Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2. Musical Line - Outlining & Breath Energy

Dear Flute lovers,

Here are two pictures from Kincaidiana (the flute teachings of William Kincaid) by John Krell.
I mean, good heavens, these pictures say a thousand words for all flute players.

Look at the way he depicts breath energy; in miles per hour!

From Kincaidiana: pg. 40 (click to enlarge)

And see the sustained direction and releasing energy of the swan dive!
This shows the direction of your air-speed and breath intensity, and it depicts the resulting forward motion and freeness of line in the music.

From Kincaidiana: pg. 40 (click to enlarge)

Increasing the air speed before you leap up an octave.

Jen adds:
Note: Kincaid depicts 10 miles per hour going to 20 miles per hour.
As I use "miles per hour" as an imaginary air-speed range in my teaching I use more degrees when I discuss this with students. For example, you could say  up to 110 miles per hour (for a high C) and down to only 30 miles an hour for a good quality low note. The range of air-speeds can be much broader when you use this as a method of catagorizing all possible sensations in projecting a given flute note with full tone.

And here's what William Kincaid said about flute playing: 
From Kincaidiana: pg. 40-41

Quote is paraphrased and edited:
"Interval slurs resemble a swan dive, from the spring board of the onset of energy to the soaring glide, over and down again.

Or you can visualize this kind of energy as the torso strength and agile changes made by the weight lifter.

The same procedure applies to all intervals, no matter how large or small.

The intensity is raised or lowered on the preceding note. (play warmth of tone quality between the notes)

Avoid the scooops and slurps of a bad vocalist.

THINK this motion don't actually do it.

 Thinking it is enough."

And here's how I teach the above using outlining:

Outlining for energetic phrasing:

Telemann (easy):

A simple way to practice musical line is to simplify a piece of music into its basic outline.
Play the outline with good energy and tone, and then fill in the original notes.
Practicing this way gives you so much goodness, with very little effort.

Here's an example from Telemann.
(click to enlarge)

If you practice the simple melodic outline, and next practice the original music,  all slurred, you will hear an immediate musical improvement. Everything can be practiced this way; first in outline and then as written. When you simplify and slur you naturally will use dynamics to shape the phrases, giving them energy, movement and life. Then when you return to the original the musical line is already learned.

Bach Outlines:

For intermediate flutists, here is an outline that first shows you the underlying harmony notes, those that are most common, and then adds in the melody created out of the main notes in each bar.
When you are practicing the basic drone notes, make your tone warm, inviting, lovely and consistently gorgeous. That will set up your air stream and embouchure for adding more notes to the common notes.

Like breaking an alphabet code, first of all you have to discover the most common note in each bar.
It will either be the longest, the most often repeated, or it will SOUND like the principal note.

                                                                                        (click to enlarge)

Playing only the main notes of each bar gives you the melodic shape of the phrase.
The above simplified drone of a long B and a long E allow you to center your tone and add dynamic motion.

Then, since you've already practiced the above to get your breath moving and shaping, you look for the melody that's created from each of the main beats in a bar.
All you're doing is leaving out the decorative notes, and outlining the main tune.

                                                                                (click to enlarge)

When you finally play the melody as written, your shaping and energy and motion in the musical line is already established, and the music is just so much richer (and so much easier to play smoothly and with intention.)

(click to enlarge)

I just love this easy way to start creating gorgeous phrasing and line.
Let me know how these samples sound to you, as you play them.
Does it work for you?

(It works for my students, but they are also hearing it, from me playing it,  at the same time as looking at the outlines and imagining the energy of their own air moving forward.)

Comments welcome.

Comments (9)
Blogger Hilary3 said...

Jen, this is definitely something that will help me! I play in a community band, and the director has asked us to play some very challenging pieces with not a lot of time to practice. All the years of lessons I had way back when, no one ever suggested this. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 12:27:00 PM

Blogger Hilary3 said...

In all the many years of lessons I had, no one ever suggested outlining a piece like this. It makes perfect sense! I'm preparing to play some difficult pieces in a band concert, and this will help tremendously. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 12:29:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Hilary,
The comments are sent to me for approval, that's why it took awhile for them to appear. Thanks for commenting!

I'm so glad that this helps. Simplifying a piece of music allows us to practice it in its "bare-bones" state, and get the air flow and embouchure figured out in advance of having to wiggle all the fingers! :>)
It really helps to add direction to the music, from the structure underneathe, as well as practice things like octave leaps to ascertain our tone when we make wide interval leaps.
So I'm glad it all makes sense.
Terrific. Let me know how it goes.
Best, Jen

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 1:03:00 PM

Anonymous Eric Daniel said...

Hi Jen...

Great post as always! I discovered "Kincaidiana" many years ago and it's still amazing...and as long as we're in Book Land, thanks again for making "The Art of Flute Playing" by Roger Mather available to us. Absolutely fantastic!

Thanks again,
Eric Daniel (Rome, Italy)

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 9:56:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Wow. Thanks so much Eric!!! Me too, re-reading Kincaidiana, and now reading about Tabuteau's method in detail. Very fascinating stuff. Best, Jen

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 12:02:00 PM

Anonymous Jennifer said...

This is a great idea. I've never thought so explicitly about the connection between air speed and phrasing. Thank you so much for sharing it!

And a low register question: I'm an amateur flutist with a fairly rich low register. I'm working on a quartet piece that was originally written for SATB. It's low, slow, and the original vocal arrangement is really outstanding because of the harmonies and the color of the vocals. I'm struggling to replicate this on the flute. Any tips on how to vary vibrato and color in the low register?

Thursday, November 21, 2013 11:42:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

The flute's low register is the octave that is easiest to colour of all three octaves. It responds immediately to "lip shaping". Do you use lip shaping?
The quickest way to develop lip shaping is with the Basic Exercise at the opening of the book by Werner Richter "Conditioning Training for the Flutist's Embouchure" (sold at www.fluteworld.com). This exercise makes the book worth buying. Richter explains (and I've quickly summarized it in a youtube video) that if you warm up with smearing octaves downward, and follow his minute instructions for broadening the lip corners outward, that you can make every colour up to a buzzing trumpet forte with any low note. You have to try it to see for yourself. In between buzzing trumpet fortes and contralto dolce, and bel canto there is also "throat tuning" by Robert Dick in "Tone Development through Extended Techniques" and Marcel Moyse's endless orchestral melodies with low note shaping, phrasing and dynamics in "Tone Development Through Interpretation". Ask your teacher to lend you these books, if they have them, and note the pages that you'll need. Alternatively you could use Keith Underwood's "Spit Buzzing 101" video online (google it) and/or could get your teacher's help for a few weeks in phrasing and colouring low register melodies. The main tricks are lip shaping, open throat, singing the pitches silently, and phrasing and opening the chest like a singer (vibrato etc.) This is all standard flute technique for gorgeous "sung" melodies in the strong low.
Best, Jen

Thursday, November 21, 2013 12:07:00 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

i was trying to download your rewritten parts for the prokofiev classical symphony, but the links don't seem to be working....so sad!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 9:00:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear "Unknown",
I went and checked and YES, the link to the pdf for Prokofiev Classical "re-writes" is working just fine:


Try again.
Let me know...

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 10:57:00 PM


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