Sunday, February 26, 2023

Why the best players don't always win auditions

 Dear Flutelovers,

Well, I just love the way that Nathan Cole teaches!  Sure it's about violin instead of flute, but since it's also about auditions, orchestras, dynamics, tempo and musical style, it's all applicable to flute, in so many ways.

He's just such a concise and thoughtful teacher and as the First Assoc. Concert Master of the LA Phil he's certainly, as he says, "battle-tested" his own musical advice.

So inspiring too; always learning, always moving the ceiling upward! :>)

Why the best players don’t always win auditions (video)

Also check out Nathan Cole's excellent podcast: Stand Partners for Life


Best, Jen

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Absolutely Gorgeous Bach

 Dear Flute-lovers,

 All J.S. Bach lovers, get ready to be stunned once again!!

This may be not strictly about flute playing, but boy howdy is this not one of the most riveting performances of Brandenberg 2 I've heard in a long time.

Feast your ears!!

The Netherlands Bach Society performs Brandenberg Concerto no. 2 (video

And two short documentaries as well:

1. The musicians speak about experiencing this performance of Bach (video

2. Mark Geelen, trumpet player of the Netherlands Bach Society, builds his own instruments and explains the differences between the various sorts of trumpets including the addition of finger holes and why.(video

Thankyou to my colleague for emailing me these short films from The Netherlands Bach Society's website. Fabulouso!  Enjoy everyone!

Best, Jen

Sunday, January 29, 2023

New Carol Wincenc film


A new flute film to enjoy! Hot off the presses!  Flutist Carol Wincenc interviewed by Christopher Caliendo (video)

Carol Wincenc, the American flutist, has a full and varied career as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral musician, and currently teaches at Juilliard and Stoneybrook.

She speaks from a life full of incredible flute experiences from hanging out with Jean Pierre Rampal to debuting works composed especially for her, to performing with The New York Woodwind Quintet, to studying with Marcel Moyse!

Timestamps will take you to youtube to the exact location in the film:

Carol Wincenc; A Musical upbringing

How does singing help your flute playing?

Mentors, flute teachers and music schools

Choices that led to becoming a professional

Your tone quality and cantabile style

The journey toward becoming a Juilliard professor

Musical interpretation

Preferences in concert hall size and instrumentation?

Recent publication, Mozart Duet of G Major Concerto

See the sheetmusicDuet of G Major Concerto

The future of chamber music?

Advice for young flutists wishing to go professional today

_________________end timestamps

Thankyou to composer Christopher Caliendo for bringing these interview films to the flute community. Upcoming Documentaries that will be featured include interviews with:  Nicola Mazzanti, Nestor TorresBrian Luce Amy Porterand many others. See the earlier Sheridon Stokes film here.


Best, Jen

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

A very quiet whistle

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This week the two flute email groups I belong to seemed to spring back to life!

Perhaps we can again begin to think of whistling while we work now! :>)

 One interesting flute question email came from a 78 yr. old amateur flutist asking about how to keep your lips loose while on stage in a solo recital. Previously they had studied to a higher level of playing than currently, and now they were making a return after a decade or more of only a tiny amount of playing. They were at the point where they had just conquered finding their low register again after playing in the high register (it tended to disappear when they descended). Wanting to whip themselves into shape again for the new year, they had planned a challenging program of Bach's Unaccompanied A minor Sonata and Hindemith's Acht Stucke with another recitalist performing in between. (several of us also said: "Hey why such a tough programme? Take it easy!"). They were several months away yet.

But their question was about lip tension. During practice, if they became tense in the lips, they'd trill them like a horse saying "Brrrrrrrrrr" or make those "motorboat" sounds. This relaxing lip noise is a loose blowing lip-flapping motion such as shown here in this "Lip Trill" video.

But of course a noisy "lip trill" like that was not going to be a good thing to do with an audience present. (grin!)

What should they do between movements if they tightened up in the lips?

One short-term* answer to tense lips caused by stage-nerves is to learn one or two easy whistle-tones and just play a very very relaxed whistle tone when you're backstage. Personally I find just getting a single whistle tone while fingering high A3 is fine for me. It tells me where my lips are. The idea is that whistle tones require such extremely loose lip centers that they therefore give instant feedback that your lips are in fact non-tense.

This can be like a "centering moment" for you backstage that gives you the confidence to relax further, because you know you are centered.

Since the person asking the question about tense lips said they didn't have the ability to visualize images (aphantasia; learn more: 1,2,3) I went hunting for a good illustrative video on youtube, and found these two quite amazingly comprehensive videos below.

The first one shows some interesting superimposed graphics for how the sound is being created inside the bowl of the headjoint's embouchure hole, and the second one explains all the uses of whistle tones from beginning to end.

Very well worth viewing!

Egor Egorkin of The Berlin Philharmonic; Whistle tones on piccolo for quiet warmup onstage (video)

April Clayton; All the uses of whistletones from warmups to the composer's writing of them in pieces of music (video).

*Longer term answers to "tense lips"  or "tense jaw" are, of course, a completely different topic and would be dealt with as a separate issue to "planning a recital with too difficult repertoire" and "coming back to the flute after a hiatus" (or very long break from playing where you might be flabby). There's also entering your eighties, which I haven't yet had any experience, but others have! :>)

In my opinion, non-tense embouchure has to do with using the natural open hanging of the jaw hinge and the natural floppiness of the lip tissue to form the most natural embouchure opening possible. This also works together with rolling the flute down and outward on the chin and uncovering more blow-hole (if you were too rolled in before), moving the lips forward off the teeth, and gradually releasing unnecessary facial tensions over time. These topics are covered in "Embouchure - Volume 2" of the Roger Mather "Art of Playing the Flute" book.

And of course, let us not forget the biggest flute reality of all:

If you are playing with a flabby air stream, the lips and throat will attempt to assist by over-tightening. So beef up your abdominal involvement in your blowing to speed up a full and flexible airstream. This might need a whole new approach or a flute coach.

For medium term answers, there's also using "Spit-Buzzing" from Keith Underwood (Buzzing 101 'how to buzz') and Robert Dick's "Singing While Playing or Throat Tuning (silent singing)". The videos really help I find, but it's interesting that there are still vast flute skills not yet depicted in video.

If it were me, I would choose less demanding repertoire, I would add a flute piece that has accompaniment as one of my selections , and I would begin to use self-recording as part of the preparation so that I'm building up my endurance, relaxation and having a reality check for exactly what the audience will be hearing.  

More suggestions welcome as this topic is an interesting one. :>)


Monday, January 09, 2023

New Sheridon Stokes Film

 Dear Flute Lovers,

Recently the great Hollywood soundtrack flutist and teacher Sheridon Stokes passed away, and I posted about a superb audio podcast that had some thrilling recordings of his work with John Williams and other famous composers. As the result of that blog post, composer Christopher Caliendo reached out to me with a newly compiled film of Sheridon Stokes. The two men had known each other  and worked together for thirty years and had grown to be friends. The footage was taken six years ago, when Sheridon was 84 years old.

 The interview and discussion covers some great modern flute history and pedagogy. Thankyou to Christopher for offering the film a debut here on this blog!

Sheridon's best advice? "Never play a phrase of music the same way twice."

Here is: Sheridon Stokes WEB TV interview: Beyond the Flute (video)

If you wish to view a particular topic, the timestamps are below and if you click on them the video will start  at that topic over on youtube.

1. Interview segment with a demonstration of all his ethnic flutes used in recordings (pan pipes etc) at 6:42

2. Interview segment at 17:34: famous solos such as the penny whistle in Titanic filmscore

3. Interview segment at 25:17: Performance anxiety; being aware

4. Shakuhachi effects 26:30

5. Glissando special effects 29:05

6. Trills as a special effect 31:44

7. The opening from the Mission Impossible TV show score: 33:24

8. Can what you do in the studio (improv-wise) be acquired? 35:46

9. Vibrato 37:44

10. "Mei" by Fukushima 41:31

11. The composer Takemitsu 44:39

12. Flute and Electronic Devices  (Echoplex, Ring Modulater, Tone Divider) 45:39

13. Briefly: Inflections in Jazz 48:46

14. Bass Recorder in the movies 51:25

15. Book: Special Effects for Flute: 52:41 Key Vibrato, QuarterTone Trill, Hollow Tone, Strongest Multiphonics, Special Accents, (book is no longer at Fluteworld)

____________________end timestamps

Some of the Hollywood history that Sheridon talks about is shown in some excellent still photos in this biography video too:


Christopher Caliendo writes:

 Sheridon Stokes was a UCLA faculty member for decades when I first met him as an MBA student studying under the Henry Mancini Film Award.

During the 1990’s Sheridan performed in many of my ensembles, CD recordings, and Hollywood soundtracks. Performing with him was in itself, a master class. He taught me to listen, to never play the same melody the same, to alter my sound, and to constantly reinvent my performance.

In 2017 I created the 2t Academy with the mission of coaching classical musicians in business skills. The Academy’s online faculty which included Sheridon Stokes,  aims to transform a musician’s career and lead them to success as well as promote a healthier work-life balance. Academy members have access to our WEB TV series which features one-hour documentary interviews with outstanding flutists who have gained significant prestige and notoriety. The WEB TV series delves deep into the choices the featured musicians made after graduating college that culminated and helped shape their unique success. 

Upcoming Documentaries that will be featured include interviews with:  Carol WincencNicola Mazzanti, Nestor TorresBrian Luce Amy Porterand many others. 

We would like to offer Jennifer Cluff’s viewers the opportunity to be the first to access Sheridon’s documentary. Thankyou for keeping his legacy alive.

For those of your viewers, Jennifer, who wish to take advantage of it, I'm having a sheetmusic sale of my own compositions. Just click on these links to learn about a lifetime Two for One Sale if you register (a how to video is here) at my website when purchasing the arrangements in the instrumentation of your choice.

All the best,

Christopher Caliendo 


Sunday, December 18, 2022

Eight Fun-tasies by Slovenian composers

click on photos to enlarge

 New music for flute from Slovenia!! I just love how smart this is. The composers are performing, the flutist is making a professional recording in a live concert, and they are offering the sheetmusic all in one filmed event.  Brilliant! Interesting new music too! I'll let the performer tell you about them. Comments welcome!

 Best, Jen


Written by Matej Zupan

Dear flutists,

I would like to share with you 8 FUNtasies for flute and piano by Slovenian composers from our Concert which happened on Nov.11th, 2022.

Some of FUNtasies are more melodic, some are more rhythmic. It was a great privilege that 6 of the composers were accompanying me at the piano for LIVE performance.

1. Anže ROZMAN: FUNtasy for flute and piano (Sae Lee, piano)

2. Miran JUVAN: FUNtasy for flute and piano (Miran Juvan, piano)

3. Robert KAMPLET: FUNtasy for flute and piano (Robert Kamplet, piano)

4. Tilen SLAKAN: FUNtasy for flute and piano (Tilen Slakan, piano)


5. Leon FIRŠT: FUNtasy for flute and piano (Leon First, piano)

 6. Tine BEC: FUNtasy for flute and piano (Tine Bec, piano)

7. David BEOVIČ: FUNtasy for flute and piano (Sae Lee, piano)

8. Bojan GLAVINA: FUNtasy for flute and piano (Bojan Glavina, piano)

 If you would like to purchase the sheet music for each piece there are links and further information in the description boxes below each Video recording on YouTube. 

Enjoy listening to the FUNtasies. 

Flutistically from Slovenia,

Matej Zupan


Monday, November 14, 2022

Prokofiev Classical Symphony Update


(to enlarge, click on photo)
Dear Flutelovers,
Eleven years ago ago I re-wrote the final movement of Prokofiev's Classical Symphony op. 25, for both flute players to switch to piccolos and play all the high Ds and all the difficult intersecting slurry eighth note bits on piccolo, instead of maiming themselves for months trying to play it the way it is actually written. 
The audible flute solos in the Finale are still on Flute, but the rest is quite relaxing to play comparatively.
And over the years I've received quite a few emails* that say "Whew!! Thanks for saving us HOURS of work Jen!" from grateful amateur players who feel that I've 'saved their bacon' with this easier re-write.
So I am pleased that it has worked out! And thanks to the eagle eyes of one player, who emailed today, I even found a bar missing from my original pdf of the parts, and so now have updated the score and parts with several small corrections and my Flute1&2/piccolo pdfs are all new and worth trying out in your own living room! Play along with the videos below and compare and contrast!

 In the emails and comments with thanks* that I've received from flutists trying out this Prokofiev piccolo re-write in performance, apparently, not once has a conductor yet noticed that the flute players were switching instruments. So you never know, the focus may not be on the flutes after all, but on the strings ha ha.
So try it. Just get your piccolo and flute out and learn how to do fast switches in cut time (hint: use your lap) and try out my free pdf parts:

This is the tempo it does go at, so be ready with your quick picc switches: (video starts at fourth mvmt.)

If you want to compare how all this works, and you don't have the parts that Prokofiev originally wrote, here are the original flute parts at IMSLP (you may have to wait 15 second for the free pdf at imslp's Prokofiev op.25 parts library).

We should all be able to focus on the gorgeous flute parts in the first three movements, and be able to have a fun piccolo time in the Finale, at least that's my theory for non-panic-making playing. I mean, what's with pianists-who-avoid-piccolo-switches-in-their-first-symphony-EVER anyway? Don't they know how super-fast we can do it?  (see my photo of Prokofiev at the top of the blogpost to see what I think he's thinking. :>)

My original post was from 2009 with more positive player-feedback in the comments there, and a bit more info. about how and why I did this. And the pdf parts and score links there are all updated too. So help yourselves. 
Now to update the REST of my website, hahahaha. Wow that'll take all winter if I start now! (Some of it is from 2001!! Eeek.)
Best, Jen
Notes from a happy picc-switcher:
* Dear Jen,
A thousand thanks for your excellent transformation of the Flute 1 and Flute 2 parts in the Finale of Prokofiev’s 1st Symphony.  You have saved me and my colleague hours and weeks of work which then in the end would only have produced a less than satisfactory result.  We’ve both taken out our piccolos and used the parts at our last two rehearsals and unless I’m much mistaken, I seem to recall the conductor said “Flutes – Brilliant!” at the end of the movement, having not even noticed that we were playing piccolos.  Now we can relax a little and enjoy the wonderful music, thank you so much. 
With best wishes  H