Saturday, May 24, 2014

Post-Pahud Live

Dear Flute Lovers,

I just listened to and watched the livestream of Emmanuel Pahud answering questions on PlaywithaPro.
Wow. A fantastic learning experience!
He spoke about many diverse topics, and the questions were both from live listeners and from those who'd previously sent in questions.
I'm very happy to see that the video of the event will be posted for free shortly. (I'll put the link here later when it's actualized.)

One of the areas of "specific-flute-skill" (ie: double-tonguing, vibrato etc.)  questions that Pahud spoke about as being tricky to answer quickly, are those questions from flute students who are still "practicing" and not performing daily. A professional performer like Pahud no longer "practices" but actually "performs" all the skills like double-tonguing, staccato, low register fortissimos etc.

In my opinion, it's important to realize that there are at least three or four stages to any skill on the flute.
1. You learn it for the first time
2. You perfect it through practicing daily.
3. You finally can do the skill quite well and you add it to your performances.
4. You perform the skill so frequently you no longer actually "think" how to do it.

Pahud is brilliant and he immediately pointed out that the question-asker had not made clear whether they were at level 1 or 2 or 3.
This happens all the time on the internet; the person asking the question does not yet know the differences between 1,2,3 and 4.
When the expert answers they might answer from number 4 (if they are short on time, or cannot know the level of the person who is asking.). Intelligently, Pahud answers at the 1-2 level for those questions that were like this.

One person asked a question that Pahud did not know the answer to, off-hand, and without time to think about it, and I'd like to address that question here, while I am thinking about it. :>)

They asked: "After an illness, or hospital stay, or long-time-away from the flute, how do you start to play again without injuring yourself?"

Pahud said that he could not imagine how injuries could occur with such a light and small instrument.
He said he plays everyday from 8-10 hours, and never injures himself.

He also often pointed out that he could help a student if he could see everything about how they stand, how they hold the flute, how they use their body, how they breathe, how they respond to the flute skills over a few minutes, how their body supports or subtracts from them continuing to play a technique etc.
So without being able to see the person, he can only answer generally.

Well here's where I'd like to insert my knowledge in this area.

When people injure themselves, or haven't played for many months (or years) coming back to the flute requires that they review their:
- feet, legs, knees, hips, spine, neck, head positions
- breathing ease, large breaths, controlled breathing, free breathing
- flute holding, flute repair level, flute fingering ease

If a person who always had a posture problem, breathing problem or tension problem goes back to the flute with the muscle memory for all these problems, they might indeed injure themselves by practicing too much too soon.

But if the person's muscle memory was for all the best possible posture, breathing and ease-of-play, then they will recover these skills more quickly because of their CORRECT muscle memory.

So if you don't have top-notch muscle memory for top-notch playing, but only wonky muscle-memory of your old wonky or tense, or uneven method of tension for playing the flute, then yes, starting again and playing too much can make any individual area of tension worse, and risk a possible injury (wrist strain, neck pain etc.)

So it's always best to seek out a professional flute lesson or two to get you back on track with the fundamentals before you re-start the flute.

Who knows, your accident or broken arm, or dental work or operation could have tensed up your posture in some new way that needs to be balanced and re-relaxed before adding your flute skills back on top of your changed body.

So be aware of developing the muscle memory of optimum flute skills; not for wonky flute skills. :>)

Another person asked:
How can I practise to diminish the risk of failing, how can I improve my infallibility during the concerts? 

My answer would be: "The Performer Prepares" a book by Robert Caldwell.

This book has everything you need. Seriously.

Comments welcome. It's funny to be a "live" reporter. hahhahahaa.

Comments (4)
Blogger MATTHEW TAYLOR said...

Hi Jen
It was a good experience to watch the question answer session with Emanuel Pahud live. I found it interesting that he didn't respond to questions by giving literal physical answers to what he does when he plays but more what he imagines or pictures in his head as he plays. His mental imagery was quite fascinating however may have been vague for people wanting direct responses on actions of what to do physically with things like vibrato etc.
It was fascinating and really great session I hope they do more. It great to hear true masters of the instrument speak. The only negative was it was 2:00am when it started in Australia I'm absolutely stuffed this morning.

Saturday, May 24, 2014 6:16:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks so much for your comments Matt! You're absolutely right about "mental imagery". Good points. Jen
P.S. In Canada feeling 'stuffed' means full of food. Feeling 'bagged' is what happens when you get up at 2am for live flutey broadcasts. ha ha.

Saturday, May 24, 2014 6:21:00 PM

Blogger F said...

Hi Jen, I love this article! Just wondering, where is the link to the video?

Saturday, February 06, 2016 6:54:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

If you're looking for the video it hopefully still at


Saturday, February 06, 2016 8:05:00 AM


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