about the Bach Chaconne bwv 1004, (pdf) but he has also very kindly offered a second Baroque/Romantic Chaconne for free!

It is the Vitali Chaconne, Piano accompaniement by Charlier and, if you'd like to read about this 1850s Chaconne, there are program notes here, and a good flute performance on youtube.

Flute part (rough transcription):

Piano part that matches:

And a Phd thesis about Vitali Chaconne (dubious attribution, and re-writes through history etc.)
pg. 11-15 (scroll down in pdf): program notes in depth.

Performance on flute of another transcription: youtube.

Enjoy this pdf!! Thankyou Tom! :>D

If you're looking for MORE free pdfs of flute sheetmusic online, some online resources are here.

Also of interest:

Fluteloops re-appears:

A decade ago I interviewed James Galway, James Boyk, Nathan Zalman, and other great teachers, and had FIVE interview segments with stage-fright expert, trumpeter/author, Michael Goode (episodes 3-7).
All of these were combined with audio flute recordings and called "Fluteloops".
There are eleven episodes, and they're back up online. (who knows how long they were offline...?)
But they are back!
Shownotes, mp3s, and all episodes 1 to 11:

The sound quality of the old-style skype-phone calls recorded on mini-disc, is really nostalgia inducing, ha ha. So sound-quality apologies in general, and yes, episode 11 is the final one.


Comments welcome (button below).


Monday, June 18, 2018

Free Rabboni Sonata by Paul Edmund-Davies

Dear Flute Lovers,

Paul Edmund-Davies is kindly offering us a glass of bubbley!
Help yourself to free sheetmusic, backing track and videos of Rabboni's Sonata no. 16 at:

In his newsletter, Paul writes:

This bubbling allegro is perfect for this time of year. It is full of colour, sweeping melodic lines and just to keep you on your toes, plenty of flowing semi-quaver (16th note) passages, where nimble fingers and concentration are most definitely required.

In an opera, perhaps by Donizetti, I can imagine this being sung by a soprano, who has just heard some very good news and has decided to let everyone know her good fortune, whilst at the same time, very enthusiastically opening a bottle of pink champagne and handing out sparkling glasses, full to the brim of joyous effervescence, to those assembled!

If you get no kick from champagne, then you might imagine on a hot summer day, the soothing chill experienced on slowly imbibing a well iced elderflower cordial!

This Sonata most definitely smiles and even ends with a gentle chuckle!

As I have mentioned before, these Sonatas are really a combination of slow and fast sonority exercises, coming from the golden era of opera in Italy. All 42 (25 to 36 are currently in the pipeline) are hugely demanding, the slower ones focusing on the ability to sustain a melodic line and the more up tempo melodies giving us a serious finger/technical workout. However, throughout, the melodic line is king and it is up to us to ‘sculpt’ something out of the framework provided.

They are challenging, hugely enjoyable and even on occasions irritatingly awkward!

I hope this one brings you great happiness too!

Best wishes, Paul

PS For those of you who might prefer to own the publication of Rabboni Sonatas No. 13 – 24 (flute part and piano score), it is available to purchase at the following address:

Hope everyone is enjoying the sunny weather!
Comments welcome,

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Nine Minutes that Changed the World - Debussy

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
Dear Flute-lovers,

Nine Minutes that Changed the World a podcast on CBC online radio (may be only avail. in Canada, but give the link a try) well worth hearing:

Lots of discussion of "Where did Debussy's ideas come from?", "Is he quoting Tchaikovsky?" plus birth of Expressionism, the use of colour in the new language of Debussy's chords, and all sorts of interesting tidbits about Debussy's ideas, life and thinking.

Fabulous listening. Hope you all can hear it in other countries besides Canada!
Best, Jen