Headjoints 101

Greetings and welcome to another Flute Friday.

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I am in the process of purchasing a new flute. Part of this process is selecting the best headjoint for my own playing style and everything that goes with that (the good, the bad, the ugly, and the not-yet-discovered). We sometimes underestimate the power that a headjoint has to transform our sound in new and exciting ways. The type of metal used can brighten or darken the sound and even the cut of the embouchure hole can modify the projection of certain registers. In today’s blog, we will look at some of the basics of headjoints. Bottom line: a headjoint will sound different for different players. The best approach is to gather your list of sound wants/needs and try everything. The perfect headjoint may not look the way you expect.

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HEADJOINTS 101

Density vs. Stiffness – The material of a headjoint is based on two elements: Density and stiffness. Density refers to the amount of matter in a given space. For example, if an element has a large amount of matter, it will have a high density. Stiffness refers to the tendency of a material to resist being compressed. Different metals will have different degrees of density and stiffness. These differences result in different types of sounds on each type of headjoint. The sound of the flute, after all, originates in the headjoint.

Embouchure Components – Headjoints have two embrochure components: A lip plate and a riser. A riser is the piece of metal that holds the lip plate to the flute. These can be the same material as the headjoint itself or a combination of materials.

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Material – There are five primary types of metals that headjoints are made out of:

  1. Nickel – Nickel is most commonly used on student model headjoints. Although some describe the sound as fuzzier and less clear than sterling silver headjoints, others characterize the sound as crisp and bright. This metal has a low density and is very resistant. The downside is that it often causes allergic reactions.
  2. Sterling Silver – Sterling Silver typically contains 92.5% pure silver combined with other metals for structure. As described on the Burkhart website, silver creates a “sound with classic brilliance. Silver has the ability to produce a balanced sound with projection and shimmer.” Silver headjoints are known best for their pure tone, and light, fluid sound that offers more sparkle than their gold and nickel counterparts.
  3. Gold – Gold darkens the sound and is often described as having a “warm” tone. A gold headjoint can add new dimensions of colors at an affordable price. Denser than silver, the combination of a gold lip plate and a gold riser puts the gold at the exact tip of the blowing edge, producing a richer sound. Even just a gold riser can add a degree of color to a silver headjoint.
  4. Platinum – The Burkhart website describes platinum as delivering “stunning richness and depth.” Known for free-blowing fortes and subtlety of color, platinum headjoints add projection and help facilitate softer dynamics in the high register. Perfect for the orchestral player for blending with other instruments.
  5. Wood – Although less common, wood headjoints are used primarily for baroque music. Although some players criticize wood headjoints as being difficult to produce a clear tone on, they are great to use in chamber music settings to blend with other period instruments.

Embouchure Hole Size and Shape – The size and shape of the tone hole can also effect sound, even within different registers. A larger tone tole will produce a bigger sound while a smaller tone hall will result in a sweet sound. An oval shape is better for high register sensitivity while a rectangular shape produces strong middle and low registers.

Blowing Edge – The cut of the blowing edge will also impact sound depending on how much resistance is given to the airstream. This also effects the ease of articulation. Players that use a lot of air tend to prefer a headjoint offering less resistance while players who struggle with articulation in the middle register gravitate towards a blowing edge with more resistance.

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Crowns – Crowns are often made from the same material as the headjoint, effecting sound in the same way. Some players use crowns with various stones for decoration. Regardless of material used in the crown, the material of the cork generally remains the same.

Tips for Selecting a Headjoint:

  1. Identify your flute playing strengths and weakness with your teacher. What are you looking for in a headjoint? How do you want to change your sound? Write out some of the things you’d like to address and consult with a specialist at an instrument retailer. They will help you identify certain headjoints with materials and cuts that address your specific needs.
  2. Try out a variety of headjoints using different materials with and without risers. Explore the range of your options.
  3. Consider where you perform the most. A headjoint can help you produce a sound that best fits your chosen performance scenario. For example, soloists need a headjoint to help them project while orchestral players gravitate towards a headjoint that helps them blend with other instruments.
  4. Write down 1-word adjectives when trying out different headjoints to help quickly compare the pro and cons of each. This is also a great task for your teacher for a second opinion. What headjoint sounds best to you? Which one sounds best to your teacher? Which sounds best on a recording? A handy list will help make your final decision a lot easier.
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Again, bottom line: Try everything. Finding a headjoint is like finding a perfect haircut. It has to work for your unique playing style and no two players are exactly alike.

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What type of headjoint do you prefer and why? How do you select your perfect headjoint? Any noteworthy headjoint selection experiences? Please comment below.

Happy fluting!

Solo Sunday – #3 Kokopeli (Katherine Hoover)

Greetings and welcome to a new Solo Sunday! Today’s video is Kokopeli for Solo Flute by Katherine Hoover. I love this piece because it sounds haunting and almost ethereal, like walking into a forest on a misty evening – You know there are secrets in the tress but cannot see the path in front of you. Spooky!

As Glen Walker explains, “According to San Ildefonso legend, Kokopelli was a wandering minstrel who carried songs on his back, trading new songs for old ones. According to this legend, Kokopelli brought good luck and prosperity to anyone who listened to his songs. Kokopelli embodied everything pure and spiritual about music. He and his magical flute traveled from village to village bestowing gifts and spreading cheer to all whom he visited. His flute was said to symbolize happiness and joy. When he played his flute, the sun came out, the snow melted, grass began to grow, birds began to sing, and all the animals gathered around to hear his songs. His flute music soothed the Earth and made it ready to receive his seed. The magic of his flute was also thought to stimulate creativity and help good dreams come true.” http://www.indigenouspeople.net/kokopelli.htm#:~:text=According%20to%20San%20Ildefonso%20legend,pure%20and%20spiritual%20about%20music .

Enjoy! And, as always, happy fluting!

-Dr. G.

Practicing Improvisation

Greetings and welcome to another Flute Friday!

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Some moments in our flute lives end up living permanently in our memories, often teaching us valuable lessons much later down the road. As a sophomore in high school, I was super excited to be selected to play principal flute in the Idaho All-State Orchestra, however, as just a simple farm girl from the sticks, I had never been in an orchestra. Intimidated was an understatement! Although the first couple rehearsals were difficult, by the last rehearsal I was feeling a bit more on top of my game – Until the conductor decided to flip the script. The final rehearsal ended with a group improvisation. The conductor narrated a story, periodically pointing at principal players to improvise a melody or play a specific part from the music by only alluding to the phrase in his story. I did not know the first thing about improvising and wanted desperately to hide under a bass drum and hand my role over to my second in command. I thanked my lucky stars every time the conductor pointed at other section leaders. I tried to listen carefully to his story, but my own anxiety closed off the sensors between my ears and my brain. Suddenly it was my turn. I stared across the ensemble to an authoritative index finger pointed in my direction. I had to improvise something but instead froze. I didn’t know the rules. I wasn’t confident without a score to rely on. I was very much out of my element. I chose instead to play one of my solo passages and he moved on to the next player. I was embarrassed and confused. What is improvisation? How do we do it? What does it mean to just play what your ears want you to play? I have never forgotten this fear of the unknown but over time I have learned to embrace the freedom of creative expression offered by improvisation. In today’s blog, I will offer a few suggestions on how to practice improvisation. Ditching the rules is not really as scary as it sounds! You might even be surprised at the music just waiting to escape from your soul.

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PRACTICING IMPROVISATION

Tip No. 1 – Improvise over a drone. The drone can be as simple as a sustained piano chord or a sustained pitch played by a friend or student. This could be quite a fun activity trading drones with other instruments such as an electric guitar or a contrabassoon. Several years ago, I recorded a video demonstrating this technique with one of my students. Check it out here: https://youtu.be/9snmnlKojV8 (sound quality is a little bunk but recorded on 2014 technology – I am also 50 pounds heavier in this video, but the demonstration is still good!).

Tip No. 2 – Improvise over a pre-prepared track. I was in a flute club meeting late last year where we worked with Walter White’s Long Tone Accompaniments https://walterwhite.com/product-category/wwshop/walterwhitelongtoneaccompaniment/#:~:text=The%20Walter%20Whites%20Long%20Tone,harmonies%20and%20steady%20pulsating%20rhythms , which are excellent tracks to improvise over because they center on two tonal centers on each track. Easy peasy! The Flute Practice also has a great improvisation track starter pack with tracks in F, G, and C major as well as D and A minor. https://www.theflutepractice.com/improvisingstarterpack Both of these options are easy, inexpensive, and very fun to improvise over.

Tip No. 3 – Pick one scale each day and set a timer. Make improvisation a super easy addition to your daily routine by focusing on one scale per day and improvise for a set time only using the notes of this scale. Remember the key cadential notes to help improvise a set of phrases (for example, know where the 4th, 5th, and 6th scale degrees are to help frame your cadences).

Tip No. 4 – Use improvisations to try out strange, unorthodox cadences from Baroque, Classical, Contemporary, and Jazz repertoire or even Pop and Rock genres. This of course will require some score analysis, but it is well worth the effort. Play only the notes of each chord at first and then gradually add a few passing tones. Lead sheets are good to use with this method.

Tips No. 5 – Use improvisation to practice using a particular type of articulation or to practice a new technique such as beatboxing or singing and playing. Because improvisation removes the rules of music, which are often a bit confining, it is easier to experiment with new concepts in a safe, exploratory environment.

Tip No. 6 – Improvise a new phrase that begins on each note of a single scale. For example, play the first phrase beginning on a G, the second phrase beginning on an A, and the third phrase beginning on a B. Continue upward the scale to end up back on a phrase that begins again on a G.

Tip No. 7 – Take a basic melody and add some improvised ornamentation to the line. Add scales and other deviations as you become comfortable straying from the main melody. Pop tunes are great for this! What is your favorite song on the radio? Look up the simple outline of the melody and create your own ornaments.

Tip No. 8 – MOST IMPORTANTLY, go with your ear and have fun! There is no right or wrong when it comes to improvisation. Play from your heart. Play whatever comes to mind. Test things out. Invent new sounds. Most of all, play what you love in the style that you love to play. What do you sound like when the rules no longer apply?

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Improvisation Resources

Books:

  • Improvisation for Flute, The Scale Mode Approach by Andy McGhee. This is a great book that includes exercises using different modes and scales. https://amzn.to/3Mdqry4
  • The Technique and Theory of Improvisation by Bill McBirnie. This is all about Jazz improvisation for those interested in trying your hand at Jazz. https://amzn.to/3sBY4C5

Videos:

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Do you struggle with improvisation? What is your favorite approach? Do any of the above tips resonate with you? Do you encourage your students to practice improvisation? How do you practice improvisation? Please comment below!

Happy fluting!

Solo Sunday – #2 Danse de la Chèvre (Arthur Honegger)

Greetings and welcome to a new Solo Sunday. The second installment in this series, today’s video features Danse de la Chèvre by Arthur Honegger. I have also previously posted a Flute Friday blog entitled “Barnyard Dreaming,” analyzing of this wonderful piece, which may be found here: https://racheltaylorgeier.org/2015/10/10/barnyard-dreaming-danse-de-la-chevre-by-arthur-honegger/

Enjoy! And, as always, Happy fluting!

Business Writing for the Busy Flutist

Greetings and welcome to another Flute Friday!

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Flute professionals are super busy. Whether it is teaching private lessons, jumping from rehearsal to rehearsal, participating on committees, serving on jury panels, or everything in between, we do a lot on a daily basis and often need to communicate to many different groups of people for a variety of needs. Sometimes our communications tend to reflect the chaos running through both our lives and our heads. I can help! As a flutist who has spent the past 11 years working in academic administrative positions, I have developed very solid business writing skills that keep all of my outgoing communications professional, clear, supportive, efficient with a spoonful of pep that brings a smile to the face of even the grumpiest reader. In today’s blog, I am sharing some of my best business writing tips for the busy flutist. Looking to streamline and restructure your outgoing emails? This blog is for you!

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BUSINESS WRITING TIPS FOR THE BUSY FLUTIST

1.         Keep emails short. If an email is longer than two paragraphs, your reader is likely to file it away until they have enough time to digest all of its contents. That time may never come. If you are trying to get a response from them that is in any way time sensitive, it is best to briefly discuss what you need and when you need it in a simple, one paragraph email.

2.         Regarding Emails: Place any action items or upcoming deadlines in the first paragraph and highlight in bold. We all receive many emails on a daily basis. Placing the most important information in bold at the very beginning of an email ensures that your reader will understand quicky and clearly what is needed and by what date.

3.         Make use of short, bullet-point lists in place of longer descriptions. This is most important when listing out things you need from your students or from any other group you are working with. Make it easy for them to scan and understand quickly what is needed. Longer descriptions may be sent as separate emails.

4.         Use Doodle Polls and Google Polls. These are great tools if you are trying to schedule an event or meeting or if you need to request volunteers for various activities. Make it as easy as possible for folks to respond with their availability.

5.         If you have a lot of attachments on an email, consider saving them to a Google Drive folder and including the link in a shorter email. Make sure you list out any specific printing instructions or action items related to these attachments in your email (again, bullet-point lists will help here).

6.         Consider sending separate emails for separate subject materials rather than long emails (even if they are being sent to the same group of people). Shorter emails take less time to digest and are easy to file and recall later. Make use of simple subject lines to help others clearly understand the main objective of the message.

7.         Think twice before sending hard copy letters. Ask yourself if a hard copy is necessary or if this can be converted to an email. Emails provide a better means of tracking and allow easier follow-up.

8.         Keep follow-up emails short and clear. For example, open with the line, “Just following up on my previous email. Please let me know if you are available to (list action item) no later than (date/time). Thank you! Happy to answer any questions.”

9.         List recipients in BCC lines rather than CC or “to” lines whenever sending bulk emails. This retains privacy for individual email addresses and prevents the all too familiar “reply all” comments from clogging up email inboxes.

10.       Make use of Zoom meetings in lieu of in-person commitments and use the transcript function whenever possible. Some meetings must be conducted in-person (such as rehearsals) but others (such as studio meetings, parent meetings, club meetings, or event planning meetings) can easily be conducted over Zoom. We all know how to Zoom by now (thanks to various lockdowns). Offering Zoom meetings will encourage more participation because they are more convenient than in-person meetings. There is also a feature that allows Zoom to capture a transcript of your meeting. No need for a human to take notes! Just send out the transcript to those who cannot attend.

11.       Avoid using all caps. Even if you need a response asap, avoid using all caps. All caps reads as if you are yelling at your recipient which, understandably, discourages a friendly response (if any response at all).

12.       Ask for volunteers from a large pool before reaching out via email personally to individuals. Some of your potential volunteers may be extroverts and others may be introverts. These two groups respond differently to volunteer requests. Extroverts are more likely to volunteer at group meetings while introverts will be more inclined to accept invitations one-on-one via email. Make sure to offer both options to widen your pool. Avoid delegating tasks to others before discussing availability (preferably via email) outside of the group – Introverts, in particular, will not be okay with this approach.

13.       If you are sending YouTube links, make sure to include the title of the video and the performer with the link. Include only the basic information when introducing a clip. Avoiding sending too many clips at once (hello, YouTube overload!). Instead, consider sending separate emails to group clips together under related subject headings.

14.       If you have to send a letter, do your best to keep it to one page. Use a clear Intro-Details-Closing three paragraph structure and keep information as simple and clear as possible.

15.       Remember to always include a polite yet professional greeting and closing. For example, your greeting may include the following: “Good Afternoon, Hope you are well!” A simple closing could include: “Thank you and please let me know if you have any questions.” This is that spoonful of pep that I mentioned in the beginning of today’s blog. It is quite true in business writing that you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. Sugary sweet often wins the game!

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What do you struggle with when drafting emails? What approaches do your audiences resonate with and which ones seem to take longer to receive a response? Which groups tend to be more responsive than others? What types of emails to you struggle to structure? What other types of business writing do you need help with? Please comment below!

Happy Fluting (and writing)!

Solo Sunday – #1 Syrinx (Debussy)

Greetings! Today marks the beginning of a new series on this blog entitled Solo Sunday! As I have discussed in previous Flute Friday posts, I do not have a lot of flute videos circulating on the web, and one of my goals this year is to record more. Cue in Solo Sunday! I will release a short solo flute performance on Sundays for the next five weeks. I may continue this series if successful or update release dates moving forward.

Today’s solo is Debussy’s Syrinx. Enjoy!

The Gizmo Key

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

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Today’s blog is somewhat of an op-ed. Lately I have spent some time thinking about the gizmo key on my flute. What are all of the possible uses for this key? Am I paying enough attention to this handy-dandy device? Is it as necessary as everyone seems to suggest? In today’s blog, I would like to chat about what exactly this key is and how to best use it.

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The gizmo key is a small lever found on most B foot joints. This lever closes the low B tone hole only, without closing the neighboring C or C# tone holes. Introduced by Verne Q. Powell at Powell Flutes in 1928 after a visit with Arthur Lora, Principal Flutist with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, who asked if there was a way to modify the footjoint, the development of the gizmo key was also a response to criticism from performers such as Jean Pierre-Rampal, who believed that the lengthened tube of the B foot joint made it more difficult to produce notes in the high register. The key is used primarily to facilitate the performance and intonation of the 4th register high C, but can also be used to bring down pitch and increase stability generally in the highest register.

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So…here’s the thing… I don’t really use this key that much. My pinky is a bit small and reaching for that gizmo key is quite a difficult stretch. It seems that the gizmo might be better suited closer to the Eb key. The overall effect is to achieve a brighter sound on one note that, in all honesty, we don’t play that often. I sometimes wonder if we need it at all. Hear me out! There is so much that we can control with our embouchure. If we make the aperture smaller as we ascend into the higher register and use the pressure created by the smaller space vs. the increased speed of air, we actually have far more control over the quality of sound and pitch than we would if just focused on using more air. In all of my years of playing perhaps one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that more air is never the answer. I’m not convinced that a magic lever is the solution to playing a really great, resonate, but still fairly in tune, C4. There are other ways (that often help make many other notes sound just as great). Harmonics, flexibility studies, high register exercises… The trouble I am having with this is that we have an entire lever focused on one note. There are no other keys that only focus on one note (not even the C# trill key – which actually has more uses than just the C# trill).

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I could be completely off-base and I would love to hear more opinions from others. I’ve read articles simply recommending the use of the gizmo because that is what it is there for and this is how it has been used for decades. I’m just not sure that it is so black and white/right vs. wrong. I think it is very useful for beginners who may not yet have developed strong control over their embouchure, but for more seasoned players, I’m wondering if another approach is more beneficial.

Today’s post was brought to you by my overworked right hand pinky.

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What do you think? How often do you use the gizmo key? Are there more sustainable ways to achieve a solid C4? Do you use the gizmo key on other notes? Do you like using the gizmo? What are some of your reflections on the pros/cons of this key? Please comment below.

Happy Fluting!

Feel Good Flute Friday

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

Today is Good Friday. Although not everybody celebrates Good Friday, what we all can indeed celebrate is Feel Good Flute Friday! Today’s blog is all about warm fuzzies. Below I have complied a number of affirmations and journal prompts to help you feel good about your flute playing. Use a few affirmations this week to remind yourself that you are flute playing rock star! Grab a cup of chamomile tea and reflect on your most important flute playing memories and performing values in a journal prompt. Make this week all about positivity and optimism. After all, flute playing should make you feel awesome and happy – So let it!

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AFFIRMATIONS FOR MUSICIANS

Affirmations are short, positive phrases that encourage us to think more optimistically about ourselves and our crafts. They don’t even need to be true – Just believable! Here’s the secret though – If you say them enough, eventually you will believe them to be true. It is easy to be live in the land of negative self-talk as a flutist (especially if you are a perfectionist). We are constantly working on our flute playing, focusing on the small details we can change to make our performances constantly better and more precise. That is a lot of self-criticism over a long period of time! Affirmations are an easy way to counteract any negative self-talk that may arise during your daily practice sessions. Select a phrase or two that resonates with you. Write it down in a journal a few times before and/or after your practice session (5-10 times is ideal), repeat it to yourself at various times during your session, or simply keep it written on a post-it note stuck to your stand where you can see it while you practice.

I am a believer in affirmations and have the following statements written on a post-it note that I keep on my music stand (I have no copyright on these – Please feel free to use them as well!):

  • I take charge of my ability to play the flute!
  • I release negative self-talk and do not need validation from others to know that I rock!
  • Today, I am willing to fail in order to succeed.

Below are a number of other simple affirmations from various sources. Select a few and try them out for a week. Chances are, you will feel more confident about your flute playing and more positive about practicing. Thanks. affirmations!

AFFIRMATION EXAMPLES

Source: https://www.musiciansway.com/blog/2013/12/10-affirmations-that-energize-music-practice/

“I’m grateful to be able to make music.”

“I open my heart to the richness of my musical adventure.”

“I embrace challenges as opportunities to advance.”

“I’m confident in my abilities.”

“I trust in my capacity to grow.”

“I look forward to today’s discoveries.”

“It’s beautiful to practice. I love to practice.”

“Music is my true love.”

“I’m fortunate to be able to pursue my love of music.”

“I’m thankful to all the people who have supported my music making.”

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Source:  https://www.thewimn.com/5-positive-affirmations-for-musicians/

I am growing. Every expert in their field started somewhere!

One task at a time is enough. I am doing the best that I can!

I matter and what I offer to the world also matters!

I am so thankful for everything I have achieved in my life!

I have the power to create change!

*****

Source: https://medium.com/@iamshamondae/affirmations-for-musicians-a7080ce74409

I am grateful that I can share my talent with the world and give value in that way.

I am grateful and honored and extremely blessed to be able to be paid for my services.

I am grateful I get to do what I love every single day.

I am grateful for my music software.

I am a legend.

I’m grateful for all of the musical instruments I use to help me create my art.

I’m grateful to be able to make music.

I open my heart to the richness of my musical adventure.

I embrace challenges as opportunities to advance.

I’m confident in my musical abilities.

I trust in my capacity to grow.

I look forward to today’s discoveries.

It’s beautiful to practice. I love to practice.

Music is my true love.

I’m fortunate to be able to pursue my love of music.

I’m thankful to all the people who have supported my music-making.

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JOURNAL PROMPTS FOR FLUTISTS

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves why we do what we do. If you love playing the flute and also love writing, adding a journal prompt to your weekly or daily routine will really help you connect to some of your most important core values surrounding music making. Use the below prompts to reflect on some of your greatest memories, loftiest ambitions, and closest-held flute playing beliefs. You may uncover some very important truths about yourself and awesome ideas moving forward. Write it out!

1.         Describe your perfect recital experience. What are you playing? What are you wearing? What type of stage are you performing on and in what city? How long is your recital? Who is attending (any VIPs)? How do you feel backstage? How do you feel onstage? What does your reception look like? Is there an after-party? How do you feel after the event has concluded?

2.         Think about (or listen to) your favorite flute work. What types of imagery pops into your head when you hear this piece? Are there colors that you imagine in certain sections of the work? How does the piece make you feel? Does the piece bring up any important memories? Why do you love this piece?

3.         What would your ideal flute life look like? What groups are you performing with? Where are you teaching? What type of flute are you performing on? How many students do you have? How often do you perform? Do you perform at any non-traditional venues with different types of performers? What do you love the most about your flute life?

4.         What is your favorite flute memory? Is it a performance that went perfectly for an appreciative audience? Is it winning a very important competition? Is it performing a very important piece with an orchestra? Is it playing the Firebird Suite? Describe your memory in detail. How did you feel? Who else shared this moment with you? How has this memory shaped your future flute playing self?

5.         What do you love the most about playing the flute and why? Is it the sound? Is it the virtuosic repertoire? Is it your part in the orchestra? Is it teaching to younger flute students?  Where did this appreciation originate from?

6.         How do you think flute playing will progress in the future? Is it through technology? Will there be a return to booming concert venues? Will there be a creative fusion with other types of music in different performing scenarios? How long do you think it will take to get there? Why do you think it will progress this way?

7.         Do you think animals enjoy hearing the sound of the flute? Which animals? Why do you think they enjoy flute playing more than other animals? Do you have any examples of animals enjoying flute playing? Do you think animals can interpret emotions in flute works? If so, why? What do you imagine your dog/cat/hamster feels when they hear you practicing your favorite piece?

8.         Why did you decide to learn the flute? What drew you to this instrument? When did you start learning the basics? Who were your first teachers and/or band directors? What are the most important lessons that they taught you as a beginner? What advice shaped you into the flutist you are today?

9.         Is there a flute piece that always cheers you up when you are feeling down? Why does it lift you up? Is there a particular section or phrase that makes you smile? Are there memories attached to this piece? What does this piece make you think about? How does it make you feel?

10.       Describe your favorite live concert. Who was performing? Where did the performance take place? What was the venue like? Who was in the audience? What do you remember most about the experience? Was there a piece or song that resonated with you the most from this concert? What did this performance teach you about your own flute playing? Are there things from this performance that you can still incorporate into your practice?

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Do you have a favorite flute playing affirmation? Does one of the above affirmations resonate with you? What have you learned about your flute playing through journaling? Was there an important memory that popped up while you were journaling? Please comment below!

Happy fluting!

Practice Blueprints – Chant de Linos

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday! This week we are revisiting the Practice Blueprints series with a bang. Chant de Linos is a super difficult work not for the faint of heart. Chalk full of technical gymnastics and crazy abrupt changes of mood, this work is intended for an unapologetically intense flutist looking for a challenge who is not afraid to test their performing endurance. In today’s blog, I will offer a few helpful hints for tackling this, pardon the pun, Herculean feat, hopefully taking the scaries out of learning such a technically difficult but beautifully virtuosic piece.

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Chant de Linos Background Information – The first step to truly understanding this work is by taking a deep-ish dive into its compositional and historical background. Written in 1944 by Andre Jolivet (1905-1974), Chant de Linos was commissioned for the annual Solo de Concours at the Paris Conservatoire, a competition that was subsequently won by Jean-Pierre Rampal. The piece was dedicated to then Conservatorie flute professor, Gaston Crunelle. Jolivet transcribed the work later in the same year for flute, violin, cello and harp. Jolivet was greatly inspired by ancient myths from around the world and has described his art as, “dedicated to restoring music’s original ancient sense, as the magical and incantory expression of the religiosity of human communities.” https://www.boosey.com/pages/licensing/composer/composer_main?site-lang=en&composerid=2913&langid=1&ttype=SNAPSHOT Included on the opening page of the composition is a statement from Jolivet explaining that Chant de Linos is a kind of threnody – a funeral lamentation (or a lament to the dead) in Greek antiquity, a song of lament interrupted by cries and dances. Indeed, the work is divided into three elements invoking a lamentation (typically in a 5/4 meter), crying, and a dance (typically in a 7/8 meter). The work is based on the story of Linos, who, in Greek mythology, taught Orpheus and Heracles to play the lyre but was subsequently murdered by Heracles for excessive criticism, struck in the head with his own lyre (talk about a toxic student/teacher relationship..). The work centers around a G modal scale (G, Ab, B C#, D, F) but ends in the Dorian mode. Although written as a single movement, there are five distinct sections:

            Introduction (Improvisatory in nature)

            Section A – Slow 5/4

            Section B – Moderate 3/4

            Section C – Fast 7/8

            Section D – Moderate 7/8

The work also features flutter tonguing, extreme dynamic changes, and irregular phrases.

Practice Blueprints – Chant de Linos

Piece of Extremes. This piece juxtaposes opposite tone colors, compositional approaches, techniques, and moods. Embrace these opposites by creating a tone color plan that outlines exactly how and when you plan to change your sound. For the basics on creating a tone color plan, please see my article in The Flute View, Rainbow Score. Literally color in your music with your plan (not on the original, obviously – make a performance copy). This will help you anticipate mood changes long before they happen, creating quite literally a performance blueprint for your sound.

Robot/Snappy Fingers are a Must! If you have read my previous Practice Blueprints blogs, you will know this is one of my favorite techniques for tackling super technical passages. Robot Fingers (or “Snappy” Fingers) simply means to move your fingers very quickly between notes. Pretend your fingers are a machine. Slow the tempo way down and move your fingers as deliberately as possible between notes. Then speed up the tempo gradually. A great example to practice this technique is in the first four lines of the piece. Although this section is wild and improvisatory, keep your finger movements quick and remember to add a bit of flavor here and there with a few slight tenutos on various downbeats (this will also help ground the relative beat):

Another example of where practicing snappy fingers comes in handy is at rehearsal letter B:

And 2 measures after rehearsal letter D:

And most importantly, 2 measures before rehearsal letter L, which is arguably the most difficult run in the entire piece:

Lament Sections as Daily Warm-Ups. A great way to consistently improve your tone and solidify your performance of this piece is to convert the slower lament sections into your daily long tone warm-ups. These could easily take the place of Moyse’s Tone Development Through Interpretation exercises. Focus on finding a solid center to your sound and seamlessly connect your tone from one note to the next, making dynamic changes fluid, and expressing all slight variations in tone color clearly and with purpose.

Practice Technical Passages in Chunks. A great way to simplify technical passages is to break them up into bite-sized chunks and practice them one at a time. Pause between each chunk until you can play all of the separate pieces correctly, then slowly put them back together (For more helpful tips to begin working on chunking, please see my blog entitled “Chunky Monkey”).

A couple of great places to practice chunking your music is 2 measures between rehearsal L (the sub-divisions are already notated in chunks – half the work is already done for you!):

Also 1 measure before rehearsal J:

And 1 measure before rehearsal P:

Like the first example, the sub-divisions are already outlined in chunks. Practice each sub-division separately, with a pause between each, and then put them back together when you have worked out each chunk individually.

Keep Dance Articulations as Light as Air. Keep your articulation super light and crisp in the dance section beginning after rehearsal letter F. A great way to practice this section is by using a “tut-kut” articulation. This will keep the tongue in place for each note while cutting the previous note as short as possible. Another great way to practice this section is by practicing entirely in “coos” to strengthen the back of the tongue, or in chirps, to help train your air to do the heavy lifting. Add these routines to your daily articulation exercises and watch your articulation lighten tenfold.

Trick Fingerings are your Friends! Use trill and harmonic fingerings whenever possible in the crazy difficult technical sections. If you can make it easier for yourself without losing sound quality, go for it!

One instance where trick fingerings come in handy is in 3 measures after rehearsal letter D. Overblow a B, Ab, G, C#, and B on beat 2, while playing a regular high A on the last 16th note. The next measure contains another opportunity to use harmonic fingerings by overblowing a B to achieve the high F#s and overblowing a C# to achieve the high G#s.

The easiest place to utilize trick fingerings is 2 measures from the end of the piece. Overblow a G, Bb, D, (regular high A fingering), C, and Bb to make this section fly as fast as possible while still retaining a beautiful, virtuosic sound:

Circle the Most Important Notes in Red. Using a red pencil on your photocopied performance score, circle the most important notes in each phrase. This will train your eyes to anticipate where you will need to add a bit of razzle dazzle to your sound. This is a great way to plan exactly how you would like to shape a phrase and where you would like to draw your audience’s attention. Again, this is another way to create a performance roadmap to help you give a consistently great performance both on and off stage.

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Have you performed Chant de Linos? What were your greatest challenges? What tips and tricks helped you the most as you learned this piece? Do you have any great stories or insights that you gained by working on Chant de Linos? Please comment below!

Happy fluting!

Top 10 Flute Rock Cover Videos

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday. Anybody that knows me knows that I love 80’s metal music. I am a Guns n’ Roses super fan for life and have tortured my husband for years blasting the very best of Jon Bon Jovi (I am still depressed that his 2020 tour was canceled due to COVID-19 – We had tickets!). After binge watching Rock of Love Seasons 1 and 2 earlier this week during an intense book revision deadline (because Bret Michaels also rocks), I was inspired to search for flute covers of rock hits on YouTube. Below are my top 10 picks for best flute cover videos. We definitely need more! I think one of my pet projects after I complete my book is to find my leather jacket and record a few Gn’R cover tunes. Gotta make Slash wish that he played flute! Happy viewing and ROCK ON!

1.         Chop Suey! System of a Downhttps://youtu.be/QEmi1HZjL1Y

Video by FluteCovers. Love the use of flutter tonguing to emulate vocal wails!

2.         Creep by Radioheadhttps://youtu.be/H_IrQg7CNW8

            Video by ReedsCover (Pauline). Really like some of the added ornamentation. Love the additional flute accompaniment – Creates an even more haunting tone to the music.

3.         Bohemian Rhapsody – Queenhttps://youtu.be/KO8D1zFrze4

            Video by Wouter Kellerman. Excellent video! Also love that he has a band. A lot of wonderful work went into creating this video. Love the additional flutes in the operatic section – This should definitely be scored for flute choir! A piccolo might add a bit more rock n’roll.

4.         Master of Puppets – Metallicahttps://youtu.be/dO80dgra5C0

            Video by HeavyMetalFlute. This is a super cool video – Love the more rock video style! The addition of beatboxing makes the flute sound far more interesting (another plug to start learning beatboxing). Really like the three superimposed videos of the performer playing different parts.

5.         Numb – Linkin Parkhttps://youtu.be/v1B3FUpjGnY

Video by MelissaFlutes. Simple tune and simple video – Makes playing along to pop and rock tunes accessible for even beginning students.

6.         Thunderstruck by AC/DChttps://youtu.be/sB6rpF6W1oQ

            Video by Andreu Marques. Another super awesome video! Love the use of flute loops to create unique sounds that emulate classic rock riffs. All I can say is that I love this one!

7.         Shallow from A Star is Born – Bradley Cooper/Lady Gagahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADqsl_niXVs

            Video by Redbrick Duo. Okay – so not as rock n’ roll as the previous videos but I really liked this cover. Simple yet beautiful. I may need to add this to my next recital…

8.         Dust in the Wind – Kansas (Native American Flute Cover) – https://youtu.be/ZrAGRgSU8G4

            Video by FluteTastic. Really like the use of a non-western flute in this cover. It really fits the vibe of the song! This is perfect meditation music. Grab your headphones, press play, and close your eyes. Beautiful!

9.         Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbournehttps://youtu.be/DXdmqywKTSg

            Video by Musician’s Addition. Love this – Excellent Ozzy impression! Awesome additional ornamentation – Thinking like guitarists! (That of course is our challenge.)

10.       We Will Rock You – Queen (Electric Flute)https://youtu.be/6qLpq5X_kC4

            Video by The Techie Flutist. Awesome electronic effects and super cool loops to create a metal sound. Rock on!

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Do you have a favorite flute cover video? Do you perform rock covers? Do you have a favorite artist that performs rock covers? What songs do you wish we had more flute cover videos for? (*cough November Rain cough*) Please comment below!

Happy Fluting!