Sunday, October 27, 2019

Presto Young Person's fingerings

Dear Jen,
In two weeks I have an audition, and I'm currently struggling with Britten's Young Person's Guide excerpt. Do you have any help with fingerings for these two passages, slurring down from high B through G#3, and then double-tongued in pattern up to high C? I just cannot get it clean enough. Thanks for any help.

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Dear young person playing Young Person's Guide, (that makes me smile), by Britten;
Two weeks isn't usually enough time to learn new fingerings, but if your high register is clear and in tune, your double tonguing already fabulouso, and it's only speed and stability you need, here are some fingerings I worked out for you, from most useful immediately, to most useful in the future.

Firstly, and most importantly, there's  the high C fingering for the staccato scale passage (seen in the fourth system above in the pg. 2 Britten excerpt). Here is a fingering worth knowing! :>) This is the easiest possible high C4, when you're playing in a scale and arriving at high C from B-natural: Lift your left thumb:

If you play a full fortissimo, rich, well-centered high B3, and lift your left thumb, you can have all the glory of a free high C that is not sharp in pitch and does not split. But it only works in fortissimo, and you have to use full air speed!

Secondly, there is an "overblowing the harmonic" fingering trick you can use in the slurred arpeggio going down from high B to G#3 (third system of Britten excerpt). You overblow a harmonic based on fingering a C# with all fingers off to sound high G#. This works well at Fortissimo in fast arpeggios and is a common use of harmonics for fast fingerings in orchestral works for the future.

And if you were to have trouble nailing your opening B3, in the slurred downward arpeggio, you can also test out the use of the "F#3-with-two-trill-keys" high B natural, which is flat in pitch, and does not split when you accent it or play it loudly. Click on the jpg to enlarge these two fingerings:

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Lastly, if you find, as I do, that the entire staccato scale passage (up to high C4 and down to the E to F# half-note trill) is easier with the use of middle-finger F# for the high F#3s, especially at this loud dynamic, and if you want to make the flute feel more stable, what about leaving low C down (Right Hand Pinky) for the entire staccato passage? 

I tried this this morning, and I wish I'd thought of it last time I played this orchestra piece! The flute is far more stable, and the F# RH2 is not so flat, when low C is held down. Have a look at the fingerings I recommend here below. I find this hand position keeps the flute entirely stable so I can concentrate on alternately slurring all, then double tonguing all, to keep clarity and ringing tone quality:

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Solution: Every note fingered with RH pinky on low C for stability, using thumb-off for C4

You can begin the staccato passage with pinky on low C for all high octave notes, and just leave it on. Return the RH pinky to the D# key about four or five notes before the final half-note-tied-trill (cannot leave it on low C for E and F# in middle range .).
But this may take several week's practice, which you don't currently have....doh.

Naturally, I can't advise you truly, without hearing the high register tone quality and double-tonguing, and note-length and dynamic range that you're using at this stage. And again, sadly, two weeks is not enough time to entirely change your fingerings, (unless you're a super-whiz who's brain-body doesn't revert to old fingerings under pressure unlike most of us), but hopefully these ideas will help you at your next audition. Perhaps just having the high C thumb-lift is good enough for now!

If in doubt:
Practice playing high register on over-blown lower register fingerings as shown in this "Magic Carpet" warmup by Helen Bledsoe/Leone Buyse. This is alot easier preparation for the Britten passage than actually playing the passage, because you're playing against high resistance in the tube of the flute. When that resistance is removed, your airstream is steady and fast and direct:

See "The Magic Carpet" overblowing high notes on low fingerings exercise here:

Play all slurred everyday for five minutes or more as shown above. Then play the Britten all-slurred.
Notice how smooth your aim and air for high notes becomes in mere minutes.

The above exercise and others are found on this page of my blog under "magic carpet" as part of longtone warmups: here

Hope this helps. Let us know how it goes! :>)
Best, Jen