Thursday, February 19, 2015

Your Fluteplaying Brain

Dear Flute-lovers,
Just in case you needed proof:

How playing an instrument benefits your brain (video)

Also of interest:

Allison's Brain - listen online

In 2011, Allison Woyiwada -- a retired music teacher -- was told that she had a giant brain aneurysm. After surgery, she experienced severe cognitive and physical defects. But then she began a programme of music therapy: this is the remarkable story of her brain's recovery.

Go to:

Click on the title as seen below (scroll down when you arrive at above link)
It looks like this:

This CBC radio recording of "Ideas - Allison' Brain" will be good for approx. 2 weeks.

Best, Jen
Comments (24)
Anonymous Andres said...

Hi Jennifer

Congratulations on your blog is incredibly good !!

I am deciding between a flute yamaha 481 and AZ3 azumi. It's a difficult decision because where I live is not possible to test the instruments. I live in Colombia.

What you recommend me ??
It is true that the Z-Cut headjoint is hard to make it sound at the Beginning, some special registration is complicated?
How about you think of the mechanism ?? (Azumi)
How about you think of the construction generally flute ?? (Azumi).
You should think of another brand and reference

My sister travels from USA to Colombia coming and could buy it and bring it to me. I venture to buy unable to prove :s,

sorry my english

thank you very much

Friday, February 20, 2015 2:25:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Andres,
Don't worry, they are equal.
The Yamaha will have a slightly stronger mechanism (keywork), but the Azumi will have a lighter, more weightless keywork. The Z cut of the Azumi is easy to blow, but demands a slightly more direct aim. The blow hole is oval. Most other brands are rectangular. So you only need to be more precise and center your airstream. It's not difficult.
The most important thing is to play with very very very light fingers, so that the pads stay well adjusted and you don't press hard on any key. Re-learn to play with a soft touch. You may be far from a repair shop that has a good flute repair technician. You'll want to have any new flute adjusted within the first six months of use, and every 6-12 months after that.
Whichever flute you choose, you'll be fine. Don't worry. Best, Jen

Friday, February 20, 2015 7:07:00 PM

Anonymous AndrĂ©s said...

I really appreciate your help !! :)

I just noticed that the new Azumi AZ3 is more expensive than the previous version (3000). The cost is similar to yamaha 581 and trevor james virtuoso. I understand yamaha 500 Series has different head joint cut to the series 200-400.

What makes me think, which of these three flutes officer for me and explain a little more money...

The best thing would try, but it is impossible in my country, and travel for me is complicated. Venture to buy is the only way to achieve a better flute.

My sister must advance the trip to next week so must move fast to make the purchase. :s

Would appreciate very much your opinion.

If you prefer to mail answer would be very grateful:

Thank you very much for everything.

Saturday, February 21, 2015 9:37:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Andres,

I personally prefer the Azumi.
I think it is better for my own playing.

Saturday, February 21, 2015 10:46:00 PM

Anonymous Lina said...

Hi Jen, I love your blog !!

I want to add a new head to my yamaha 481 flute.

I recommend that head between sankyo RT-1 and Altus Z Cut

1)What do you think works best ? 2)which might fit better ?


Tuesday, February 24, 2015 10:21:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Linda,
Usually a flute headjoint from a Japanese make of flute will fit a Yamaha. The Azumi and Sankyo are likely to fit; but no two flutes are identical, so you can't know for sure.
I'll be interested to find out if you think the Sankyo headjoint sounds "darker" and "mellow" and the Azumi feels free blowing, but sweet and refined. It's supposed to replicate the "louis lot" style.
I've enjoyed both Sankyo and Azumi/Altus, but I prefer the darker/sweeter combo, so I ended up with a Nagahara that's got both Sankyo-Altus factors.

Best, Jen

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 11:44:00 AM

Anonymous Lina said...

I think you'll choose the path sankyo.You know the reference FT or ST-1 or RT-1 sankyo heads? I
trying to decide between them.

I appreciate your opinion.

thanks again.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 3:12:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Sorry to say I'm not familiar with the Sankyo headjoint cuts now.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 5:39:00 PM

Anonymous Ken said...

Awesome video - thanks! I have 3 boys who play a variety of instruments. The oldest is in high school now and we've seen fist hand the benefits of playing and making music but I never quite understood why. This video helps illustrate a bit of what's going on. I can't to show them this video, although they will probably just roll their eyes!

Thanks again for sharing!

Friday, February 27, 2015 5:25:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks for your input Ken; love the enthusiasm. Hey, maybe eye-rolling is good for the brain too, even if it's random eye-rolling. ha ha.

Friday, February 27, 2015 9:19:00 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Jen....Thanks for blogging about such neat stuff. I couldn't find the video. Do you know what day it was shown? Could you please send me a direct link? Maybe I'm too late. :(
Thanks for any help in advance.

Saturday, February 28, 2015 8:00:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Unknown,
Are you saying "video" and meaning 'Allison's Brain' on CBC? It's Feb. 19th. You have to scroll down and see if it's still available; they add additional programs to the top of the page. It's not a video; it's a radio show (mp3)

Saturday, February 28, 2015 9:19:00 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Jen, i have a altus 1007. Nice, sweet, but a bit nasal perhaps. my friend recommends a trevor james gold plated recital with wooden lip. is that a good idea? would a recital sound good?

Thursday, March 02, 2017 9:30:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Patrick,
I use a Nagahara headjoint on my Altus 1007.
Sorry have never heard of this "recital" by Trevor James.
Give it a try and send feedback.
Best, Jen

Thursday, March 02, 2017 10:22:00 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Jen, i sent my altus for servicing and oiling and boy what a difference to the feel, smoothness and ease of getting the notes. I take back that it is nasal or pitchy, it can sound rather sweet and warm. I saw the nagahara ( and marumatsu online and was tempted but worry of the cost and the fit..), quite pricey and no idea what is the sound. WAITING to compare between 1007 and TJ Recital and get back. I tried the TJ Cantabile, very EASY to play, smooth and better sound than Yamaha 381 but dont have 481 to compare.
You may have written before - but what is the sound qualities of the 1007 hj and that of nagahara? what other Hj will work well and what wont suit the 1007? How much for a used naga?

Cheers patrick -

Monday, March 06, 2017 10:19:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Patrick,
Every single flute player has a different notion of which headjoint and flute body fits them best. You have to try them. There's no way anyone could describe what works for them accurately. Just try them all and do your own experiments.
Everyone's embouchure and style of playing is different, AND everyone is at a different level of skill.
Best, Jen

Monday, March 06, 2017 11:59:00 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

THANKS, you must be right. everyone could be different. But can you share how the Nagahara change your Altus?
Curious, but have you tried Indian and Chinese flutes? Would you consider them easier or more difficult?

Sunday, March 12, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Patrick,
No I've never tried Indian or Chinese flutes. They have holes in the wood where your fingers go, instead of keys; so they are more difficult in one respect, but easier in another. They are more difficult to play chromatic Western music (which is what I play) but easier to play modal music; but they have a limited range, and limited tone colour possibilities.
The Nagahara was more flexible in tone colour than the Altus headjoints, and made a more luxurious and complex tone colour overall. Tone colour is everything to an orchestral player. Orchestras have a huge tonal range and a huge dynamic range. This is why the flute developed into a multi-keyed cylindrical (not conical) larger and louder instrument; Western Classical Music.
Best, Jen

Sunday, March 12, 2017 12:05:00 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

I really appreciate your comment "You have to try them. There's no way anyone could describe what works for them accurately" rather than prescribe.
On "different level of skill", is it true, a vg Headjoint may make a flutist sound worse if it is (1) BEYOND his standard, or more of (2) design/cut not suitable for his embouchure?
Also can a talented flutist can sound better on a basic flute than an average on a high-end (just doing a simple scale).
If one is still rather average, learning, it is ever wise to get an expensive headjoint?
Thanks so much.

Sunday, March 12, 2017 12:15:00 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

YES, you are right, i played them before I got my western flute - to me back then was horribly hard to grasp, balance, and heavy with so many keys. And YES the flute is majestic in the range of tones, dynamic range, but I know a few friends who will argue chinese bamboo (with membrane)is faster, versatile, more tricks in creating dynamic sounds/trills, and colours than the silver flute. The finger work can be truly nifty, create all semitones, etc by covering part of the holes but still I think the W flute with riser, lip plate, and KEYS is far easier to play chromatics with precision and pitch - Technology.

Sunday, March 12, 2017 12:28:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Patrick,
You asked:
is it true, a very good Headjoint may make a flutist sound worse if it is (1) BEYOND his standard, or more of (2) design/cut not suitable for his embouchure?
A flutist who has no idea how to test a headjoint will be able to hear the headjoint played by their teacher, and can record the differences they hear between their old and new headjoint; get your teacher to play; you record and listen.
Otherwise your own limitations will make you blame the headjoint, without knowing that you have limitations.
You ask:
Also can a talented flutist can sound better on a basic flute than an average on a high-end (just doing a simple scale).
Jen: Yes, there are some examples, I believe on youtube, where professionals play student flutes; the professional can make ANY flute sound better. But the professional would not WANT to play a limiting flute.
You ask:
If one is still rather average, learning, it is ever wise to get an expensive headjoint?
If a person is still "average" they cannot play-test the headjoint to the highest degree of skill. Ten years later, they might have more skills and choose a different headjoint.
You see, there are no easy answers.

It is best to have a good quality headjoint and a good quality body.
Your teacher can choose for you until you become experienced enough to choose yourself.
If you don't have a teacher, save your money and buy lessons instead of headjoints.

Sunday, March 12, 2017 1:37:00 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

What you say seems very sensible indeed. thank you. frankly i dont think i should go chasing a HJ to sound better although like my sax mouthpieces and audiophile cables, it is always most tempting to chase for something you think is better (or make you sound better).

I liked the Altus 1007, although i missed out on a slightly more expensive Muramatsu. i DID think the Muramatsu sounded better for me. Both far more capable than my current talent would warrant, but lately altus sounds rather nice after i got it serviced, so i shall practice more and have patience. I shall just dream about getting the nagahara or the african blackwood one day...

Thank you so much for your counsel.

Friday, March 17, 2017 8:01:00 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

I know this is an old post...but it popped up in my search for info on the Z cut headjoint. I just bought tge AZ3 with tge Z cut head. I'm use to a yamaha 381 and putting a lot of air into the flute. And it seems with the Z cut it doesn't take as much air. Also my technique for dynamics..which has always worked very well does not seem to cut it on this new head. High register is beautiful but it feels like I'm limited on my expression. Happen to know any tips on this? Thx

Tuesday, April 23, 2019 1:54:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Z-cut person,
It's true that the Z-cut Azumi headjoint can sound thin at first, but after about three weeks, you'll adapt and perhaps find a new sound quality. That's pretty normal.
But to be entirely sure, have a much more sophisticated flutist play your new flute for you.

Listen to hear what kind of sound quality they are able to attain.
If they sound thin, then go back to point of purchase and choose another headjoint.
You don't know until you hear someone better than you (your teacher?) play-test to see what the headjoint can really truly do sound-wise.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019 4:38:00 PM


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