Wednesday, March 09, 2016

What do articulation markings mean?

What do slurs plus staccatos mean over the notes?

What do the different accents mean?

How short are staccatos?

If you go to the online music theory pages, you could end up reading all the historical arguments for all the symbols of music. (and there are lots of finer points to consider, as the articulation symbols changed over the centuries, borrowing from violin symbols etc.)

So for easy reading, I've created a one-page, printable pdf that gives the basic articulations for flute:

What do flute articulation markings mean? (pdf)

Amateur or band-only flutist who needs quick information might want to print out these three one-page explanations to put in their folder for quick and handy reference:

1. Articulations on the Flute - What is written and how to play it (pdf)
2. Trill chart for band flutists (pdf of Mark Thomas's trill chart)
3. Grace Notes page from Rubank (thank you Hymie Voxman!) (pdf)

And for a big read one rainy day have a look at this explanation too:
4. Ornaments (trills, grupetto, grace notes etc.) at online theory pages. (webpage)

The above three, one-page wonders should help get a novice or intermediate band flutist started. They show the basic interpretation of all the markings you're likely to encounter, and give you trill fingerings for the quickest of grace notes.

And for those who tend to play with a puff of air on every note, instead of continuous sound, here's a quick graphic showing that also. Unless it's staccato, you need continuous air to sound continuous sound.

click on graphic to enlarge

And if you want to boggle your mind with research, here's the answer to the very first question of this blog post:

What do slurs plus staccatos mean over the notes?

 Louré and/or Portato; but the flute doesn't air-pulse or "lean in" as much as a string-player does.(see video of bowing technique)

 Feature that.

The "Dududu" of delicate tonguing separation has to be lighter on flute than Portato would be on violin, so that it does not sound too accented, too sea-sick, or too "pulse-ey" :>) That's why I prefer the term Louré, but there are many opinions.

One of the loveliest descriptions of the heavier Portato is given in vol. IV of Karen Smithson's method called:  Playing the Flute! Smithson says:
Portato (Bell Tones)
Notes written with both a staccato dot and a slur are to be played tongued and semi-detached, as though a tiny diminuendo were written on each note. This has an effect similar to a bell being rung several times in a row. The moment the bell is struck the sound begins to fade until the bell is struck again. This method of articulation allows us to make a sound midway between a legato (completely connected) and staccato (completely detached).

Here are some visual examples; play them and see what they sound like. You'll soon find the delicate balance. And Dududu to you too. Comments welcome. :>)

Opening of Faure's Fantaisie: just say DuuDuuDuu; if your tone is beautiful, then you will be bell-like:

click on image to enlarge

Drouet's 72 Etudes; too fast for anything but Dududu, me thinks:

click on image to enlarge

Bach's 24 Concert Etudes from the Violin/Cello works with dudududu, and no accents at all (this is a Romantic edition; heavily over-edited in 1800s):

click on images to enlarge each one
Notice that the above should NOT be accented. Just: dudududududududu is enough.

And now, here is the true Portato, as shown by Tchaikovsky's gorgeous violin concerto second movement.
This one you can Bell-tone (lean) yourself into gloriousness!

Hope this helps.
Portato/Loure is not well explained, but there are only two ways to perform it, thankfully, and they both rely on saying "Duuuuuuuuuuu", but with and without breath impulse, depending on the piece. They are not short notes, merely lightly detached while being continuously sounded.
Best, Jen
Comments (2)
Blogger Esteban said...

Hi, i was hoping you could help me a bit. Im currently searching for a new flute, and my current options are: muramatsu EX, Pearl 795, and Resona 300 (by burkart). Do you know something about the Resona´s quality? I think they are assembled in china but finished at Burkart headquarter. The thing is i want a c# key if possible and that flute and the pearl have it. But if it turns out the EX is best i´ll take it.

Saturday, March 26, 2016 6:21:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Esteban,
Sorry but I have not tried Resona.
But it sounds like it would be really fun to compare these flutes and really see the differences! Let me know how it turns out. Can't know without fully play-testing.
Best, Jen

Saturday, March 26, 2016 6:47:00 PM


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