Thursday, August 06, 2020

Q&A with Joséphine Olech on Principal Chairs

Fabulous interview (free video!) and well worth watching! 

Principal flute of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and 2019 winner of the Carl Nielsen International Competition, Joséphine answers questions about her practice routine (minute: 41:00), preparation for competition, orchestral situation in Rotterdam, studying at the Paris Conservatoire, warmups, articulation, and myriad other topics. See the whole Q&A video here.  (Note: you don't need to belong to Facebook to view them)

This excellent free video series from Principal Chairs has also added more masterclasses with Michael Cox. Find all videos here  and enjoy!

The Sancan Sonatine performance video mentioned at the start of the Q&A is below.
Enjoy this refreshing young flutist!
Best, Jen

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Piccolo Videos Fantastico!

The Flute Player by Girolamo Savoldo

Dear Flute & piccolo lovers,

Many hours of excellent piccolo videos to see this week:

Q&A with Piccoloist Peter Verhoyen who has recorded an incredible number of piccolo CDs that display the full range of the repertoire:

I truly enjoyed this interview! See it here:

Principal Chairs Q & A with Peter Verhoyen (video on facebook.)

Note: You do not need to join facebook to view these videos.
From three months or so ago:
See: The International Piccolo Festival (videos)

Amazing piccolo artists teach all the ins and outs of the piccolo:

Best, Jen

Monday, July 06, 2020

Michael Cox Masterclass & Q/A

Interview - Masterclass - four Q&A
Dear Flutelovers,

Update July 21st, 2020:
Principal Chairs now has even more Masterclasses with Michael Cox on their  Facebook page as well as the Q&A sessions ongoing every second Tuesday. You can view the recorded videos on that Facebook link even if you don't belong to Facebook. Free and open to the public in replay.

The very kind folk at Principal Chairs have made seven hours or more of Michael Cox's teaching free, with live masterclass coverage, and Question and Answer sessions that were recorded over the past month or so and ongoing.

Scroll down to see the extra videos below when you arrive at the URLs.

Enjoy these free resources! Absolutely fascinating and delivered by the most experienced flutist!

You can view the recorded videos on Facebook (even if you don't belong to Facebook) or at the principal chairs flute pageAvailable in replay.

Scroll down when you arrive at: to see multiple interview videos featuring Michael Cox, (all free) where he tells the most incredible information! Wowza!

All Facebook Live videos are also available after live events at both the Facebook and the website links above.

For students studying Orchestral Excerpts go straight to the free July 2020 Masterclasses (and there are many full length ones available if you join Principal Chairs) at:
Masterclass July 4th; Michael Cox
(and every two weeks after that) including the most recent on Bartok Concerto for Orchestra and L'Apres Midi is here:
July 28th Masterclass with Michael Cox

July 8th 2020: available in replay.

Walter Auer,  the first flute of the Vienna Philharmonic, will be answering your questions in a live Q&A on the Principal Chairs' Facebook page on Tuesday 7th July at 7:00 pm (BST).

 (Note: check your local time zone; Europe is 8 hrs. ahead of Pacific time.)

Go to:

Walter Auer teaching sample: (video)

Michael Cox teaching sample: (video)

Thank you to Principal Chairs and Michael Cox.
So kind, so generous!

Best, Jen

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Getting Back in Shape (after years away)

Question: Getting Back into Shape; How to proceed?

Colleen wrote in the comments:

Q: I've only just discovered your You Tube videos on embouchure work* and I have a question. I've only recently started playing again after 40 years. I was a flute major in college, and so I have some background and am not a rank beginner (although sometimes it feels so).... But I am back to working on my embouchure (and *everything*) and am keen to get better control but am not sure exactly what the best strategy is. Of course I worked those many years ago with Marcel Moyse's de la Sonorite and so forth, but now am sort of starting again but am having trouble loosening up. I can manage a quite lovely sound for awhile, but when I apply it to solo work, and especially with intervals, everything goes increasingly tight and the registers fall apart. At your suggestion, I've just ordered Werner Richter's "Conditioning Training for the Embouchure." But so my question is, how long do you suggest I work strictly on the embouchure technique before moving on to etudes, solo pieces, etc. Do you recommend a strict regimen of only the embouchure work for several weeks alone? Or a graduated approach. Am not sure how to proceed now, and would appreciate any suggestions you can offer. Thank you so much.

A: Dear Colleen,
This sounds typical of what happens: we tighten up when we try to play pieces or larger intervals. It's the kind of topic that I've been working with for years. Probably deserves an article of its own! Basically you "relax completely" (your face/lips/throat etc.) every three minutes, like you've put an egg-timer on, and every three minutes it reminds you to check in with your tension level and reduce it from 10, 9, 8, 7, 6......down to about a 0, 1, 2 or 3 out of 10 in tension. If you keep doing this every three minutes, you'll catch yourself before your facial muscles start tightening without your knowing it.

Here is a link to my article "How to get back in shape after a flute-playing hiatus:

One on warming up (with links to all kinds of practise pages);

How to warmup to practise flute:

And one on soul satisfying summer practising:

And lastly, "Technique with a Purpose" about setting up two music stands to alternate between; one fun, one technical work (done in short, poised sessions of 5-10 minutes.)

The main question is: How do I get back into playing my best without tightening up?

And I have to assure you is that is what happens to all of us.
Here's an article on observing your own tightening when playing at a music stand:

You ask: What order should I practice in when coming back to the flute?
And that deserves its own answer:

Whenever you're out of shape with the flute, the first thing to go missing is abdominally-assisted air compression.
We used to call it "support of the airstream" or "diaphragmatic support", but what I see it as is:
Pre-compressing the air so that it leaves the body in a fast and precise stream of air. The "pre-compressing" is the action of the abdominal muscles, the lungs, the open throat and the nasal pharynx.
The air becomes ready to exit the body at "100 miles per hour".
This requires a certain co-ordination and balance of internal air-motion systems inside your body:

There is an article on this here:

So whenever you're "out of shape", no doubt, you are not yet doing the above air speed improvements.
Instead, what happens is that you accidentally tighten your throat, lips, upper chest, face, jaw, tongue, and other body parts, in order to control the air-speed right at the exit-end of your air production.

This shows itself as "pinching" for the high notes, and over-manipulating the embouchure and squeaking in the low register.
It is easily corrected if you stick to low register only for the first few weeks back when you haven't played for years. Get your air moving freely first, and don't expect much from your embouchure (wide leaps or high register need careful stepwise practise first.) over the first few weeks.

So, low register tunes of all kinds are your friend. I especially love old slow airs from the Irish/Scottish/ stuff, or self-created duets of Celtic tunes, played really low, all-slurred, take your time, with lots of colour and lots of air. I would do that for at least two weeks, if not longer.

I would also use your first few weeks back to play "headjoint only" and "right hand on the barrel" so that you get your lip placement just perfectly poised and balanced, for YOU.
There's nothing like taking it slowly and with precision and constant, flexible experimentation to get your best embouchure, (covered in Vol.2 of Mather's book) based on a really good placement of the headjoint on the chin!! Many people overlook the benefits of mirror work at this stage.

For set-up, watch James Galway's video on the simplicity of lip work done with headjoint only: (link to video)

The above Galway embouchure exercise is unbelievably useful for EVERY flutist, not just those starting back after a hiatus!! It reminds us about where the contact on the chin is, and how to release the jaw, and how to make the embouchure effortless, and work without working, because it's ergonomic.

For getting your upper lip pulled down enough to create ease at the lip opening, also see "spitbuzzing101" by Keith Underwood.

And don't forget to get your flute mechanically checked over by a technician before you blame yourself for slow fingers; pad leaks are real on every flute, no kidding. (Flute care & repair article link.)

If you haven't played for years, you'll very likely need oil added to your flute too, or you'll grit-score the insides of the dry rods. Not good.
Oiling should be done once a year, and if it's dried out, you shouldn't play on it yet.....

Also, get your own posture and playing ease assessed by a good flute teacher via a video lesson or two online, to make sure your posture and holding position hasn't become "awkward".

Do yoga, tai chi, streching exercises, and make sure the tension isn't starting elsewhere in the body (and don't play statically; walk around for sure!)

I'd take it slowly, and stay in the low register, then middle register for at least a month or two, and stabilize all the best things you can do at those octaves, before sailing confidently into the high register.
The worst idea is to try and play complex pieces right away, when you're rusty.
That kind of over-challenge on a possibly leaking-pad flute can CAUSE tension.
And our ears always demand great tone, so remember: don't tighten to get great tone, send fast and accurate air while opening up your throat and chest. You need to release the air already at a fast speed, so that you don't need to compress your upper body to change the air-speed.
I know; it's complex. :>)

Anyway, hope this helps,
Best, Jen

ps. Beware practising Werner Richter's "Conditioning Training" when you're out of shape.
It's far far better to work on breathing and releasing sound with beautiful resonance for at least a year before concentrating on difficult wide-interval leaps.
Stay with simple things at first; don't push push push yourself; it does not help. :>)

*Jen's youtube videos:



Monday, June 29, 2020

Motivation to Practise (podcast)

Dear Flutelovers,

Questioning your practising motivation while stuck at home with no rehearsals or performances? We all are!!!

This husband-wife team, the violin-performing LA Philharmonic members (see their at-home duet video), take a good honest look at their motivation during stay at home practise:

Stand Partners For Life Podcast - audio (listen here)

The Summer Motivation Espisode (during lockdown's longest summer)

I really enjoy this couple's "stand partners for life" honesty, professionalism, and candour about how it feels to be a working classical musican!

Listen to the questions posed at the Summer Motivation podcast above, and also enjoy the free Bach Violin Sonata video lessons too! Flutists can learn the violin sonatas by Bach and how and why he wrote in the manner he did! Check out all these videos on Nathan Cole's playlist:

Nathan Cole's Violympics & Bach on the Road lessons (All youtube videos)
Violin Duets that were mentioned on the podcast that may be worth a look for flutists to record at home. Just play both parts of any duet onto a multi-track recorder (change key if necessary for violin morphed to range), or play one part recorded with a metronome going, and one part live:

Mentioned on the podcast and may be worth checking out for flute:

Spohr Duets for violins: (imslp see duets)
Leclair Duets for violins: (imslp see duets)

Bach Violin Sonatas (imslp free pdfs) for studying along with Nathan Cole's Bach series.
Bonus - Flute Related!

Inspiration: A new transcription of the (difficult to obtain) Waxman Carmen!
(not yet offered on his website, though.)

Denis Bouriakov plays the Franz Waxman
(Bouraikov Arrangement of) Carmen Fantasy:(video)

Church Concert

Stage Concert (video)

Well, I'm inspired to borrow impatiently from the violinist's repertoire....
Aren't you?? :>)

Best, Jen

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

William Bennett's teaching (film)

Dear Flutelovers,

How wonderful to see William Bennett teach for thirty minutes!! (video)

Denis Bouriakov playing with William Bennett (his teacher): (video)


Comments welcome.
 Best, Jen

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Julien Beaudiment Flutist

Dear Flute-lovers,

I attended an online masterclass/interview with Julien Beaudiment today (sorry no replay) that was gloriously provided for free by one of our dedicated University flute teachers. My notes are below from that talk.

Then, just to round out having been at the 90 minute online class, I listened to Bach, (video) played by Julien Beaudiment
 Sarabande from JS Bach A minor Sonata:

And I watched him teach (in French!) (video):

Then I went and listened to his interview (in which he explains how he was asked to play for LA Phil, and why he left after only a short time):(video)

And finally, after hearing the above interview, I was super excited to see the exact Mozart Concerto innovations that Julien added, that resulted in his being invited to join the LA Phil. (video)

What a super interesting day, flute-wise! :>)
Hope to hear from others who attended his classes. Comment button below.
Here are my notes (there were more):

Flute  Zoom Class with Julien Beaudiment:

- in the lessons he teaches at Lyon Conservatory, there are three one hour lessons in flute per week for each flute student at the Conservatory;
ie: 3 hours in total each per student per week:

1. One hour lesson with Julien himself and a pianist for solo repertoire
2. Then one hour with a talented flute colleague who teaches only flute technique to the same student
3. Finally, one additional hour per week with a talented flute colleague who teaches only piccolo technique to the same student

(I have told my Canadian students who study one hour per week that REAL Classical Music Students frequently take two hours per week, for example both Tuesdays and Friday flute lessons, but none of them usually believe me. :>)

Julien prefers Moyse's "Chromatic Mechanism" book to Taffanel and Gaubert.
He feels T&G is far too easy in its chromatic scales for him now, and that since his weakness is finger speed and accuracy, that chromatics work best for him.

(Note: There were free pdfs at the class of the above super expensive book running around online left and right,  so don't spend $40 too quickly!)

For every student there are different things to be worked on. For Julien it is fingers, not tone. He says even after a week of not playing, it's never his tone that has suffered. And, at his level, naturally, he's looking for technique books he's never played thoroughly before.

A rare one he mentioned is this one by Tassinari for flute:

He also said that Lorenzo's very challenging studies with piano and flute parts are free at IMSLP for those looking for a challenge.,_Leonardo_de

- His fave way to practice pairs of longtones is twice each pair, all slurred. The first pair is played forte, then slur into the second pair and repeat at dynamic of piano.
(click on jpg to enlarge; use back button to return here.)

He says this version of the Moyse longtones (Fake Moyse) keeps you in shape because you are:

a) working on matching intonation (same pitches at contrasting dynamics)
b) giving air vs. saving air (air speed awareness becomes super important)
c) quickly checking all your angles and air speeds to stay in shape or get warmed up quickly

- His pet peeve is people who buy tons of books and then say "I'll practice 10 minutes each out of 15 different books."
He says: "It's better to spend 15 minutes on one bar of one book until it is perfect. This is about the focus and the slowness of perfection, and HOW you practice, it's not about covering pages and pages badly." If there was one single point he'd like to make, it would be about the incredible focus it takes to learn something well (one bar, or one inch of music). If you just "play" around reading music, that is not practicing; practicing is really truly honing a skill by going slowly and carefully, and maintaining  awareness and accute focus on the specific task for the sake of perfecting it.

- He also really dislikes electronic tuners for working on intonation: "Tuning with the eyes is the wrong way to go."  Since each private lesson hour he is always provided with an accompanist for every flute student's lesson, he insures that the student listens to and matches an actual live instrument (the piano) rather than a tuner, in order to develop their ear. He says that the ear has to be ready for all the pitch changes that actually occur in real-life orchestral situations (Brass play sharp, French play at A-441, German cities play at A-444 etc.)

-All his articulation choices are based on many many varieties of tonguing both forward and back in the mouth, depending on colour, dynamic, and style.
He says not to get stuck in the "heavy tongue" headset; but for the flute student to pre-hear lighter sounds in their inner-ear, in order to fit lighter musical situations, rather than think that every "Tu" is the same: TU, TU, TU. Not so.

The tongue is not a separate organ.
 It depends on the air-speed and the shape of the mouth, so has a slightly different at every dynamic, and in different tone colours/styles.
In Forte the mouth cavity is very large, and so the tonguing will be different than when the dynamic requires the mouth cavity to be smaller.

In the same way as there are many syllables for tonguing, there are many shapes of the mouth and tongue to produce tone colours; the main thing is to remain flexible and learn all kinds of sounds. He likes to take risks, and play every performance slightly differently; he says that makes the performance truly alive.

Julien pointed out that dynamics are dependent on where you are playing and whom you are playing with. Almost every flute solo in orchestra that is marked "Piano" for example, is not ever played softly. The mood may be soft, but to project the flute, you will be playing with a great deal of energy in "piano".
There are no absolute dynamics. Most students need to play much larger and with much more projection than they think.

He also said: "After 4-6 hrs. of flute practice you cannot do more on the flute. So now you have 'Table Work' where you study the scores and really listen to the works you are learning. Listen to a great deal of music everyday. Remember to always do your 'table work' without the flute in hand, to develop your listening skills.
The above is some of what I learned from him today. Really corroborates my teaching!

Best, Jen