Month: October 2015

Walking the Plank – Coping with Stage Fright

Happy Flute Friday and Happy Halloween! Today’s blog post is devoted to the subject of Fear (*cue blood curdling scream).

Stage fright has kidnapped the best of all of us at one point or another. We may practice for hours, days, weeks, and months and still find that when the lights hit the stage our stomachs hit the floor. Self-doubt and panic take the place of rhythmic stability and beautiful tone. The music seems foreign as the audience peers at us through the darkness. An empty audition room suddenly seems like an invisible prison cell. We imagine our loved ones fidgeting in the audience, uninterested or, worse, judgmental of our playing. The voice in the back of our head whispers convincing lies suggesting that our playing is a representation of who we are as humans. Wrong notes are an indication of weak character.

This, of course, is nonsense.

Unfortunately by the time we realize the silliness of our thoughts it is too late. The curtain has been closed.

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There are a number of ways to mitigate stage fright to guarantee a stronger, more comfortable performance that accurately displays our talent and level of skill. Below is a list of a few simple solutions that I have found most effective over the years. I have touched on some of these briefly in previous posts but having a checklist like this somewhere handy before a performance or audition will easily help you confront your fear and transform anxiety into power. Performing does not have to be scary but it should always be fun (or at least personally rewarding).

  1.  Eat a banana. Besides the obvious benefit of eating something healthy and not performing on an empty stomach (which is never advised), bananas are a natural source of beta blockers. According http://www.healthextremist.com, “Beta blockers are prescribed to treat anxiety, reduce blood pressure, or heart conditions. Beta blockers prevent adrenaline from binding to beta receptors which results in lower blood pressure and pulse rate, which normally skyrocket when experiencing anxiety and under stress.” I attended an audition several months ago where we were supplied with bananas in the greenroom before the first round of auditions. Musicians live by this time honored tradition. Eat a banana half an hour before your performance and another during intermission. Your heart will stop racing and your breathing will return to normal enabling you to return your focus to the music and away from your physical discomfort.untitled (34)
  2. Hydrate. Seems obvious but we often momentarily forget about what is good for us when we are nervous. Drinking water helps us to correct dry mouth (which interferes with our ability to breath properly) and replenishes tired muscles pre and post performance.
  3. Meditate. If you have never taken a meditation class, sign up immediately. In its simplest form, meditation is the practice of shutting out the world by focusing exclusively on your breath. Find a quiet place prior to your performance and either sit cross-legged or lay down  on the floor. Inhale and exhale while you mentally scan your body for any tension or muscle discomfort. Direct your inhalation toward these areas and mentally revive the area with new energy. A decent mediation lasts for 10-15 minutes however you may download longer guided meditations online or on IPhone apps such as Calm. YouTube also offers select meditations however I find that the Calm app offers much for flexibility and control over time limits. Regardless of the method you use, mediation will help you ease stress and redirect your focus back onto the music using relaxed concentration. untitled (35)
  4. Breathing Bag. I have discussed uses of the Breathing Bag in previous posts but I find that simply breathing in and out of the bag prior to a performance quickly calms the nerves and widens breathing patterns. This is why people suffering from panic attacks breathe into a paper bag. The sensation of breathing in one’s own air opens up capillaries and sends oxygen straight to our brains (where we need it during a performance!). Don’t have a Breathing Bag? A paper bag will do. Along those same lines…
  5. Take a few finger breaths. Create the shape of an “L” between your index finger and thumb on your left hand. Place your lips wide against the lower side of the “L” where your index finger meets your thumb and breathe deeply. I sometimes refer to this technique as “Grizzly breathing” as the sound you will make as you inhale should be low and loud. Performing 4-5 finger breaths before and between pieces will immediately help correct any shortness of breath and send oxygen back into our brains to help us regain focus.
  6. Give yourself permission to be nervous. When we experience stage fright it is often magnified when we feel that we are the only ones around in a state of terror. We are afraid to be nervous and ashamed that we cannot “get it together,” as the saying goes. Our inner dialog screams at us to NOT BE NERVOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and that only makes a bad situation worse. Face your anxiety and accept your nervousness. Use your fear as motivation to change your response to the stage. Let whatever happens happen and stop trying so hard to be perfect! images (12)
  7. Think “head up and forward.” As I discussed in my previous post on Alexander Technique this is referred to your Primary Direction. Posture has been found to directly influence your state of confidence. Placing your head up and forward is a powerful stance and allows one to retake control of their immediate environment. Try this the next time you take the stage and notice how your confidence changes just by directing your head up and forward.
  8. Lightly bite the tip of your tongue to combat dry mouth. This will help your mouth to produce a small amount of saliva enabling you to breathe a bit more comfortably. images (13)
  9. Enjoy the show. Music is a process. Do not think about how much you just want to get through the performance but rather listen to every note, brush off any mistakes and smile at the audience no matter what happens. You have worked hard. No one moment in time defines who we are as musicians or as people. And finally…
  10. Accept that mistakes may happen and learn from them. Pay attention to the types of mistakes that occur when you are nervous. Do you rush the slower passages? Do you forget to count the rests? Make a note of these items and focus on ways to correct these tendencies on your next performance. Learn something new about yourself every time you perform and improve each time you take the stage.

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Do you suffer from stage fright? How do you calm your nerves before a performance? Have any of the above tricks worked for you? Please comment below!

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Mind Over Machine – Mastering Intonation

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Happy Flute Friday! In recent years I have performed in groups that relied heavily on tuners and metronomes to collectively establish pitch and rhythm. I am sure we have all at some point sat patiently through a group rehearsal where a well-meaning conductor has held up a tuner and asked each performer individually to correct their pitch based on the all-hearing magical line on the screen. Often these conductors come from a performance backgrounds on instruments vastly different from our own or are leading sectionals with multiple types of instruments (woodwind/brass) and do not specifically know how to offer practical suggestions to improve pitch for each instrument without Big Brother Tuning Machine painting a stark right/wrong reality. The problem with this technique, aside from the fact that it is extremely time consuming and really freaks out the more introverted performers, is that it does not adequately help the group agree on a central pitch nor does it take into account the pitch changes that occur in different octaves and at different dynamics across different instruments. Most importantly, it does not help us to listen and adjust. Practicing intonation involves constant evaluation and matching pitch to other performers regardless of whether they may be “right” or “wrong” and an understanding the pitch tendencies associated with our instruments. The following simple exercises are intended to improve intonation with and without the use of the tuner and sharpen our listening skills to help us to easily adjust and match pitch between other instruments. A machine can only give you a diagnosis. Your ears can help you fix the problems.

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Sing the pitch, then play. This is the most straight-forward way to practice intonation. You may simply use a piano or chromatic tuner to momentarily sustain a pitch. Hum that pitch and attempt to match the same pitch on your instrument. Adjust accordingly* based on what your ears tell you about the rate of frequency between the hummed pitch and the performed tone. This is a very useful technique for larger group rehearsals. Sustain a pitch (concert A is the traditional orchestral tuning note but wind ensembles may prefer a concert Bb) and ask that the group hum the pitch before attempting to match. This is how to properly train our ears.

Play the tuning pitch with a full, supported sound. Introverted musicians and younger students often change the quality of their sound when they are put on the spot. This may result in a weak, timid sound that may read as flat on the Magic Tuner but naturally raises in pitch when added to the larger group. Conversely, an overconfident musician may treat tuning time as their own personal solo recital and overplay a pitch to the tuner that lowers as they rejoin the group. Whenever you are practicing intonation you must remember to use a full, supported sound representing how you normally and confidently play your instrument. Tuning with a group alleviates the pressure of the “step right up” tuner approach. Musicians may practice intonation in the confines of their own practice room using the same approach.

If you normally play with vibrato within the group, use vibrato when tuning. A tuning pitch must be a representation of your standard quality of sound. Adding vibrato slightly raises a pitch and therefore should be added to your tuning pitch to emulate the sound you use in performance.

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Check your posture. Bad posture leads to a bad sound and a flat pitch. Are you standing/sitting with your head up and forward? Are your feet placed on the ground? Are you lifting your arms and properly supporting your instrument? Are you leaning too far forward? Too far back? Practice tuning in a mirror and take note of any movements you may unconsciously be applying that hinder your breathing or embouchure position.

Practice pitch bends. This is a great way to work on intonation during daily practice sessions but you can also practice this at group rehearsals. Find a pitch that your tuner considers “in tune” and, using your embouchure and air stream (bringing the upper lip slightly over the lower, dropping the jaw and slowing the speed of air), bend the pitch down and back up again This will train your ear to easily compare the difference between in tune and out of tune pitches.

Tuning dynamics. Another technique that uses the tuner for good and not evil! Tune a middle A to your tuner and adjust the pitch with your embouchure as you play the sustained tone softer and louder creating a <> effect. You will immediately notice pitch tendencies as you change dynamics. Make a note of these and work on correcting these tendencies when performing with larger groups. Repeat the tuning process on a Bb, B, C and so on until you have a list of pitch tendencies for each pitch and each dynamic range.

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Harmonics. An easy way to work on intonation between octaves is to tune harmonics. Play a lower C, overblowing to achieve the middle C harmonic. Compare the pitch to the same middle C using the standard fingering. An instrument that is “in tune” should sound identical between the harmonic and standard fingering. Adjust accordingly*. Repeat this process on a low C# and D.

*General tuning procedures for the flute. First and foremost be sure to check the placement of the cork. A misaligned cork will create overall sharpness or flatness throughout the octaves. Next adjust the headjoint, pulling out to lower the pitch and pushing in to raise the pitch. You may also roll the flute out to raise a pitch and in to lower but keep in mind that this is not a permanent solution. A better approach is to experiment with the angle of your lips and the speed of your air stream. A slower airstream will lower a pitch while a faster airstream will raise the pitch.

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The next time your conductor takes out the tuner, you may want to suggest any of the above exercises to work on collective intonation and essentially tune with our ears and not our machines. Intonation is not a simple, mechanical procedure but one full of changing circumstances. We must learn to adjust according to the sensitivity of our instruments and the pitches of those around us. Tuners have a time and place but our ears are our greatest teachers.

Do you have exercises of your own to practice intonation? Have any of the above techniques worked for you? How do you teach your students to practice intonation? Please comment below!

Playing from Memory (It’s Not That Scary!)

Welcome to Flute Friday! With Halloween just around the corner I thought I would devote today’s post to something truly terrifying for musicians (young and old) – Memorization. The very same look of horror that shines on my student’s faces the moment I write the words “from memory” in their lesson notebooks has remained unchanged throughout the years. My own reaction to memorization these days has become akin to accidentally eating a moldy piece of cheese (unpleasant and annoying) but I remember a time not too long ago when the stress of cramming pages and pages of music into my brain well enough that I could perform without a blueprint in front of other humans was enough to give me chronic stomach ulcers and reoccurring nightmares involving very angry conductors and upset mobs of audience members.

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I’m here to tell all of you that it really isn’t that scary.

Before I go into my list of tricks to ease the memorization (and retention) process, it is important to think realistically about the worst case scenario. What happens if you have a memory slip and forget the music? Do you have a plan B? Do you have a place in the music to which you know you can always find your way back? Could you elegantly glance at the piano or orchestra score (hint: become friends with the concertmaster)? Are you prepared to simply wing it? And, more importantly, what happens when the music is over? Will you not win the competition? Will you be fired? Will you die of embarrassment on stage (unlikely as this has never happened to any musician)? If this happens, is your career over? If your career is over, is your life over? Obviously the answer to this last question is a resounding “no.” Ask any professional musician and they will tell you tales of fantastical times when, to our surprise, they were human. When I performed the Carmen Fantasie at my Junior recital, to my shock and horror I lost my place within the first page. And what happened? I found my way back and played the remainder of the work without any other slips. All we can do is learn from our mistakes and let them go. The show must go on.

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  1. Find the form. The opening movements of both Mozart Flute Concerti (D and G) are in Sonata Form but the overall structure is simply ABA. Study the score and memorize the beginnings and endings of each section – these will become benchmarkers and the most important part of the music to memorize. If you have a memory slip in the development section, for example, you will know from your practice how the section ends thereby giving you the cue to begin the next section. From here, search for other forms within the larger form. If the piece is in Sonata Form find the first theme and second theme and memorize how these thematic sections begin and end. By the end of this phase you should be able to create an outline of the form of your piece and play the beginnings and endings of each section without the music. Ask your family and friends to quiz you! Give them your outline and ask them to call out the sections at random as your perform the beginnings and endings. Turn this part into a game!
  2. Create additional benchmarks within the form. This step is crucial as you begin to work on sections that contain a wide variety of inconsistent musical material such as those found within development sections. If a brief melody cuts through an otherwise virtuosic passage of summersaulting arpeggios (as it does in the Ibert Concerto), create a mental benchmark for this passage and memorize the music surrounding the phrase in addition to the phrase itself. The opening movement of the Nielsen concerto is a great example of a piece that contains a rather complicated form but several smaller musical benchmarks to help you memorize structural sections as well the many melodic and virtuosic interruptions throughout the piece. images98VMROG0
  3. Scales are your friends. At a lesson earlier this week, one of my students was struggling to learn a series of fingerings at the beginning of a Karg-Elert etude. I asked him to look at the music and explain what was happening. Light bulb. It was simply a D major scale with a few chromatic leading tones thrown in to confuse the performer (or more likely to make the music a bit more difficult to play). I turned the music stand around and asked the student to play a D major scale from memory. When the student returned to play the music as written his fingering troubles were over. Sometimes when the score is wallpapered in fast moving streams of black ink, our brains (and fingers and, well, let’s face it, our souls) go into a state of awe-struck panic. When we back up and return to reality we find that the scary blob on our page is nothing more than a B melodic minor scale (which Taffanel and Gaubert have already made us practice several hundred times). The Hanson Serenade is a perfect example of a piece that appears extremely difficult but upon closer inspection is simply a series of scales. Memorize that series and the music plays itself.
  4. Play along with the recording. After you have simplified the memorization process by learning the structure of your piece, memorizing the large and small benchmarks and ironing out complicated scale patterns (making them very easy to perform from memory), you may begin to test your knowledge by playing along with a recording. The beauty of a recording is that it does not stop. If you fall off of the musical train, so to speak, a recording does not wait for you to brush yourself off and start again. This is a great way to practice your benchmarks and other moments in the music that may create inviting environments for memory slips such as lengthy arpeggios, intervallic leaps and other complicated harmonic progressions. You will also begin to understand which instruments are performing with you and when you function as the musical focal point or the accompaniment. Put the recording on repeat and create a game – Can you make each repetition better than the one before?imagesHSX063KO
  5. Drop the pin. Back in the old days “dropping the pin” referred to quite literally dropping the pin on a record player to randomly start the recording at whichever place the pin landed on the record. Today we can use an iPod in the same manner. You could even ask your family or friends to participate! Play from memory wherever the recording begins.
  6. Perform the entire piece for your friends or family. It is one thing to play a piece perfectly within the safety of our own practice rooms or in front of our flute teachers but it quite another to perform for a group of people. Performing in front of other flutists will help you confront the fear of being wrong (especially if you are performing a piece that everyone has played before). Playing in front of your loved ones helps you to face the fear of letting others down if you make a mistake (and really, if your family knows you can play well and are proud of your accomplishments, who else’s opinion actually matters?), If you live in a suburb or in the country, play outdoors for anyone strolling by to listen. If you have an opportunity to perform in a quiet place such as a mall or coffee shop, perform your work from memory to a mildly engaged, albeit safe, audience.

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Finally, remember that memorizing a piece takes time. Do not expect to memorize a concerto overnight. Take the music apart slowly beginning with the form, then the structure followed by the benchmarks (large and small). Test yourself by playing along with a recording and concentrate on ironing out complicated passages by simplifying scales. Finally share your music with your friends and family. Not only is this great practice but these are the people that will love and appreciate your art the most and will support your efforts to finely tune your craft.

Do you have any clever memorization tricks? Have any of the above tips helped you in your own practice? Please comment below!

Happy fluting :).

Barnyard Dreaming – Danse de la Chevre by Arthur Honegger

Happy Flute Friday! Often a piece of music tells a more intricate story than a simple melody or a series of exciting runs may convey. Unaccompanied pieces, for example, urge us to look beyond the title and notes for clues within the harmonic and melodic foundation serving as interpretive meanings between the composer and performer. Arthur Honnegger’s, Danse de la Chevre, for example, is more than just a simple “goat dance,” as the title suggests. Analysis of formal and harmonic content indicate that this piece represents a circular event. Perhaps it is a dream. Perhaps it is a commentary regarding the circular nature of life and our search for perfection within chaos. Like the movie Happy Feet, I believe that this piece wants to show us that it is okay march to the beat of our own drum because regardless of our identities, we are all searching for something to love. The song and dance we perform for the world simply represents who we want to be but our values create who we are and stick with us throughout our lives.

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First let us examine some basic biographical information about the composer and the piece. Arthur Honegger was born in Le Harve, France on March 10, 1892 and lived a large part of his life in Paris. Although his early studies in harmony and violin began at the Zurich Conservatory, Honegger enrolled in the Paris Conservatoire from 1911-1918. In 1929 he was married to fellow Paris Conservatory student and pianist Andree Vaurabourg on the condition that they live in separate apartments (Strange, right…but the best artist are often eccentrics. It was probably for the best). Honegger was primarily known as member of Les Six and best known for his orchestral work, Pacific 231 (1923) which was inspired by the sound of a steam locomotive. A train enthusiast, he once explained, “I have always loved locomotives passionately. For me they are living creatures and I love them as others love women or horses.” Honegger’s most prolific compositional period was between World War I and World War II when he composed 9 ballets and 3 vocal stage works (including the music for Able Gance’s epic 1927 film, Napoleon). Composing a total of 5 symphonies, most notable is his 3rd Symphony entitled “Symphonie Liturgie” which is evocative of a requiem mass. Honegger died at his home in Paris of a heart attack on November 27, 1955. Danse de la chevre, which translates to “dance of the goat,” was written in 1921 as incidental music for dancer Lysana of Sacha Derek’s play, “La mauvaise pensee,” and is dedicated to flutist Rene le Roy. Rene le Roy was a student of Gaubert at the Paris Conservatorie around the same time that Honegger studied there (1916-1918) and was Gaubert’s successor at the Société des instruments à vent de Paris. The original manuscript to Danse de la chevre has been lost however modern editions have been derived from partial pages found in the works of Honegger’s transcriber (name unknown).

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This piece is available for purchase from Amazon: DANSE DE LA CHEVRE FOR UNACCOMPANIED FLUTE

The form of this short piece appears to be cyclical. The music proceeds as follows:

A Section (mm. 1-13) : Introduction – Sets up a unusual scene emphasizing minor 3rds and interconnected 4ths that distort the tonal center of the piece (impressionistic, Debussy-esque opening). In fact, the piece opens with a tritone! Something is not quite right about the this scene…The upcoming dance is foreshadowed in measure 7 in the lower octave as the goat attempts his first dance steps. The opening tritone and interconnected 4ths return to cloud the scene once again and as the goat attempts to find meaning within the strict intervals in 4ths, the music quite literally dances around Bb minor until the goat explodes in frustration with a chromatic scale in measure 13, thus ending the introduction. This goat wants to dance in Bb minor – not whine in minor 3rds and strange interconnected 4ths. The entire “A” section therefore could simply represent the goat’s introductory environment, however frustrating it may be.

B Section (mm. 14-34): The dance. 9/8 time signature with a reoccurring skipping, dotted rhythmic figure (obviously this goat is not an elegant dancer but has his own characteristic, clunky style). Although happily trotting along in F major (with various F minor inflections), the goat experiments with other chromatic tonalities (including a B minor run in measure 21), before another chromatic outburst in measure 24 brings our stubborn goat back to his F major/minor dance. Our goat finds his Bb minor persona in measure 27 but again experiments with A and D minor tonalities in measures 30-31 and after descending sequences separated by 3rds in measure 32 (B minor, G minor, E major – perhaps trying to learn something from his youth) appear in his dance rhythm, they are interrupted again with frustrated descending chromatic patterns in measure 33. This section represents the goat finding his identity, or his dance, through trial and error.

C Section (mm. 35-39): D Major melody. This is the light bulb moment when the uncertainty of the introduction and the chaos of the dance give way to simplicity and beauty. The D Major melody is straight forward and uses hints of the dance rhythm from the previous section in a different tempo and style. Here were find the only appearance of grace notes in the work on the 3rd beats of measure 35 and again in measure 37 (the impending recollection section also contains grace notes in measure 54). This section represents the moment that the goat has fallen in love.

D Section (mm. 40-48): The dramatic dance and downfall. This new, enhanced version of the dance section begins in the highest and most dramatic octave of the flute and solidly dances first in the original F major/minor as before, then around C melodic minor in measure 42-43 and A melodic minor in measures 44-46 until the climax of the piece at measure 47 where a Bb minor scale explodes and falls away into F minor reiterations, bringing the music back into the real world.

B Section abbreviated (mm. 49-53): Return of the dance. The very same music from the opening B section returns for an abbreviated 5 measures with an added rallentando at the end of measure 53 (a recollection?).

C Section abbreviated (mm. 54-57): Return of the major melody, this time transposed to F major. Here the melody begins with a mf dynamic and gradually decreases with a decrescendo in measure 57 to begin the next section in p. Like the previous abbreviated B section, this repetition uses dynamics to musically fade out of the texture. Again, this is a musical recollection of previous compositional material.

B Section recollection (mm. 58-59): This is simply the same Bb minor chord from the end of the original B section (mm. 27). Bb minor was the key that the goat was searching for in the beginning of the piece but did not fully appreciate when he had found it measure 27.

A Section (mm 62-64): The piece ends the same way it begins with a tritone and series of interconnected 4ths and closes with an ethereal C harmonic tone. A return to the uncertainty of the surrounding environment.

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My interpretation of this circular form is that the piece represents the cyclical nature of life. We all enter this world in a state of uncertainty, struggle to find and perform our daily dance, search for love and meaning in our lives, discover conflict, and at the end of our lives we recollect moments from our youth and lessons from our adulthood that made us who we are. Many of us are also surrounded by loved ones (which would explain the return of the major melody toward the end of the piece) and we leave the world just as we entered – uncertain where our souls will travel.

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Of course another interpretation based on an analysis of the form is that the goat is merely dreaming and the different sections represent scenes in the dream. The opening section leads us through the clouds and into the dream where a shy goat takes his first few steps (mm. 7), trips and falls over his two left feet (measures 12-13), finds his rhythm and launches into his dance, finds a slow dance (I still believe this is where the goat falls in love), tries to show off for his new love with an extreme version of his dotted dance, falls on his face again and realizes that his original dance was just right. As the dream concludes, the goat begins to wake but recollections of his dream still dance in his head. The return of the A section brings us through the clouds again as the goat awakens from his dream. The final C harmonic represents the moment the goat awakens from his dream.

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What do you think this piece represents based on the formal analysis? Do you have a story about this goat that you use to interpret the work? Do you think this piece is about life in general or a dream of dancing? Please comment below!

Talkin’ About Flutes – Flute Talk Tips, Part I

Happy Flute Friday! I really hope everyone out in Internet Land is enjoying these weekly posts. If you have any topic that you are dying for me to cover, or really anything that you think needs to be said about the flute, please message me. I realize most of my recent posts have covered various aspects of flute teaching so I will try to mix it up a bit in the next few weeks with some history, theory and miscellaneous “favorites” posts.

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I have been a subscriber to Flute Talk Magazine for nearly 20 years. If you are not yet familiar with Flute Talk, I highly recommend this monthly journal as the articles are typically quite short and accessible to a wide audience with varying skill levels. I brought a large stack of these journals with me to Houston as I am extremely behind in my monthly readings. What I have loved about Flute Talk over the years is that you can always find a new phrase or idea buried within its pages to try out in your own practice or teaching to revolutionize your approach to flute playing. The following snippets are just a few 1-2 liners from my backlogged stack of Flute Talks. There will be a series of these posts as here I only touch on 3 volumes (and my stack is quite a bit larger) but the tips below are a really good starting point for exploring new ideas. I am most intrigued by using YouTube in my studio and uploading more instructional video blogs for my students to use in their practice. I hope these quotes breathe new life into your flute playing as they often do mine.

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“We must follow the ink, and look for clues. Composers have written them in everywhere. Musicians have only to interpret those clues…. That’s our job; we follow the ink and translate it for the audience.” – Victoria Jicha, “Musical Communication or Follow the Ink,” Flute Talk, February 2015

“Tips for playing principal flute: Be flexible with your dynamics, colors and vibrato and have a good range of attacks. Always know your function harmonically, and whether you’re leading, following, shadowing, blending or the soloist. Be a musical chameleon.” – Emily Beynon, “Playing with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,” Flute Talk, February 2015

“In my opinion, it is better to play scales slowly and exactly than too fast with splashiness and slips. This is the training of the automatic finger combinations needed for playing pieces.” Emily Beynon, “Playing with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,” Flute Talk, February 2015

“If your private flute studio is too small to host its own recital, ask another teacher to share an event.” -Julianne Ensley, “Teaching Middle School Flutists,” Flute Talk, February 2015

“Devising strategically placed flagging spots in the score to land on in case of a memory lapse was an indispensable part of that strategy. Basically, I practiced the last four bars of the movement by memory, then from the last eight bars, then from the last sixteen bars, and so on. Next I practiced “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey” style, starting anywhere in the movement randomly.” -Walfrid Kujala “On Memorizing,” Flute Talk, February 2015

“Another great habit that I learned from a sports psychologist is to touch a spot in the room and symbolically leave all your worries and distracting thoughts there at that place. Then you are free to touch the same spot on your way out the door, symbolically picking up your worries once again after you have finished your practice session.” -Cynthia Ellis. “Pick a Letter,” Flute Talk, February 2015

“Baroque flutists had a different set of varied articulations that they mastered and learned to use as their palette. These included ti, di, tiri, did’ll, du, ru and more.” Leela Breithaupt, “Beat Hierarchy, Microdynamics, and Articulation.” Flute Talk, January 2015.

“Make a repertoire sheet with the following headlines: Etudes Studied, Unaccompanied repertoire Flute and Piano Repertoire, Concertos (place an asterisk before the ones you have performed with orchestra), Chamber Music, Excerpts (place an asterisk before the ones you have performed with orchestra). Send this repertoire sheet to the teacher before the first lesson with a note asking what you should prepare for the first lesson.” -Patricia George, “Becoming a Better Student.” Flute Talk, January 2015

“Photocopy the music and cut it into 4 to 16 measure sections. Place strips in a paper bag and shake the bag. Pull a section randomly from the bag, start there, and play to the end. The ability to start anywhere will be extremely helpful should you get asked to jump to a different place in an audition or if you have a memory lapse.” -Conner Nelson, “Practical Tips for Effective Memorization.” Flute Talk, January 2015.

“Cracking notes is a result of not appropriately estimating the support needed to play a note, with or without the tongue. Similarly, an articulation that is excessively heavy, harsh, rough, or explosive will overpower the tone, regardless of support, and quickly lead to fatigue.” -Jennifer Bouton Schaub, “Piccolo Articulation.” Flute Talk, January 2015.

“Auditions and competitions are a part of musical life that inspire a greater work ethic and can provide specific goals and opportunities for continued growth. The process of learning and getting better is a life-long journey with ups and downs, wins and losses, and many opportunities to try again.” -Katherine Borst Jones, “Going Beyond Winning and Losing.” Flute Talk, October 2014.

“Studying the original notation without editorial marks gives a better sense of a composer’s intentions and offers insights into performance practice.” Leela Breithaupt, “Back to the Baroque.” Flute Talk, October 2015.

“Occasionally, I create short videos for my students to reference while practicing. These videos are either the only available recordings of material students are working on, or video demonstrations of subjects that are difficult to teach and assimilate in one lesson such as vibrato, ornamentation and rubato” -Karen McLaughlin Large, “Using YouTube in the Studio and Classroom.” Flute Talk, October 2014.

“Most teachers agree that there never seems to be enough time to get to everything done in a lesson. I remedy this by requiring students to upload their weekly etudes on YouTube by the night before their lessons. The following morning I listen to the videos and write down comments. When the lesson starts, I am able to address problem areas in each etude.”  -Karen McLaughlin Large, “Using YouTube in the Studio and Classroom.” Flute Talk, October 2014.

“After 10-15 minutes of piccolo practice, switch back to practicing on the flute. Playing with the larger flute aperture keeps the embouchure flexible and relaxed as well as providing some recovery time. Even piccolo players in good shape should not practice more than 45 minutes to an hour without taking a break.” -Nan Raphael, “Pacing Your Practice.” Flute Talk, October 2014.

Are you a Flute Talk subscriber? How has Flute Talk influenced you over the years? Have you experimented with any of the above techniques? Please comment below!