continued from part 2
Using Etudes for Sightreading
Etudes make the best sight reading especially if you play from a grade or two lower than your actual pieces. Keep all your old etude books. Find more online (easy, intermediate, advanced).
I happen to love Drouet for all levels of flutists!
He writes heart-filled melodies, and changes them up often enough for you to stay thrilled with focusing on them, working on the challenging bits, because they're musically worth it, or just reading through them to find out what technique you need to upgrade this month. He's the true Dude (along with Bach, Quantz, Hugues,Donjon, Berbiguier as duets, and several dozens of other etude composers, mind you.)
But Drouet really cheers you up if you don't feel like practicing too.
So give him a try. His handsomeness shines through. :)
Check out his 72 Etudes in all Styles! (free pdf)
See how he deliberately uses rhythm to create flutistic breathing spots, and changes character often enough to keep you playing the flute with zero amount of boredom!
See the helpful writing out of ornaments! What knowledge of pedagogy! What a perfect length of flutist's focus. And oh, the oxygenation factor! To wit:
(click to enlarge picture)
Debost also recommends Furstenau opus 125, which I highly applaud!
The main things that make Etudes loveable is their listenability!
So choose those that are musical! ( See some good, free etudes in pdf here.)
How to Sight Read an Etude Loosely
If you'd like to start your day's practice with an easier level etude book for sight reading or if you're going to begin to prepare an assigned weekly etude for the week, certainly you can play through it "non-stop" just to hear what it consists of. Just don't pound it out.
You will notice yourself stumbling over some tangle of black notes every now and then, but keep going and don't worry about it. Stay loose, be a goose; it doesn't matter. Let the tangles fall where they may. Simplify to one long note in a bar, if you can't read the 32nd notes at the speed you've chosen. Worry not.
Just let your finger legatos stay loose and languid just as they do in your easy scale pattern practice. Just remember where the tangles of blackness were and go back and circle them for future focussed work.
Stay fresh always; focus and concentration rely on a refreshed flutist.
During a practice session that uses concentration optimally, you'll find that you can toggle between short periods of relaxed scale-like finger exercises and take a tiny break, and only then spend your concentration on on etude circle problem, and then take another short break.
This is likely what Debost means when he talks about three to four minute bouts of intense concentration.
And you can always return to a bar or two or even a note or three, of the etude you're working on, later in your daily practice.
Stay creative. Take breaks.
Having fun helps humans to regain their focus.
Breathing in Etudes
I just loved it when Debost wrote in the Flutetalk September issue, "There is no championship reward for record breath holding in an etude".
This is a point I make often with my students. What you see on the page is often not exactly what is done in real life.(see Breathing for Etudes)
I firmly believe that until an etude is up to its final zippy tempo, flutists have to realize that it is normal to have pencilled in 2-4 times as many breath marks. At slower speeds, in order to play with great tone, nuance and beauty those extra (hundred) breath marks (especially in the etude full of non-stop sixteenth notes), are to be used while the tempo is slow.
But if those breath marks are not written in already, it is because the composer trusts you to put in sensible ones.
When playing slowly, simply put a (temporary) pause marking over any beat, or on every second downbeat, and stop, take a bar off and breathe normally for a few seconds, even while a metronome is clicking away.
You'll play well, on full air, and moreover, you'll live to play another day
And bonus: you won't even try to play too long on too little air and with a very unhandsome strangled type of flute tone.
However, if you insist on trying to play continuously without breathing, to try and be super-human, and only are able to gasp in tiny breaths that leave your tone weak and breathless while you play, then you are actually teaching yourself to play with poor tone due to lack of air, and that is not a flute skill that's ever needed. Ever. Seriously. Think about it. :)
Aspiring virtuoso flutists instead think they must try and breathe as little as possible. I know! I used to make this mistake myself!
Well here's a bold caveat to follow:
If you feel you are passing out while playing three lines of etude, you probably are! :)
I have my student mark in lots and lots of "temporary" pauses and bracketed breath marks, in pencil in their etudes, and then remove them later with an eraser if they no longer need them as the tempo increases.
The longterm goal of breathing well in an "endless" sounding etude requires the etude to be up to its final tempo. The advanced skill of taking full breaths quickly between fast running notes is something that is learned over several years.
Generally making the breath last efficiently is also much easier to work on during well-known scales or arpeggio patterns at first. For example, playing two octave all-slurred scales twice in a row would be a better start than a complicated etude.
Very often the etude breathing solution will actually turn out to be about "topping up the air" on a lungful that's already three-quarters full.But more on that in the future.
If you're playing at the intermediate level, and you change etudes once a week for reasons of needing to work on other technical skill requirements, you may need to keep a few pauses, and breathing breaks in order to play the etude beautifully after only a week.
So give yourself a break, put in breath marks and pauses, comfort yourself that that the modern flute takes more air (larger diameter tube) then the flutes of the 1700s-1800s, and play your etudes with amazing tone, colour, control and passion.
Later you can attempt small bouts of super human breathing, and prove, as Debost says that "none of us is ever perfect."
Meanwhile, save your breath. :)
I've written an article on "breathing in etudes" that you can download and print out for your music stand. It really works well and gives brilliance and ease to any flutist who's tried it.
Really Reading The Score
Debost writes that many students prepare an etude for a weekly lesson don't often delve even into the printed words on the page. I have to agree with that whole heartedly.
As a new etude opens like a vista before you, you'll want to ask yourself:
- Who is the composer of the etude? (lots of flute etude biographies at Fluteark!)
- what key is it in? Where does the etude modulate?
- What are the basic rhythmic units, and how do they fit the meter?
- what are the fastest "fingery" sections that tell you what tempo you can
currently play this at?
- What tempo suits the style of the main melody?
- What do the tempo markings or expression markings mean when translated?
- Just where are those circled parts that need more time and focus?
- Which methods are best for focusing on those circled parts? (some bars take 20-times longer to learn than others; don't be afraid to take them apart.)
- What is the character of the melody? (Spicy, Serious, Gypsy, Jolly, Aggressive,
Demure, Soft, Harried, Anxious, Bubbly, Charming, Joyful, Fopish, or Machine-like?)
- "Are there fermatas? Rallentandos? Accelerando? D.C? D.S? What are the dynamics?"
- if the etude's melody changes character or mood, does your tone colour and rhythmic style change character? If not, why not?
As a final thought on Etudes; you know, extremely interesting 4-5 page etudes for flute do exist. Especially if you add pauses to them, and play them in a virtuostic manner.
Some of them are absolutely beautiful, flutistic and musical and skillful in modulating through key centers.
But yes, they're rare; you may have to read through many many etudes to find them.(Just maybe not written by Andersen in his later tongue-tangling years! ha ha.)
I have one or two gorgeous six page etudes by Camus that I'm always coming back to, 6 Grand Etudes opus 10 (grade 10 flute).
I have at least three binders full of printed etudes, all my favourites, with notations on them as to which are the most fulfilling (alright...I've penciled a happy face on the ones that are a pleasure to play)
Intermediate flutists would LOVE this Australian Flute Teacher's Picks collection of short but beautiful etudes. This is a really terrific collection.
And some of my favourite Etude Books for Advanced flutists are listed here including Cohen's "Bel Canto, the Rampal School".
Robert Stallman's 'The Flutist's Detache Book' is truly a pleasure to play from. And I see he's publishing more wonderful Bach! (The Bach Notebook by Stallman has shorter etude like transcriptions for grade 7 flute and up.)
And, I get a great deal of summer and winter pleasure out of playing transcriptions of Bach violin, keyboard and cello music, for example, the D minor Chaconne by J.S. Bach, which is six pages of a flute transcription in G minor, which I work on one variation at a time, and with much easing, slowing, smoothing, and pausing where needed at slow tempi, to breathe.
It's super fun when these finally do come up to tempo, and you can finally work at the kind of fast and full breathing that Bouriakov manages!
Let him inspire you too.
Then go slowly and with focus.
Onward......mastering the 'tudes. :)
Hope that these weekend ramblings help spread the joy of that.