Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How soon to introduce singing while playing?

Dear Blog readers,
Here's an interesting conversation which all the flute teachers out there might want to give their input on. In my own teaching, I introduce singing while playing in private lessons, not in band class sectionals or large group learning situations, but I'd like to hear from others on this. My feeling is that in a group setting there are other more profitable topics to be covered such as seating, posture, breathing, tuning, fingerings, and general basic techniques of flute playing. But read on....

Hi, Jen
I love your website and had a question for you. At what age would you introduce singing and playing? I will be working with a group of 7th and 8th grade flutists and don’t know if this would be an appropriate age group to introduce this concept to for the purpose of tone development.
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Jen replies:
I have a colleague in Norway who introduces extended techniques (in easy-to-manage small amounts) as early as 2 years of playing.
Personally, I only teach singing and playing in the 3rd year of private lessons to those who are at least 14.
It depends, of course, on the student.
Go ahead and see what results you get for tone and throat openness etc.
Best,
Jen
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Thank you. I would also like to list your website as a great flute resource for them to check out. I just didn’t know if there were any health-related issues with singing and playing at a young age.
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Jen replies:
Sure, you can list my website.

As for "health related" issues.

The only thing that Robert Dick warns against in his book "Tone Development through Interpretation" is that if people try and sing too loudly, or forcingly, they hurt their throats, and don't get the desired tone improvements, or open-throat improvements.

Personally, I would myself think that grade 7 and 8 students are too young for this to be that effective, especially in a group setting.

I would use Robert Dick's book with them if I were going to attempt it.

There are so many other things that they don't yet know that you could teach them instead:

- cork placement - how to check, how to leave the crown alone (don't keep twirling it)

- headjoint placement - how to know where to line up your headjoint for your own ergonomics

- playing in tune; how to know if you're flat or sharp, and which way to pull out or push in the headjoint to get octaves in tune by overblowing etc. etc.

Many of these things are covered in my teacher's handouts.

http://www.jennifercluff.com/teach.htm

http://www.jennifercluff.com/secretsbw.pdf

http://www.jennifercluff.com/misfingering.pdf

The Norway teacher's ex-tech stuff for beginners is here:

http://www.fluteped.com/Dean/articles.htm

http://www.fluteped.com/Dean/Music/music.htm

Best,
Jen
Comments (5)
Blogger Sheila said...

Oh-so-true! Makes mucho sense. :-)

I miss you! And thanks for the wonderful comments over in my corner of the blogosphere. :-)

Hugs,
Sheila

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 1:32:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Jen,
Your emails have been invaluable to me, an old returning flutist, and I would like some advice from you, if possible. My granddaughter currently is taking trumpet lessons at her school, but she really doesn't like brass and would like to switch to woodwinds. I'm not certain of her dedication to music at all, and her parents are definitely not wealthy, so the purchase of a flute or clarinet would be a burden to them. Should they be advised to switch instruments for this 12-year old girl, or should she be encouraged to continue with the trumpet? Thanks.

John G.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 12:04:00 PM

 
Anonymous Matthew Taylor said...

Dear Jen
Could you please explain more how singing and playing the flute at the same time could improve your general tone?

thanks Jen
Matthew Taylor

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 5:09:00 PM

 
Blogger Jen Cluff said...

Dear Matt,
from Dean Stallard's article:
http://www.fluteped.com/articles/Flutewise/singing.htm

Firstly there is a necessary improvement in breath support. Necessary because going from the relative free-blowing of flute playing we have now closed the throat with the vocal cords and created resistance that must be overcome.

Next, the embouchure becomes more accurate and focused. After passing through the vocal cords there is very little air pressure left and the embouchure must be used to focus this air to get it up to an acceptable speed/ pressure for tone production. Because the air-stream is now more focused it will also have to be directed more accurately.
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Thirdly (adds Jen) there is "Throat tuning". When you pitch your body to SING a certain pitch (even if in a different octave) you create a body resonance (chest/throat/lungs) that enhances, enriches, and "tunes" the overtones of a given pitch.

In general, the amount of air you use is reduced to the perfect amount (not too much, not too little) while the embouchure becomes more flexible, more accurate, and you find that you're increasing the audible harmonics in the tone quality.

Try it and hear for yourself.
It's a miraculous improvement that doesn't require intellectual understanding.
Now THAT'S remarkable.

Best,
Jen

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 5:26:00 PM

 
Blogger Jen Cluff said...

John wrote:
============
Hello Jen,
Your emails have been invaluable to me, an old returning flutist, and I would like some advice from you, if possible. My granddaughter currently is taking trumpet lessons at her school, but she really doesn't like brass and would like to switch to woodwinds. I'm not certain of her dedication to music at all, and her parents are definitely not wealthy, so the purchase of a flute or clarinet would be a burden to them. Should they be advised to switch instruments for this 12-year old girl, or should she be encouraged to continue with the trumpet? Thanks.
=================
Dear John,
My gut reaction is to try and think back to how many kids I've heard of who didn't like their instrument, and wanted to switch, but didn't, and then found they really liked their instrument afterall. I can't think of ANY stories like this.
All that comes to mind is how many kids switch to the instrument they love the sound of, and then are so glad they switched. :>)
Renting a good student yamaha should cost around $15 to $25 a month. If this is too expensive for this family, the 12 yr. old can offer to wash cars, cut lawns, clean garages, sweep walkways etc. to earn the money.
You'd best ask this question of someone who runs a music department in a college/university/high school, etc. who's seen hundreds of young people choose instruments.
They would have more familiarity with the longterm outcomes of such a conundrum.
Best,
Jen

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 5:30:00 PM

 

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