Sunday, January 29, 2012

Easy Posture & Pure Tone

Dear Flutelovers,

In trying to answer the way-too-huge number of flutey-email questions that arrived in my email over the past three months, (after the launch of the new edition of "The Art of Playing the Flute"), I've realized that it's impossible to keep up with the sheer number of them. There are thousands of flute students in the world, and I am only one teacher. :>)

My best advice to all the emailing flute students is, of course to work well with your own private flute teacher because only your flute teacher sees and hears you every week, and gets to know how you learn, and what you hear, and what your flute playing truly needs now.

So while dedicating yourself to finding your very own personalized, qualified and devoted nearby flute teacher, please help yourself to these basic videos about:

Easy Flute Posture and Longtones & Pure Tone.

Easy Posture for Flute Players:

Note: Sound quality best at 240p.

More articles on preventing flutey aches and pains are here.

What is Longtone Practise?

Long or (better yet) Pure Tone basics: Video

Note: Sound quality best at 240p. Sorry about the audio; got to get a better video editing compatibility, doh!

And for the love of those pure tone quality exercises see....

Longtones - What are they and how do you use them?

What's the deal with Longtones?

1. Teaching Tone: Video 1 How to play longtones - Basics for newbies

2. More on Teaching Tone. Videos 2-3.

4. Playing with Tone Colours.


And a quick P.S. for the very curious:

To train a cat to ring a bell to have the door opened you have to:

- previously have had a cat that totally wrecked the doors/screens/weatherstripping
- or meowed horribly in a disgruntled way
and then:
- when the new kitten is old enough to go outdoors you simply ring the bell every time you're about to open the door.
Sooner or later, the cat rings the bell for you to open the door.


Comments (6)
Blogger jen said...

A Flute Teacher's Conversation:
Jen writes:
Tone, Pure Tone.

Don't you think that flutist's longtones should have their name changed to Pure Tone?

I certainly think so.
It would allow the student to understand more quicly that it is purity of tone that is most desireable.

In teaching the flute for 20 years, I've run across many students who don't really understand longtone exercises.

They have trouble with them because of things like:

1. Some self taught new flute students have never played longtones before.
Frenquently their previous fascination with the flute has been about playing lots of notes at thrillingly fast speeds.
They've been pounding away, practicing fast fingers, but play with whatever tone quality comes out automatically.
And because they almost never play slow tempo pieces, they don't listen carefully and hear the quality of their tone.
When they first come for lessons, and the teacher shows them Longtones, they can't believe the simplicity of the way the exercise looks, play it through in five seconds, and turn the page.
This is the problem with only seeing the flute as a fast instrument full of fast sixteenth notes, and not knowing to listen for the underlying beautiful of a single, gorgeous whole note.

2. Some new flute students think "Long" is the most important syllable in the word "Longtones", and they attempt to play notes as long as possible, regardless of tone quality.
Playing "as long as possible" is unhelpful on so many levels, because the lack of air, the gasping inhaling, and lip pinching that enable long notes do nothing to improve the tone quality.
(and the dizzy results can result in staggering around for a few minutes too, which can lead to head injuries.)

If you changed "Long" to "Pure", perhaps this misconception would inspire more interest in what does a flute player do to create PURE tone quality.
To create a Pure tone quality, you have to hold the note at least as long as it takes to really hear the "quality" of the pure tone.

Sunday, January 29, 2012 8:26:00 PM

Blogger jen said...


3. Some novice flute students have only ever heard flute players who sit beside them in their highschool bands, and haven't heard enough fabulously wonderful flute tone to know what it really sounds like.
When they start to play longtones, they tend to just play with any old tone quality, and no matter whether it's breathy or airy, or rough, they just play the exercise wondering why it looks so simple on the page, and why it's so boring.
I once had a student who unknowingly held the flute's headjoint at a 45 degree downward angle from the lips, with the head straight, and yet the flute on a severe angle.
No matter how many times I worked with the student to demonstrate that the tone would improve if they were blowing a stream of air with the flute parallel to their lips, they simply refused to change it.
I'm sure the student felt that "longtones were boring", as they all sounded rough and unfocused.
But since the student did not seem to have the desire to produce a pure tone, or a beautiful tone, I could only assume it was because the best tone they had ever heard was about the same quality of tone as he/she produced herself.

Listening to a great world-class flute player who's tone is stunningly beautiful and then pausing the CD/mp3 and finding out how to make that beautiful tone yourself with your flute, is one of the fastest ways to leap into a higher realm of tone purity.

4. When a flute teacher demonstrates Longtones at a weekly lesson, often there are time constraints.
A great deal has to be fit into every flute lesson (pieces, studies, technique etc), and so, having done longtones 45 minutes a day themselves over years and years, the teacher demonstrates a super quick version during the lesson, and the student goes away with a vague memory of the process of longtones taking about 45 seconds, rather than 45 minutes.
Sometimes the student only retains a hazy memory of the demonstration.
The next week, they too play a 45 second version of what they heard the teacher do last week. The part they forgot is "just producing a B-natural may, on your first day, take 10 or more minutes, so don't rush it; explore it".
===================end Jen

Sunday, January 29, 2012 8:27:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Jerrold Pritchard replies
Your analysis and reasoning of what many students think or react like when they are given long tone exercises is right on the money. It looks too easy...yet takes too long to perfect.

You are really trying for Perfection and Control of ALL the elements at the same time--a very big challenge.

I like your idea of focusing on Pure rather than Long tones.

There are plenty of avenues of discover that capture all the elements you are describing:

Purity of flute tone is also about:
Center to the sound,
Flexibility to move to other notes, registers and types of tonal quality/amount of upper partials in the sound, and
Ease of Production.

When you have all these elements you have a sound that seems Pure, Clear, Singing and Projecting without too much effort.

Does this help or confuse with too much analysis? As I said, it is probably better to focus on one or two elements at a time, do lots of repetitions, and make small changes/experiments as you proceed,

...and train yourself to listen very, carefully. It is the listening and hearing how you really sound and how you want to sound that should be the critical area of focus. The body will make the small adjustments IF you have enough clarity of mental image.

It's really like a kind of Zen meditation mantra you keep chanting all your life, seeking "enlightenment".

Sunday, January 29, 2012 8:29:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

(JP) Plus:

I think the basic semitone "tone" exercise even involves rapid finger technique: Your fingers move just as fast (or even faster) when you play slowly and with long notes-whole, half, & quarter notes) as when you play rapid passages with many notes in a beat because, when the time comes for the fingers/muscles to move, they must move with lightness and quickness if you are to have clarity between the two notes of the slur.

The reason I think things like the Moyse 1/2 step slur work is that they involve so many aspects (all) of flute playing at the same time. This is why they are so challenging and need to be repeated at each session and regularly. You just can't think of too many elements at the same time. So, each time (in the beginning and as you review) you have to concentrate on just 1 or 2 or maybe three:

This "De la Sonorite" study involves keeping everything constant and consistent:

The Inhalation,
The Articulation-the release (not attack) of the air
The Focus of the Tone from note to note
The Dynamic
The Vibrato speed and width
The Tone Color
The Finger Action with a quick and smooth Transition from note to note
The Shape and of the end of the 2nd note as you leave it
Inhalation for the repetition

_______________end comment

Sunday, January 29, 2012 8:30:00 PM

Blogger Leonhard's mom said...

Thank you so much for these instructions! I'm a bassoonist by training, and this summer I am revisiting the flute. I have been scouring your blogs and lessons Jen - this is so tremendously valuable! I am very grateful.

One thing I like about the flute is that I can walk around while playing. I like to play very close to a window or wall so that I can really hear the tone close up. Also, playing in different physical environments to get the sense of how our tone changes in response to the resonance of the space. All this freedom with the flute!!! The other thing I like to do is play with my sruthi box to explore intonation and staying rooted in a key.

Perhaps because I'm a bassoonist, I notice a link between finger pressure and tone. Right now I am retraining my fingers (a lesson from another of your blogs) to be very light and subtle. Always light, even when loud. This is the hardest thing for me to do right now. The long tones are a good place to work on that. My bassoon teacher, Stephen Maxym, used to teach us to think about "lifting" versus "pressing", and allowing the fingers to move naturally rather than trying to limit finger height.

So ... working on tone and fingers with long tone exercises, then chromatic scales. Yay!

Thanks again,

Linda Kaastra

Thursday, June 11, 2015 7:24:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks so much Linda. I'm very pleased! Jen

Thursday, June 11, 2015 9:36:00 AM


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