Monday, February 27, 2012

Embouchure Questions & Rampal Videos

Embouchure Questions:

Q: Do you move your chin forward and back to change from high octave to low octave?

A: No, but some isolated flute teachers do still teach that method. The strain to the jaw hinge is not necessary, nor is the movement.

As you can read here, or see in the Rampal videos (below), it is the center of the lips that make the octave changes, and not the chin or jaw movement.

When you first start playing the flute, jaw changes might have been used while you experimented. But if you are a practicing flute player, excessive jaw motion will really slow down your progress. Watch Rampal in the videos; in the close up side-views, his jaw never moves even while he's playing huge arpeggios. He changes only the center of the lips for all his adjustments. It's fascinating to see how he does it.

Q: Off-set Embouchure: I understand that Rampal had his lip opening off-set to the left. Is that therefore a good way to play?

A: Some flutists, due to their dental formation or lip irregularities, do get their best sound from a non-centered lip-opening. This is covered in Roger Mather's book "The Art of Playing the Flute" in some detail, with diagrams.

When you're working on your flute tone in lessons, there are a great deal of slow, sensitive embouchure experiments that you will discover. You will learn how to observe minute embouchure changes that create tone improvement. These time-tested embouchure experiments develop your "ear-mouth" co-ordination. The goal is listening to what the embouchure's shape change has done to your tone, and guide it toward the tone you want to hear.
When you achieve fabulous flute tone,you then can remember what you did to create it. That's the goal! To get great flute tone on demand by "thinking" embouchure changes.

As your embouchure develops, you find that you are making very small motions; and mostly from the very center of the lips.

So, if after doing all the standard tone experiments, over several months, only then, if your tone still hasn't become glorious, you would start experimenting with moving the opening in the lips to the left (or possibly to the right depending on lips and teeth).

In general, it's best to start with lip aperture in the center, so at least, in the mirror, it's easy to remember symetrical movements. Be best tone experimenter you can be, every day on your tone warmups. And leave off-center lip openings to future exploration with your teacher, or, by using the Roger Mather experiments.

Back to the case of Rampal; you can see in the films that his lip-aperture moved to the left as he aged. You can see this in the films quite clearly.
He is quoted as saying he wished he had kept it centered, but he was too lazy. :>)
(Likely as he aged either his arms became tired or his dental work changed his embouchure).

Moyse's embouchure also moved to the left as he aged (perhaps because of tooth-loss or arm-strain) and yet some young players play to the left because they get their best tone quality there (see Denis Bouriakov). However if you don't have to move your embouchure, seek the best tone quality you can get at the center of the lips first, before extensive experimentation.

But as you can see from the close ups in the early films below, Rampal's embouchure started out as centered, and moved to his left as he aged.

Notice that his tone quality was much more pure in the earlier recordings with his centered embouchure.

Q: Do I have to "lip up", in order to raise the airstream angle for the high register?

A: Not necessarily. If playing at a loud (forte) volume, and projecting your sound in a performance, you actually will correct the flute's sharper upper register, and find a more centered tone quality more easily, if you move your upper lip forward and down, to aim the air stream downward.

Check out Rampal doing this.

In my opinion, if you can achieve this upper-lip position high note tone method first, then later, when learning to diminuendo and play softly in the high register you can alter the height of the upper lip, raising the upper lip center to keep the tone in tune at soft volumes, and pressing upward vertically with the the lower lip. (more on that topic on an upcoing blog post; this is a great technique!)

But a picture saves ten thousand words: check out Rampal's embouchure in the following videos. Check out what he does to leap fast scales and octaves in the Enesco Cantabile and Presto, especially. He shows you how to do it!

Rampal's orginal "centered" embouchure:

CBC Rampal Films (1956-1966):videos

Repertoire on this video:

1 - F. Couperin, Concerto Royal N. 4.

2 - J. B. Bach, Sonata para Flauta em Sol menor, BWV 1020.

3 - J. Haydn, Concerto para Flauta e Clavecin.

4 - C. Debussy, Syrinx. Flautista Jean-Pierre Rampal

5 - L. Boccherini, Concerto em Ré Maior para Flatua e Orquestra.

6 - Mozart, Concerto para Flauta No.1 em G maior, K313

7 - Mozart, Concerto para Flauta No.2 em D major, K314


Left off-set embouchure. Rampal's later embouchure:

Enesco - Cantabile & Presto: Video


Rampal - Carnival of Venice - Genin: Video

Enjoy! And hope this helps answer some common questions about embouchure.

Best, Jen
Comments (2)
Anonymous Jacqueline said...

Dear Jen,

I would like to ask you a question about flute teaching (a rather long question), however I am unable to get through to your email. Please let me know what's another way that I can ask you.


Sunday, March 04, 2012 11:31:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Jacqueline,
I found the problem. For some strange reason all sorts of emails were going to the (stooopid) SPAM folder in my email. I found yours from two days ago there, and have written to you from there, and hopefully "un-spammed" your address. Have no idea why or how that happened. Go ahead and ask.
I believe you mention curved headjoints about which I know not much.
But I'll try and find out who does know more. Best, Jen Mar 5/12 3:30 pm

Monday, March 05, 2012 3:26:00 PM


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