Wednesday, March 09, 2016

What do articulation markings mean?

Amateur flutists coming for lessons for the first time often have questions such as these:

What do slurs plus staccatos mean over the notes?

What do the different accents mean?

How short are staccatos?

And if you go to the online music theory pages, you could end up reading all the historical arguments for all the symbols of music. (and there are lots of finer points to consider, as the articulation symbols changed over the centuries, borrowing from violin symbols etc.)

So for easy reading, I've created a one-page, printable pdf that gives the basic articulations for flute:

What do flute articulation markings mean? (pdf)

Amateur or band-only flutist who needs quick information might want these one-page explanations to put in their folder for quick and handy reference:

1. Articulations on the Flute - What is written and how to play it (pdf)
2. Trill chart for band flutists (pdf of Mark Thomas's trill chart)
3. Grace Notes page from Rubank (thank you Hymie Voxman!) (pdf)

And for a big read one rainy day:
4. Ornaments (trills, grupetto, grace notes etc.) at online theory pages. (webpage)

The above one-page wonders should help get a novice or intermediate band flutist started.

And for those who tend to play with a puff of air on every note, instead of continuous sound, here's a quick graphic showing that also. Unless it's staccato, you need continuous air to sound continuous sound.

click on graphic to enlarge

And here is a video of Paul Edmund- Davies teaching legato articulation on flute (excellent video).

And if you want to boggle your mind with research, here's the answer to the very first question of this blog post:

What do slurs plus staccatos mean over the notes?

 Louré and/or Portato; but the flute doesn't air-pulse or "lean in" as much as a string-player does.(see video of bowing technique)

 Feature that.

The "Dududu" of delicate tonguing separation has to be lighter on flute than Portato would be on violin, so that it does not sound too accented, too sea-sick, or too "pulse-ey" :>) That's why I prefer the term Louré, but there are many opinions.

One of the loveliest descriptions of the heavier Portato is given in vol. IV of Karen Smithson's method called:  Playing the Flute! Smithson says:
Portato (Bell Tones)
Notes written with both a staccato dot and a slur are to be played tongued and semi-detached, as though a tiny diminuendo were written on each note. This has an effect similar to a bell being rung several times in a row. The moment the bell is struck the sound begins to fade until the bell is struck again. This method of articulation allows us to make a sound midway between a legato (completely connected) and staccato (completely detached).

Here are some visual examples; play them and see what they sound like. You'll soon find the delicate balance. And Dududu to you too. Comments welcome. :>)

Opening of Faure's Fantaisie: just say DuuDuuDuu; if your tone is beautiful, then you will be bell-like:

click on image to enlarge
Drouet's 72 Etudes; too fast for anything but Dududu, me thinks:

click on image to enlarge

Bach's 24 Concert Etudes from the Violin/Cello works (heavily edited in 1800s):

click on images to enlarge each one

And here is the true Portato, as shown by Tchaikovsky's gorgeous violin concerto second movement.
This one you can Bell-tone (lean) yourself into gloriousness!

Hope this helps,
Best, Jen
Comments (2)
Blogger Esteban said...

Hi, i was hoping you could help me a bit. Im currently searching for a new flute, and my current options are: muramatsu EX, Pearl 795, and Resona 300 (by burkart). Do you know something about the Resona´s quality? I think they are assembled in china but finished at Burkart headquarter. The thing is i want a c# key if possible and that flute and the pearl have it. But if it turns out the EX is best i´ll take it.

Saturday, March 26, 2016 6:21:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Esteban,
Sorry but I have not tried Resona.
But it sounds like it would be really fun to compare these flutes and really see the differences! Let me know how it turns out. Can't know without fully play-testing.
Best, Jen

Saturday, March 26, 2016 6:47:00 PM


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