Friday, November 06, 2015

High D4 embouchure change

(click on illustration to enlarge)
Question: I have been preparing Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, 4th mvmt. (second flute) for auditions. I have been practicing the eighth note passages that lead up to the high D in different rhythms, articulations, tempos, etc. And I have used different fingerings for the high notes (such as using the alternate fingering for the high F# and regular fingerings for the high C# and the D in an attempt to lessen the motion in the right hand/not rely on the foot joint fingerings as much.) However, it is still difficult getting the higher notes to speak clearly (if at all at times) with any fingering I use. I have determined that the air needs to do most of the work here but I have trouble remaining relaxed in the embouchure as I go higher. Since it is our tendency to create a smaller embouchure as we go higher in range and that combined with the intense air speed can be a cause for disaster in this situation. Any tips?
Also, of course the eighth note passages with the cross fingerings that trade off between the first and second flutist are also tricky, however I have found this passage to be much easier than the other as I just need to keep a supple embouchure as I work my diaphragm through that section. But any tips on this are also welcome.
Thank you! A
Dear A,
The difference between third octave and fourth octave embouchure is shown with diagrams  in Volume Two of Roger Mather's book "The Art of Playing the Flute". See diagram at top of this post.

Notice that the lower lip is covering only 1/4 of the blow hole for high C#4, D4, which is the fourth octave. Notice the angle of air stream suggested in the above picture too. It works best if it is "almost horizontal".

In a dramatic comparison, the embouchure used for our regular third register (high G, A, B3 to high C4) the lower lip is covering more than 2/3rds of the blow hole and the upper lip is blowing downward at a 45 degree angle. This is to make the third octave mellow, and correct sharpness of pitch.

Knowing about this dramatic embouchure change will help you pop out high Ds with ease. :>)
It's just a question of knowing when to move the lips and then finding a happy medium of adjustment that is more subtle as you play up that high in your longtones everyday.
As for the Prokofiev fourth movement Classical Symphony fingerings, all the flute parts have been re-written for ease, and the info. is at a previous blog post: here. Naturally these re-written parts won't be appropriate for auditions, but they certainly help in real life performances (several orchestral flutists have emailed that they work really well with short preparation time, and that no one can hear the difference; the flutists just have more fun!).
 So here is the pdf of the rewritten Prokofiev Classical Symphony parts complete and ready to print; makes life much much easier:

(note: Errata correction Nov 8th 2015: Bar 34, F naturals  on beat 3 and 4 should be F#s in both parts on beats 3 & 4. The above is corrected now.)
My personal opinion is that when composers (who play piano) don't understand the difficulty of what they've written (for flutists), that it's perfectly fine to perform identical re-writes, in order to save practice time for making the truly musical parts a joy to play, while the impossible parts become easy to play well.
Best, Jen

Comments (3)
Blogger Hannah Haefele said...

This information is really helpful. I like to play some of my flute music on piccolo for fun, and I think that almost helps my high register on flute a little bit!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015 2:39:00 PM

Blogger David Szum said...

Oooh, that's good. I have just finally reliably (well mostly reliably) the C4 and not even able to touch C4# or D. You explain it very nicely (and remind me that I should read the Mathers you sent me a while ago). Thanks!


Friday, January 08, 2016 10:19:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks Dave, for the good feedback. Glad to help! :>)

Friday, January 08, 2016 10:44:00 AM


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