Thursday, October 29, 2020

Gareth Davies of London - Interview

Interview with Davies on Principal Chairs

Dear Flute-Lovers,

The free flute films that are on Principal Chairs (featuring the excellent Michael Cox among other great flutists), has been a pleasure to follow all through our "hometime". One of the interviews that I enjoyed the most for the honesty and truth about the life of fluting was the one featuring London Symphony Principal Flutist Gareth Davies

Link to Interview: (no Facebook membership is required to view this film)

Loved it. Recommend. Fabulous.

Additionally, in searching around Gareth's extensive internet presence I also found a fun film of "A Day in the Life in the London Symphony" (video) by Gareth as well. And if like me (or like all of us during these times), you like to live vicariously, you might enjoy it. :>)

During lockdown, he's also playing duets with the best player he can find, who he's known all his life: Duet video.

And for an extra added bonus, Gareth's LSO co-principal, Adam Walker, has a masterclass up to view as well. (video)

Enjoy and feel free to comment!

Best, Jen

Friday, October 23, 2020

Rachel Brown plays Beethoven 1st

A special film to see!

Beethoven Symphony No. 1 with Rachel Brown Principal Flute (video)

(filmed in Sept. 2020 with social distancing)

As you can hear and see, Rachel is performing on a Beethoven-period flute (video demo of that historical flute) and she mentions that the flute of that time does not play A3 easily (takes extreme stamina and feels like a fifth higher!) and as a result, Beethoven avoids it by dropping the octave in the flute part for third octave A, Bb, & B.

On one of the flute discussion groups, Rachel asked:

In symphony orchestras with modern instruments do you automatically extend the phrases up to Bb (where the 1st flute is the only one to drop down), for instance in the Scherzo of the 9th symphony, and if so, where do you stop? Do you go up to B natural, for instance on the last page of the ninth? Do certain orchestras or particular conductors have their own traditions with this, or do you stick faithfully to what Beethoven wrote, even though it would be easy, in fact sometimes easier, to extend the range and stay in the high register?

Super interesting question when you can actually hear the tessitura of the period instruments in her most recent performance! (I remember asking myself the same question when playing Beethoven Symphonies!) Well, dive in. (flute parts at imslp). Use the comment button! :>)

Hope everyone is well in this seventh month of darn weirdo-time-bending lockdown.

All is well here in hobbity-land. 

October has been beautiful for us here on the coast. (photo by my neighbour)

Yes, we have deer here. And freighters. :>) Hoooooooooot!!!!

Best, Jen

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Possibility of Magic

As I happily retire this autumn from teaching at our Music Conservatory for 27 years,  I am passing my students on to a fresh, contemporary, younger flute teacher. One or two of my adult students said "Oh no, no, no...I can never start, online, with a younger, newer teacher if I can't have you!"

And I said: "Well.......don't miss any possibilities for magic!" :>)

I had been imagining all the fun they would be having in the future, playing pieces such as this one:

Emma Resmini plays Ian Clark's "The Great Train Race" (video)

Description of sheetmusic:

Techniques include; residual/breathy fast tonguing, multiphonics, singing & playing, lip bending, explosive harmonics and an optional circular breathing section.  A forward with explanations of the techniques is given along with fingerings in the score.  The multiphonics used are of the more friendly variety; seven multiphonics from only four different fingerings. 


HUGE panache! What a great performance! Just love it! I say "Go for it Gurrrllls!"

Honestly......good storytelling just rocks! 

(you can tell I'm hitting sixty by the way I say 'rocks' ha ha!)


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: