Friday, June 29, 2007

Playing with tone colours

A response to my mp3 on Galway's 16 flutes on Fluteloops no. 9

Dear Jen,
What amazes me is how you can get so many different colors with one flute. It's hard enough for me just to stay in tune while changing dynamics and not let the tone quality deteriorate!
I should add that for me, playing softly (ppp) in tune makes the tonecolor shift toward what Trevor Wye calls "yellow", a light, pure tone.Playing loudly (fff) in tune makes the tone color shift toward Wye's"purple" - a heavy, sizzling tone. I believe this natural tendency toshift tone colors with dynamics benefits rather than detracts frommusical expression by highlighting changes in dynamics.
I have never understood how flutists get tone colors separately from dynamics while staying in tune. For example, playing quietly with the purple tone or loudly with the yellow tone. This is an aspect offluting that I will probably never master. I spend most of my practice time working on the basics - tone, technique, intonation, articulationand dynamics. I tend to group tone color work with that set of extras that few amateurs like myself have time to develop, so it's one of those things that differentiates professional players. So I'm always impressed when I hear somebody demonstrate it. :) M

Dear M.
In order to change colour you want to make minute and practiced changes to:

1. The air speed
2. The air angle
3. The shape of the inside of your mouth
4. The openness of your throat
5. The shape of the lip aperture

You're already producing the ground-work, and there are some fun ways to add the extra layers of finesse to develop further. So let's say you're going to work at just changing one thing at a time, after getting air-speed and air-angle down pat.
For example:
To change the inside of the mouth, you can change from one syllable to another:
Awe, Ahhh, Ehhh, Aye, Euuu, Eeee.

To change the openness of your throat you can go from "eee" to Ahh, to Awe to a full yawn.
You can then add raising the soft pallet to your full yawn, and then learn to use the raising of the soft-pallet separately.

In order to further your use of shaping the lip aperture you can experiment with degrees of these various activities:
a) dropping the jaw open
b) raising the jaw up
c) pulling the upper lip vertically downward
d) pushing the lower lip vertically upward
e) moving lip corners back
f) moving lip corners forward
g) lifting the center of the upper lip vertically into a slight arch to aim air higher
h) pulling upper lip down vertically in the center
i) pushing the center of the lower lip forward
j) bucking out the upper lip to create an airspace
k) rolling the lower lip inward over the lower teeth

These are some of the ways that you can maintain the same air-speed and air-angle and then change colour on top of that.I enjoyed the books "Music and the Flute" by Nyfenger, "The Physical Flute" by Wilkinson, "Tone Development Through Extended Technique" by Dick, and "Playing in Colours" by Cherry for these ideas.

I also had a break-through when reading back-issues of Flutetalk with articles by Kujala about "FULP and PLOT" (his methods of dynamic control), and got alot of ideas from Billington's dissertation on Robert Aitken's methods.All of these ideas were originally brought forward by each of these flute-authors, and I merely combined them.
Need any more info? Let me know what you think.

M. writes: Thankyou, that is helpful.
Assuming we want to stay in tune, then every change to any single thing needs corresponding changes. For example if we increase speed we must lower the angle and vice versa.
I've tried experimenting with some of the stuff you mentioned - jaw, lips, openness, etc.
Also with Robert Dick's concept of throat tuning.It's been helpful in achieving a more powerful bottom octave and more control in the top octave. But I've been using it at its most basic level - to get a more resonant sound, not to play with the subtleties of tone colors.

What I find is that there is a certain way of blowing that "locks in" and stabilizes into a big, resonant solid tone. Thisis what I would call my own personal natural tone based on the shape & size of my mouth, throat, etc. I'm happy with this core sound but Idon't have much flexiblity around it. Any adjustment seems to change the tone in ways that I would subjectively describe as negative. Some of the adjustments are difficult for example changing the shape of the mouth to form a different vowel syllable can make it harder to move the tongue for good articulation, or can change the position of the lips. So there is lots of practice involved there.

It's rare to find a player who can actually describe what he's doingwhen he changes tone colors. People who can do it can't always describe what they are doing - they just do it. I will try some of what you suggested. Thanks for the tips! M.
Comments (3)
Blogger Sheila said...

Wow! Thank you for the lists! Technically, I knew what was on the lists, but it's very interesting to see it all written out.

I've realized how huge a difference there is with tone colours, especially in this past week with Sir James' 16 flute test and your FluteLoops #9. It was quite the task to try to recreate those different qualities!

One thing I find so fascinating about all this, is that each piece and every style or period requires a different tone colour or quality. It certainly is fun to play around with!

Thank you so much,

Friday, June 29, 2007 5:59:00 PM

Blogger Rosa Gutiérrez Hernández said...

thank you very much.You are a genious flute teacher

Saturday, January 03, 2015 12:18:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

You're very welcome Rosa! :>)

Saturday, January 03, 2015 3:51:00 PM


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