100th Blog!!!

Greetings and welcome to a very special Flute Friday. This is my 100th Blog!!! I have written about fluting and general music making 99 times (whoa!). In honor of this milestone, I have compiled the below index of all of my blogs, which includes 2-3 standout sentences from each posting. If you are new to my blog, this index will give you a great introduction to the topics I cover here on my platform. If you are a faithful follower (yay!), I hope you use today’s post as a quick way to reference your favorite blog topics. As always, if you would like to suggest a topic that I have not yet discussed here on my blog, please comment below!

Blog

Without further adieu, I give you my blogging oeuvre. Please enjoy!

 

  1. WELCOME – I think one of the most important things that a flutist can do is to think outside the box.  Do what is not popular but what is interesting and unconventional.

 

  1. COLOR YOUR MUSIC – Much of music is decision making.  What do you want to sound like?  When do you want your sound to change?  Where is your sound going and where is it coming from?  What does a particular phrase mean to you and how do you convey that meaning with sound?  I color my music to express all of these things and encourage others to do the same using their own spectrums and their own meanings

 

  1. COLOR YOUR MUSIC II – Color may be also used as a practice tool to differentiate the changing nature of aspects such as dynamics, tempo changes, articulation and so on.  For the visual learners out there, connecting colors to changes in the music trains your brain to anticipate without necessary looking ahead.

 

  1. SCALE GAMES – ARE THEY REALLY “FUN”? – It seems a bit cruel to associate a list (one that could be easily transferred into an excel-type spreadsheet) with a “game,” but there is a benefit to changing things up a bit to break up the monotony of scale exercises. Variety does, in fact, add a bit of spice to life.

 

  1. ONE LINERS FROM THE 2013 NFA CONVENTION – “Good technique is organized laziness.” – Bart Kuijken from Baroque Flute Masterclass.

 

  1. THROWING OUT THE RULES – LESSONS IN IMPROVISATION – When we think of the word “improvisation,” the first images that often come to mind are cool cat Jazz performers perched lazily on stools, wearing shades and weaving tapestries of fast moving lines with the greatest of ease. This is not always the case (and here is where the right vs. wrong thinking of the classical tradition throws us for a loop).  Making music for music’s sake is, in itself, “improvisation.”  When you open your case at the beginning of a practice session, put your flute together and play a few random notes, you are, in essence, improvising.

 

  1. A BIT OF FUN ON A TIRED FRIDAY – This video is just to remind all of you that playing the flute does not always have to be serious. Music is supposed to be fun. https://youtu.be/mhaO2crrH0k

 

  1. PERFORMER SPOTLIGHT SERIES – JASMINE CHOI – What I find so wonderful about this performance (and Ms. Choi’s playing in general) is her ability to change tone colors quickly and imperceptibly.  This breathes new life into a piece such as the Concerto in G Major which has become the “meat and potatoes” of flute repertoire.

 

  1. CONTROLLING YOURSELF – WHAT THE HECK IS “ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE”? – The five principles are intended to work harmoniously together to correct misuse.  When one receives a stressful stimulus, such as giving a recital, Alexander Technique teaches us to delay our habitual reaction (inhibition) because what we feel is the “right” response is unreliable (unreliable sensory appreciation).  We then must adjust our primary control using positive direction (lifting head up and forward) while considering the series of acts that allows us to retain a new and improved use rather than simply “standing up straight” (means whereby focus).

 

  1. I’VE GOT RHYTHM. I’VE GOT MUSIC. WHO COULD ASK FOR ANYTHING MORE? – What happens when the metronome is gone? Your best friend abandons you at the most necessary musical moments – the dress rehearsal, the performance, the audition.  What then?  In these instances you must rely on your own, internal sense of rhythm.  It is up to you to find the beat, and keep that beat moving consistently throughout the musical chaos.

 

  1. PERFORMER SPOTLIGHT SERIES #2 – EMMANUEL PAHUD – Finally, at the finale of each theme (namely at the very end of the work itself), Pahud removes the flute from his lips with the greatest of ease as if to say, “Ah, that was nothing!”  This is what Keith Underwood has described as “playing from weakness.”  Never let the audience know that being a virtuoso is difficult.

 

  1. PROFESSIONALISM IN THE FLUTE SECTION – 15 DOS AND DON’TS – 9. DON’T be afraid to agree to disagree but do it in a respectful way that does not offend or disrespect your colleagues.  Being passive aggressive will not improve your career.  10.  DO silence your cell phone/smart phone prior to rehearsal.  Nobody wants to hear a One Direction/Brahms mashup during rehearsal.

 

  1. YOU SAY POTATO, I SAY POTAHTO –
SYLABLLE FUNCTION
Single
Pu Soft, legato playing
Daw Legato playing
Ta or Tah Standard
Da or Dah Standard (softer attack than ta)

 

  1. HEARING VOICES – Fortunately with the help of some over the counter medication, my hearing returned to normal prior to the evening concert, but I will never forget what it was like to accept the fact that what I heard in my head was not what the rest of the world was hearing.  This was a reminder that sometimes our sense of what is “right” and what is “wrong” can be totally unreliable and based on things not in our control.

 

  1. PRACTICING IMPROVISATION – In the below video my student, Sunyu, and I demonstrate a short improvisation exercise that can be practiced at the end of a lesson or with other flutists. https://youtu.be/9snmnlKojV8

 

  1. BREAKING POINT – Cary Cherniss suggests 4 essential methods to eliminating burnout. These include 1) Reduce or eliminate external job demands, 2) Change personal goals, preferences and expectations, 3) Increase resources for meeting job demands and 4) Provide coping substitutes for the withdrawal characteristic of burnout. The first step is to change the job. Increase skill and ability to work by seeking outside opportunities to learn new skills from qualified experts in your field and set realistic and attainable daily goals.

 

  1. STRUCTURED AND UNSTRUCTURED PRACTICE – The key is to always have a plan.  By relating smaller parts of our daily practice routine to the bigger picture, we create intrinsic meaning for the music we play by focusing on how we learn, how we improve and how we measure success.

 

  1. PERFORMER SPOTLIGHT SERIES – MIMI STILLMAN – Finally, the way that Ms. Stillman lifts her embouchure and the end of accents (particularly at 3:55) removes much of the harshness of heavy lines written in unforgiving tessituras. Rather than employing the traditional down and inward postural movements to essentially “push” accents out of the texture, this up and outward motion gives clarity and grace to a sometimes cliché compositional device.

 

  1. SURVEY – PERFORMER PERCEPTIONS OF EFFECTIVE CONDUCTOR TRAITS – I am conducting a research survey regarding Performer Perceptions of Effective Conductor Traits.  This is a follow up survey to a study conducted by Ward Woodbury in 1955 when the dynamic, age range and gender profile of the typical American orchestra was vastly different from the make-up of today’s organizations. Survey Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YVFKHY3

 

  1. POP GOES THE WEASEL – How can we use bodily movements in conjunction with the above exercise to achieve tonal flexibility and balance between the registers?  By allowing our body stature to follow the line of the music by simply bending and straightening our knees, we find that lower notes will illicit a darker, richer vibrancy and notes in the higher register will be lighter, devoid of the clichéd brightness typical of this range.  This exercise, however, will make the performer look a bit like a jack in the box, springing up and down in accordance to the direction of the musical line.

 

  1. THE CLOCK EXERCISE – Each day I would select one low note and one high note and, beginning with the low note, stare at the analog clock counting the number of seconds I could sustain the sound using a single breath.  This became somewhat of a game.  Each day I would try to beat the number of seconds I was able to hold each note from the day before.  What I did not realize at the time was that I was, as the experts says, building breath capacity and increasing performance stamina.  I was teaching myself tricks to control the sound of the instrument, save air by playing softer dynamics and take long, effective breaths without nervous tension.

 

  1. SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE – Finally, egg shakers make it possible to practice note groupings away from the instrument.  By placing a small accent at the beginning of each note grouping, one  can develop a chunking plan first on the shakers before implementing into the music itself.

 

  1. JUST BREATHE – The breathing bag is a tool used by performers to strengthen physical performance capabilities, such as breath control and articulation, away from the instrument. This device presents a visual representation of the maximum amount of air available to each performer and reminds us that the act of moving air back and forth away from a given performance stimulus (whether that be a performance scenario or the confrontation of the instrument itself) is a relatively simple process.

 

  1. ON POSTURE – Sometimes I use stick figures to explain posture to beginning flute students.  Simple yet highly effective.  Improves sound, breathing and confidence. Sometimes I use stick figures to explain posture to beginning flute students.  Simple yet highly effective.  Improves sound, breathing and confidence.

 

Stick Figure Posture

  1. NEW YEAR’S FLUTE PLAYING RESOLUTIONS – Why not create a New Year’s Resolution List specifically tailored to playing the flute???  This is an excellent way to think critically about performance elements you would like to change, new techniques or styles you would like to learn, repertoire you would like to master, improvements you would like to make to your instrument and much more.  Separating these elements into multiple categories on a New Year’s Resolution list will help you to focus on next actions to take or exercises to practice that will bring you closer to achieving your flute playing goals.

 

  1. FLEX BREATHING – As the camera pans to Julius Baker (particularly around 1:45), we can see that Mr. Baker does not breathe vertically but instead flexes the sides of his mouth using a swift, yet silent “eeee” motion.  This not only enables the tongue to remain unchanged in relation to the proximity of the back of the teeth but also allows the performer to take in twice as much air from two horizontal spaces rather than one vertical space. https://youtu.be/ijLx7k-y6fs

 

  1. LISTEN UP – I have put together the following “listening assignment” for my flute students and have discovered that it has been highly effective in opening the dialog regarding what they hear, how it relates to what they are learning, what they would like to learn in the future, what styles they prefer and why and, most importantly, how they build an interpretation based what they hear.  This is active listening.

 

  1. OPERA WITHOUT WORDS – “Character” development can also be found in Mozart’s instrumental works where dynamics, rhythmic figures, changing styles, patterns of articulation and ornamentation serve to illustrate masculine (or dominant) and feminine (or non-dominant) qualities of the musical line. Mozart’s Concerti for Flute and Piano in D Major, G Major and the Concerto for Flute and Harp in C Major outline such character distinctions within the solo flute line using sharp staccato rhythms and forte dynamics to initiate strong, antecedent phrases (masculine) which are often followed by legato, melodic consequent replies ranging from mezzo piano to mezzo forte dynamics (feminine).

 

  1. FLUTE FAVORITES – BOOKS –  1.  Indirect Procedures; A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique by Pedro De Alcantara.  This is by far the best book I have come across dealing with the Alexander Technique, complete with sample exercises, graphics depicting proper use in musical and non-musical circumstances and a straight forward explanation regarding the history and theory behind the practice. If you suffer from performance anxiety and wish to change your approach to the stage, and let’s face it, life in general, this is a must read.

 

  1. FLUTE BLISTERS – The flute blister develops over time as we rest the flute against the side of our left index finger to create a pressure point for balance and control of the instrument. The more pressure we put on this area the larger and more painful the blister (ouch). The worse the blister, the worse the nightmares… How do we deal with this phenomenon when it is a natural consequence of playing the flute? Answer: adapt.

 

  1. I SOUND HORRIBLE!!!! – TOP 10 FLUTE TONE IMPROVEMENT TIPS – The space where your lips meet to form the opening for your air stream is referred to as the aperture. A larger aperture creates an airy tone that is quite difficult to control. Practice creating a smaller aperture by practicing long tones in mirror. Faster, more concentrated air will produce a stronger, clearer sound.

 

  1. CREATING AN EMPIRE – BUILDING (OR EXPANDING) A FLUTE STUDIO – Teaching Skype lessons is not only easy but also allows you to stay connected to former students all over the globe. These are also great for students that may find a post on your blog that they like and want some further instruction or development on the techniques mentioned on your page.

 

  1. FIRST LESSONS – NICE TO MEET YOU! LET’S LEARN HOW TO PLAY THE FLUTE – Often a beginner will have questions or will want to discuss goals or songs they would like to learn at this first lesson. Make sure to jot everything down in their notebooks so you can begin to research and assign music in subsequent lessons.

 

  1. WHO IN THE WORLD IS HENRI BUSSER? – LESSER KNOWN FRENCH FLUTE SCHOOL COMPOSERS – The works in this book are staples of flute repertoire and contain pieces by famous French Flute School composers such as Paul Taffanel, Gabriel Faure and Philippe Gaubert. There are also a few pieces by composers that are quite obscure. It is often very important to understand who the composer is in order to properly understand the underlying style of a piece and any hidden characteristic compositional traits buried within the texture.

 

  1. TALKIN’ ABOUT FLUTE – FLUTE TALK TIPS, PART I – “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

 

  1. BARNYARD DREAMING – DANSE DE LA CHEVRE BY ARTHUR HONEGGER – 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.

 

  1. PLAYING FROM MEMORY (IT’S NOT THAT SCARY!) – 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.

 

  1. MIND OVER MACHINE – MASTERING INTONATION – 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.

 

  1. WALKING THE PLANK – COPING WITH STAGE FRIGHT – 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.

 

  1. FLUTE SECTION COMMUNITIES – WHAT IS YOUR ROLE? Piccolo – If the flute section represented the characters in the Wizard of Oz. you would be the Lion as he sings “If I were King of the Forrrrrrest.” You are the King of the Forrest and you must have courage at all times. You will be heard above all of the instruments in the orchestra and while that seems terrifying it is also quite wonderful. Become comfortable projecting above the group.

 

  1. WHAT’S YOUR SIGN, WOLFGANG? – Aquarians gravitate towards unconventional ideas and prefer to work independently. I do not know about you but when I think of a “rebel” composer, the first name that pops into my mind is Mozart. Mozart did what he wanted and wrote what he wanted in the language he wanted. Classical music owes its most witty, large scale works to the Mozart opera buffa collection (Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, etc.) while his opera seria works embody Mozart’s rebellious nature (Don Giovanni is often considered as a rebellious reaction to his own father’s passing).

 

  1. CHUNKY MONKEY – There are no “rules” to how a passage should be chunked. You must use a bit of creativity and interpretation to decide where you hear the natural breaks in the music. A good starting point is to select certain notes that act as pick up notes to the downbeat.

 

  1. ABRACADABRA! 3RD OCTAVE TRICK FINGERINGS – There are many other trick fingerings that can be used to achieve different types of sounds in various musical scenarios, however the Rule of the 5th is a great starting place for those of you needing a few shortcuts in faster moving passages. Using these harmonic fingerings has helped me iron out exposed, fast moving passages in orchestral settings, allowing me to focus my sound on the more significant tones in the phrase.

 

  1. FLUTE MEME FRIDAY

images (20)

 

  1. FLUTER’S ARM – TENDONITIS 101 – Take a break. This should be the golden rule of flute playing. Do not practice more than 1 hour without taking a 15-minute break to stretch and relax. I know how easy it is to become fixated on a passage (one more time! I can nail it this time!) but it is not worth the pain or physical harm that will develop later.

 

  1. HAVING A PLAN – 2016 PLAYING RESOLUTIONS – The sky is the limit when it comes to compartmentalizing your long and short term objectives. The point, however, is to clarify exactly what you would like to achieve in each of these areas and construct bench-marks that can be measured in each 12 week segment to take you from where you are to where you want to be. Organizing your thoughts and thinking creatively about your action plans is not easy but it is vital in your development as a musician and a human being.

 

  1. SAY YES TO THE FLUTE – PURCHASING A NEW FLUTE – During the 7-day trial period, play each model in numerous performance scenarios (band, orchestra, chamber music groups, solo works). Check intonation – Are adjustments relatively easy? How does the flute play in the higher register? Is the sound predominantly on the bright side? The dark side? How does the flute feel after prolonged practice sessions? How clear is the sound? Ease of response? This will help narrow your choices down.

 

  1. THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT! TOP 5 BEST FREE MUSIC APPS – (re the Pro Metronome app) As a penniless graduate student, I saved up my TA checks to purchase a beautiful BOSS metronome with customizable subdivisions, beat sounds, visualizations and numerous time signature capabilities. A few months after my big purchase, my metronome was stolen from a practice room never to been seen again. Little did I know that years later, I could have these same features and many more on an iPhone app purchased for FREE. I love this app.

 

  1. IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME – ADVICE FOR COLLEGE MUSICIANS – College, however, is the perfect time to throw caution to the wind and apply, apply, apply, APPLY. Let a committee decide if your playing is “good enough.” A masterclass is a valuable opportunity to get some feedback on your playing from an expert and to practice new approaches to old problems you may have never thought possible.

 

  1. FLUTETUDE – TOP 5 FLUTE ETUDE COLLECTIONS – First of all, we need to accept that failure is an integral part of learning. Simply stated, failure teaches us what not to do. Etudes provide us with a proverbial mine field of potential failures that expose the cracks in our musical foundation yet encourage us to develop creative solutions to tackle similar problems now and in the future. Etudes are your teachers. Etudes make you think beyond what you already know. Etudes provide the struggle and the struggle is what makes music great.

 

  1. FINDING MOYSE – IBERT VS. BOZZA – Was this swirling figure somehow evocative of Moyse? Perhaps this was an exercise used at the Paris Conservatoire. Or maybe a commentary on the nature of a brooding performer who perhaps lets his thoughts bubble not once, not twice, but three times before he takes action (sounds like a Taurus…). It could also simply be a musical duplicate created by composers either trying to pay homage to each other’s work or trying to shoplift trademark compositional figures.

 

  1. AND THE WINNER IS… – AUDITION TIPS – I have experienced a number of what some musicians refer to as “11th hour auditions” where practicing was left until the very last minute. You do yourself an injustice whenever you perform an audition that is not truly representative of your best playing. Careful yet patient planning is the best way to create performances that will win over the harshest of critics and help you to become a better musician.

 

  1. HIGH REGISTER RX VLOG – (Video Blog) https://youtu.be/SmcKBMjfyas

 

  1. FLUTE FAVORITES: FLUTE SWAG – The Peak Music Stand is much lighter than a typical Massenet stand and folds up into a sleek carrying bag. Unlike metal music stands, this stand includes two smaller plastic pieces on the front of the stand to keep your music in place and can be adjusted in two different places to fit to the proper height (without the slowly falling motion that occurs when metal stands are past their expiration date). This stand looks professional, is easily transportable and extremely functional.

 

  1. GOOD VIBRATIONS – I like to tell my students that there is a major difference between Scared Chipmunk vibrato and Yo Yo Ma. Many students begin with a fast, tense vibrato because they are trying very hard to both create and hear their vibrato. Search for any recording on YouTube featuring Yo Yo Ma or, my personal favorite, Luciano Pavarotti, and listen to the ease with which they create their vibrato. There are no scared chipmunks on stage.

 

  1. SMART PRACTICE – All or nothing thinking creates blockages within progress. Guess what? You do not have to practice all the music you have on your plate every day. I know what you are thinking – Blasphemy! Feeling or thinking you need to work on everything every time you open your flute case to practice will lead to burnout and you may start finding creative ways to procrastinate your overwhelming practice sessions.

 

  1. MAGIC SHOULDER EXERCISE – (Video Blog) https://youtu.be/p9-7RjQAfo0

 

  1. SPRING FLUTING – YOUTUBE MASTERCLASS – Masterclasses are very popular during the summer months but in Spring they are generally hosted by regional flute clubs or universities. If you are not in a position to attend a masterclass due to location or cost, you can still audit a masterclass of your own creation through the magic of the internet. There are a number of videos on YouTube from masterclasses hosted by extraordinary professional flutists near and far covering a wide range of pieces and techniques.

 

  1. THE MARK OF THE FLUTIST – Fluter’s Chin happens to thousands of us. Prevention and preparation are key to tackling the reaction between your chin and the metal of your lip plate. Do not be embarrassed. The dark mark left after a rehearsal is a type of badge indicating that you have been creating music. That is something to proud of!

 

  1. WHAT IS SMARTMUSIC? – Finally, my favorite part of this program is that it will make a recording of each take for you to review and transfer into an mp3 recording. With the right microphone and speaker levels, this will program will produce a recording comparable to a zoom recorder and can be used for various prerecorded auditions and competitions.

 

  1. SURVIVING UNSUCCESSFUL PERFORMANCES – Okay, so you had a bad performance. What’s next? After a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or much needed retail therapy, take a moment to regroup. Remember that bad performances happen to every musician from the novice to the experienced professional and even legendary performers. You are not alone.

 

  1. RELOCATING YOUR STUDIO – (My Flute Talk article!) https://racheltaylorgeier.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/relocating-your-studio-by-rachel-taylor-geier-flute-talk-january-2016.pdf

 

  1. TRILL, BABY, TRILL – THE C# TRILL KEY – Pianissimo high Ab: Play middle Ab with ALL the left hand keys depressed, add the C# trill and the high Ab will appear softly, and in tune. Finally the answer to our prayers! How many trick fingerings have we used to contain that terrifyingly beautiful opening high G# in Daphnis et Chloe? I can count at least 3 but none have worked quite as well as the C# trill key. I have been eliminated from auditions in the past over the color and clarity of that single note without realizing that the solution to my problems was under my fingers the whole time.

 

  1. A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR – ENCOURAGING YOUNG STUDENTS TO PRACTICE – Part of the reason that practice time may vary each day of the week is that students do not know exactly what to invest their energy learning besides “learn all of the notes.” Set weekly priorities and help your students devise performance wish lists. What is it that they want to learn about the flute? What do they want to learn to play? What techniques are they most interested in learning about this instrument? Create single weekly goals based on these objectives.

 

  1. A PICTURE PAINTS A THOUSAND WORDS – Frederick the Great, known as a flutist and composer, is depicted here performing a flute concert on the occasion of a visit from his sister, the Margavine of Bayreuth. What is most notable in this scene is the very high placement of the music stand, preventing the King from making eye contact with the ensemble (I know a few band directors that would have a huge problem with this stand placement but I guess when you are the King you can basically do whatever you want. Please nobody give Donald Trump a flute…..).

 

  1. TRICKS FOR PICCS – I often think that the most difficult thing about playing the piccolo is mustering the courage to belt out your parts no matter what your inner critic tells you. Blending into the background is simply not an option on this little instrument therefore good, bad or ugly – you will be heard. The first step is acceptance. The second hardest part about playing the piccolo is understanding that some of our good old flute fingerings translate very differently on the piccolo and we must develop new ways to adapt to different problems.

 

  1. WOODSHEDDING – BACK TO BASICS – If your music is written in never ending 16th notes, practice the passage instead in triplets. If the music is written in sextuplets (like the ones in the Chaminade), practice the passage instead in 16th notes. Change complicated triplets into 8th notes. Your ear will be uncomfortable but your fingers will be easier to control when you remove the terrifying rhythmic stimulus. When you change the rhythm you are simply isolating the note patterns away from the written rhythm, learning the phrase one step at a time.

 

  1. THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN’ – 1670 – Jean Hotteterre makes adjustments to the flute by sectioning the instrument into three pieces (the headjoint, middle joint and foot joint). Hotteterre also gave the flute a conical bore (the foot joint was smallest in diameter), reduced the size of the standard six finger holes, and added an Eb key (the first key developed for the instrument).

 

  1. GET WITH THE PROGRAM – A Single Composer recital program is a nice compliment to an article, dissertation, book or other large scale writing project that you have completed or are in the process of completing as you are quite literally bringing your studies to the stage. Bonus points if you have a tech savvy friend who can conjure up a hologram of your composer for your recital! For us low tech musicians, a projection or slide show of portraits of the composer may also be a good addition to your program and visual treat for your audience.

 

  1. FLUTE FAQ’s – Is it “flutist” or “flautist”? If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I could retire in Hawaii. I used to answer this question by saying, “Whichever you prefer. I will still play the flute either way!” until I found the below video in which Jean Pierre Rampal explains that the correct term is flutist because we play the flute, not the flaut. I absolutely agree and often refer people to this video whenever the question arises. Leave it to the French to give us all a dose of brilliant honesty.

 

  1. NOSE TO THE GRINDSTONE – I think we can use the nostril theory to monitor what our body is trying to tell us about our mind and focus our energies on the musical activities that will engage the corresponding hemisphere of the brain. For example, if you are struggling to keep a steady beat or consistent rhythm, try concentrating your breathing through your right nostril for 10-12 inhales to engage the logical left side of the brain. If you are working on a cadenza or an expressive solo work and struggling to find the correct inspiration, inhale through the left nostril for a few breaths and continue.

 

  1. LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT – If you are anything like me, the first thing to go out the window under the stress of performance is breathing. Forgetting to breathe is detrimental to sight reading.  Taking a breath in an inappropriate place costs precious time and interrupts the flow of the beat. Quickly identify obvious places to breathe in your passage and take large enough breaths to last you longer than you anticipate. Be prepared for your breathing to weaken under pressure and use the moments before your performance to come up with a basic game plan.

 

  1. FRIENDLY COMPETITION – Learn from every part that crosses your music stand. Identify why you were given the part you were given. Is there a particular strength that your part showcases? Emphasize this during rehearsals and performances. Listen to the stronger players and identify their strengths. Again, identify what you find inspiring about their playing and incorporate that into your own. Help out the weaker players as well. Everybody can learn from everybody.

 

  1. I’LL PENCIL YOU IN! – Begin structuring your schedule with your sanity and health in mind to maintain that proper “work/life” balance that the motivational speakers at faculty and staff workshops are always yammering about. Having this balance in your life helps you to strengthen the areas that matter the most while avoiding stress and eventual burnout. You will also end up being less of a zombie around your family after hours!

 

  1. CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE FLUTE PLAYER’S SOUL – If you play a musical instrument you are by definition a musician. You do not need to wait until you earn an opportunity to perform with the New York Philharmonic to take ownership of your craft. Own your musical identity every time you pick up your instrument.

 

  1. SECOND FIDDLE – Despite what you may think, playing 2nd part does not mean you get to sit back with your feet up, sipping Starbucks, occasionally playing a few unimportant notes, and watching innocently as the players around you sweat out the score. You will occasionally be the soloist. That low G natural at the end of the movement may just be you and a few lower strings. Be ready! Smetana, Dvorak, and Ravel are notorious for including soloistic writing for the 2nd flute part and they are not alone. Be prepared to transform momentarily into a soloist without much warning. Play out! Enjoy your rock star moments. Shine.

 

  1. 101 TIPS AND TIDBITS FOR THE ASPIRING CLASSICAL MUSICIAN – I am very pleased to unveil my mini-book, 101 Tips and Tidbits for the Aspiring Classical Musician! Available now on Amazon for the very low/reasonable price of $0.99 USD. Based on my Twitter series, Dr. G’s Daily Flute Tips, this mini-book offers 101 inspirational ideas and short, easy suggestions to spark new creativity into your musical practices. Enjoy! Check it out here:  http://amzn.to/2duTrlF

 

  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – HUE FANTASIE – Sing through the melodies. No, I mean it. Literally. Sing. Through. The. Melodies. I was horrified the first time my flute teacher asked me to do this during a lesson and even more so when he asked me to sing in front of my peers, but the payoff was well worth the fleeting embarrassment. There is so much extra “stuff” in this piece (from the cascading scales to crisply articulated passages) that it is quite refreshing when the music features a beautiful melody. I often joke that this piece has multiple personalities!

 

  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – POULENC SONATA – Duck Lips – No, I am not talking about taking a flute selfie while you pay the 2nd movement (although if you must, I invite all duck face selfies to my blog). Playing in the high register requires a very strong embouchure that directs a smaller, more pressurized air stream out and downward to prevent sharpness (okay, I mean, MORE sharpness to an already sharp register). When you bring your lips slightly out, forward, and down, you produce exactly this type of embouchure and create the dreaded duck face.  Don’t be hatin’ the duck face!

 

  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – BACH SONATA NO. 4 – Using rubato as our musical taffy puller, begin each slurred grouping at tempo, slowing the tempo slightly in the center of the slur, and gradually returning to the starting tempo by the end of the slur. Not every slur needs to follow this pattern so you may pick and choose which taffies you will stretch and which will simply serve as pick up figures to the next taffy grouping.

 

  1. PERCEPTUAL FILTERS: THE 7 LEARNING STYLES – Guess where you may find musicians falling under the solitary learner umbrella? That’s right! Logging countless hours in the practice room. The practice room is a sanctuary for these musicians. They must learn to learn from themselves and apply lessons to their own understanding of the world. It is important that solitary learners have very specific homework assignments that push them to challenge themselves. As long as the task is something that speaks to their souls (music, for example) they will always surpass expectations.

 

  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – SERENADE BY HOWARD HANSON – I find in my old age that I need a few cups of coffee and a Red Bull to perform this piece with the same vigor and energy that I had at 18. Hanson demands intensity and persistence. Anything less and this piece plays like a Taffanel and Gaubert style concerto of scale exercises (*yawn*). To quote Kid President, “Anyone can be boring, but you’re gooder than that.” The sparkle in this work can be found in moments of melodic simplicity (they do exist!). Contrast these sections with the volcanic scale explosions found in climactic phrases using variations in vibrato speed and tone color to give this piece the extra bit of drama it deserves.

 

  1. FLUTE MEME FRIDAY (PART II)

meme-3

 

  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – GRIFFES POEM – The connection to poetry and storytelling in this work is what makes the Griffes Poem unique and not just another pretty-sounding piece. It is as if Griffes gave us the emotional interpretation of his poem without the words. Find the words! Find the story buried within the music and the piece will sing on its own. Keep this in mind as you chisel away at the various technical and musical challenges.

 

  1. FLUTE ON A BUDGET – The World Wide Web is truly an amazing resource! For a fun exercise, simply google the word “flute.” You will be inundated with resources, videos, blogs, newsletters, tips, tricks, instruments, etc. Everything you ever wanted to know about the flute can be found on the web. Start researching! Make a list of your most important and useful links and find something new to try in your flute study on each site.

 

  1. ADVOCACY – KEEPING MUSIC ALIVE – Support your local symphony. Attend a concert. Donate to the organization. Meet the musicians and attend the conductor’s pre-concert talk. Take your kids to a children’s concert or a summer concert in the park. The key to keeping classical music alive is making it part of your lives, and sustaining the future of classical music is reliant on making music meaningful to future generations.

 

  1. DO-IT-YOURSELF SAMPLE RECORDING TIPS – Record solo works in a complimentary acoustic environment. Okay, this is going to sound very odd, but some of my best recordings of solo works have been made with a Zoom recorder in a bathroom. I find that this environment gives my sound enough reverb without distorting the center and quality of the sound. Other spaces to experiment with include obvious culprits such as recital halls and churches, but also backstage greenrooms, dining room spaces, and any other indoor space with high ceilings and hardwood floors. Avoid outdoor spaces that minimize projection of sound and carpeted practice rooms.

 

  1. DOS AND DON’TS OF DEEP PRACTICE – To create a stronger performance, or learn new skills, we must give ourselves permission to make mistakes and learn from our errors. Do not be afraid to confront your practice demons! Deep practice forces us to slow down and, as Coyle states, “operate at the edge of your ability.” (pg. 26) This is essentially the biggest difference between effective and ineffective practice.

 

  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – DOPPLER’S FRANTAISIE PASTORALE HONGROISE – Whenever I hear this piece, I immediately envision a circus. The melancholy yet mysterious opening sets the stage upon a quiet village awaiting the arrival and set up of the tents (spinning scales even suggest wind lightly blowing against polyester fabric). The following Andantino Moderato cuts to the tightrope walker who nearly falls to an untimely death in the proceeding cadenza. The Allegro at measure 120 ushers in the lions who perform spectacular tricks including jumping through increasingly magnificent hoops of fire. The jugglers interrupt at the Moderato where the line is quite literally broken into two separate voice followed by short scales moving up, then down, then back up again, mimicking objects being tossed through the air. The concluding Allegro is the grand curtain call signaling the end of the performance (perhaps fireworks? But…we don’t want to scare those lions). This work demands creative interpretation.

 

  1. FLUTE SWAG – FLUTE BAGS – (re: Fluterscooter Case Covers) What makes these bags so unique is that they are the most stylish bags on the market. There is a color and style to fit just about any performer. Every musician backstage has a boring, industry approved, black nylon carrying case. Sturdy, does the job, but nothing to write home about. Fluterscooter bags add a splash a color to a bleak backstage while remaining supportive and functional. We are creative artists, aren’t we? Shouldn’t our cases express our individuality? Uhm, yes.

 

  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – MUCZYNSKI’S SONATA FOR FLUTE AND PIANO – Count, then count, then count some more and count differently from what you know to be “correct.” But don’t let me scare you! Once the counting is under control, there are moments of grace and vitality that make the piece introspective at times and exciting at others. I often joke with students and colleagues that the Muczynski Sonata for Flute and Piano must have been written for or about a person falling under the Scorpio astrological sign due to the juxtaposition of extremes and “stinging” surprises (and syncopation that, at times, recalls the creepy scurrying of an insect such as a scorpion or spider).

 

  1. 75 INSPIRATIONAL COMPOSER QUOTES – 42. Alban Berg: “Music is at once the product of feeling and knowledge, for it requires from its disciples, composers and performers alike, not only talent and enthusiasm, but also that knowledge and perception which are the result of protracted study and reflection.”

 

  1. PERFECTIONISM – Highlight the good (or “Good Enough”). Make a list of your best performance qualities, best music making exercises, and the best groups, performers, and conductors you have worked with in the past. Refer to this list frequently. You are a much better musician than you may realize and your experiences will give you insights into who you truly are as a musician.

 

  1. MARIO VS. FLUTE – ON HAND-EYE COORDINATION – Remember the good, old, days when you played catch with your dad in the back yard? Did you know that by doing so, you were actually improving your hand-eye coordination and developing important skills that you would use later in life? Like the ball vs. wall exercise, simply playing catch trains your eyes to anticipate the ball and quickly react (much like when you read a score and react to the notes on the page). Recruit your family and go play a game of catch!

 

  1. DEAR DIARY – Keep a record of performances you attend and record what worked and what did not work. Use what worked in your daily practice and try to reinvent what didn’t work into something new. The whole point is to reflect on your observations and experiences to both troubleshoot and dream of new ideas that nobody has ever tried before. Write it down. Test it out. And dream big.

 

  1. DIGS FOR GIGS – Musicalchairs.info.  I have stalked this website for well over a decade (I know….#sad). This is one of the best places on the internet to search for audition notices from professional orchestras. I used this website in my college years to research exactly which excerpts I would need to prepare to have a shot at any future orchestral positions. I printed out the audition lists, obtained copies of all listed excerpts, saved these copies in a 3-ring binder, and performed mock auditions for my cat (again, #sad). This was actually very good preparation for real auditions down the road.

 

  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – CARMEN FANTASIE – After watching a performance of the opera, sing the arias in your head as you play the melodies in the score. If the words are difficult for you to understand due to language barriers, make up your own! If there are no words present in the original score (for example, the opening melody is an instrumental theme from the opera), make up words to fit the mood of the excerpt. Be creative! You are the prima donna now.

 

  1. MUSIC AND THE MIND – Music on the Brain – Like some of the videos we have examined thus far, this video discusses the effects of music on memories, particularly those of Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Music is considered a “side door” to the brain, connecting people to buried memories. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, music helps to alive agitation and encourages relaxation and calmness using personalize playlists.

 

  1. MAKING THE RULES – STUDIO POLICIES – In a nutshell, a 24-hour canceled lesson policy states that if a student does not inform the instructor of their absence 24-hours prior to their lesson time, they will be charged for the cancelled lesson. Having a strict 24-hour notice policy for canceled lessons prevents unexpected gaps in your teaching schedule, ensuring that your practice runs smoothly and students do not take advantage of your time.

 

  1. 100TH BLOG!!! (Index of all 99 previous blogs!)

 

Happy fluting!

 

 

 

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