Month: August 2018

Flute Meme Friday Part IV

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday! To celebrate the Labor Day weekend (aka unofficial last weekend of the summer season), I thought today would be a good time for another installment of Flute Meme Friday. 10 more flute memes posted below!

Enjoy, have fun, laugh a little, and leave the marathon practice sessions for next week.

Happy fluting!

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Flute Polls

Greetings and welcome to a much belated Flute Friday/Monday. Sorry everybody – It is still very much summer in my neck of the woods and my weekends are typically full of wonderful, yet distracting, vacay adventures. My head is often in the clouds on my days off…

Today I thought we would have a little fun! I have created a series of super easy-breezy flute polls below for all of us to compare notes on our flute playing experiences. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions as most of the answers are simply based on preferences. Have fun with this one and if you would like to elaborate on any of your answers, please comment below! All flute discussions and friendly debates are welcome. 🙂

Have fun and happy fluting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does this thing Really Work?! Flute Products Review

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Sunday.

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Thank you to all of you who attended the Professional Flute Choir performance at the National Flute Association Convention last Sunday in Orlando, Florida. It was a true honor to perform with this group and I hope to rejoin them next year in Salt Lake City! Major thanks to conductor John Bailey for his incredible leadership and to Shauna Thompson for coordinating the PFC from A to Z. You guys rock!

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Between PFC rehearsals (when I wasn’t touring literally all of the Orlando-based theme parks with my hubs), I spent some quality time in the Exhibit Hall both drooling over the Burkhart model flute that will one day be mine (to quote Wayne from Wayne’s World, “Oh yes, it will be mine”) and exploring several new, beautiful, crazy, and interesting flute products. In today’s flute blog, I will be reviewing some of my favorite new things in a “does this thing really work?” style post (inspired by the YouTube series popularized by Grav3yardGirl).  There are some great flute accessories out there! If you are in need of some major retail therapy (thanks Mercury retrograde..), I hope one of the products below speaks to your needs. Happy shopping!

Products - Thumbport

Solexa’s Thumbport II Right Thumb – I love this little gadget! I have had issues in the past with my right thumb (specifically balancing my flute more on the tip than the pad, sometimes leading to numbness after a long practice session (uhm, not good)). The Thumbport II gives my thumb a really sturdy and comfortable place to rest and feels like a wonderful tennis shoe for my thumb (they should call it ThumbShoe!). I must confess that I initially looked at this product because I saw someone using a pink Thumbport I and thought it was a super cute accessory for my flute (aka superficial motivation). When I tried out both the Thumbport I and Thumbport II, I found the Thumbport II much more comfortable than the beautiful pink Thumbport I. For me, comfort/function trumps beauty. This is a wonderful product if you have issues with the placement or balance of your right thumb. It simply clips onto your flute and can be removed easily any time you want. Nothing permanent and no glue or sticky backing whatsoever. Much more comfortable than the harder plastic models from other brands. I highly recommend.

Find it here: https://www.flute4u.com/store/Solexa-Thumbport-II-Flute.html

Products - Cloth

Beaumont Polishing Cloth – This was another purchase motivated by superficial intentions. These clothes are absolutely beautiful and come in a variety of colors and styles. The one I purchased matches my Spring Lilac Fluterscooter bag quite well, so I decided to splurge, not 100% confident that the microfiber material would compare to the Williams polishing cloth that I have been using for the past several years. I was pleasantly surprised that the Beaumont cloth performed much better than my old cloth with less effort. This is a sturdy yet soft piece of fabric that nixes fingerprints in a hot minute. There is a style for literally everyone (no more boring, light blue polishing cloths that smell like chemicals – ick). They are a bit bigger than your standard polishing cloth but easily fit into the outer case of an insulated flute bag. I am a huge fan and love that flute accessories such as cloths and bags are finally getting a chic upgrade.

Find it here: https://www.fluteworld.com/Beaumont-Microfibre-Pink-Lg–CC-BMPinkLg-.html?t=0

Products - Flute Stamp

Large Fingering Stamp by Lyricraft.com – I screamed when I saw this product (okay, not literally – just in my head). I cannot tell you how many times I have drawn clumsy hieroglyphics in my student’s notebooks to illustrate fingerings (standard, trick, trill, etc.), wishing that there was an easier, and clearer, way to record flute fingerings. This is the answer to my prayers. A simple stamp and a few colors in the dots and boom! Done. You can also put a few stamps on post-it notes for yourself if you want record alternative options for fingerings in the high register to control pitch (no stamping on original scores – post-its are not permanent). The staff next to the flute fingering makes it easy to notate the pitch (students who are visual learners will resonate with this feature). I love this device and know that I will get a lot of use out of it. Maybe even on this very blog!

Find similar stamps here: https://www.fluteworld.com/Trodat-Musical-Staff-Fingering-Combination-Stamp—Large–TA-MSFS-.html?t=0&s=fingering+stamp&searchtype=0&pdfonly=0

Products - Pad Dryer

BG 1 Piece Pad Dryer – Save the planet! Okay, okay, okay – I know how satisfying it is to clean your pads with cigarette or pad cleaning paper. The sound the paper makes when you pull it away from the pad is a wonderful, John Cagey moment that only other woodwind players truly understand. But constantly repurchasing these papers is costly and damaging to the planet. This reusable and washable device is a much more environmentally friendly way to remove condensation. I am not going to lie – It feels a little flimsy and you may be quite skeptical, but it works quiet well and is a bit gentler on pads than paper. Storage is an issue as this little piece of fabric can easily fall out of a flute case or get lost amongst other accessories. I suggest keeping the small plastic bag that it comes in for storage, so you can easily find it amongst your other flute swag. This is a great economical and environmentally sound product.

Find it here: https://www.flute4u.com/store/BG-Pad-Dryer-1-Piece.html

 

Win-D-Fendor – This is by far the most interesting and innovative product I found in the exhibit hall! The Win-D-Fendor is a device that attaches to your headjoint, cupping the flute around the tone hole, and blocks outside air from reaching your air stream. This improves sound projection tenfold and is particularly useful for outdoor concerts (or practice session), marching band, or extremely airconditioned performance spaces. Caitlin from Carolyn Nussbaum was kind enough to perform a demonstration of this product and the results were astounding. I would have loved to have one of these when I was practicing outdoors on my parents’ tree farm as a child! I will be recommending this product to all of my students who participate in school ensembles and marching bands. This a genius device! (Thanks Caitlin!)

Find it here: https://www.flute4u.com/store/Win-D-Fender.html

Products - No Sweat

No Sweat! – I was initially very skeptical of this product. Will it be like putting spray deodorant all over my hands? Eww. Sounds nasty! I was pleasantly surprised when I spritzed a few pumps on my palms. It does, in fact, neutralize clamy hands! The product leaves a slight film but nothing extreme and removes easily with a bit of soap and water. For those of us suffering from performance anxiety, or those living in extremely humid areas of the country, No Sweat! is your best friend! Of course, it was sold out before I could grab a bottle for my own collection, but I will absolutely be purchasing this to help me out in the greenroom before my next recital.

Find it here: http://www.flute4u.com/store/search.php?mode=search&page=1

 

What interesting and inventive products did you pick up at this year’s convention? Did you try any of the products listed above? How have they worked for you? Do you have your own recommendations? Please comment below!

 

Happy Fluting!

Tips for the Pit

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday.

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I used to love opera season as an undergraduate student. This was always a wonderful opportunity to be part of something bigger than a typical orchestra concert without the pressures of performing on the stage. The pit is a very different place and perhaps somewhat intimidating for newcomers. Communication is of the utmost importance, not just between the musicians and the conductor, but between the conductor and the vocalists, and between the vocalists and the entire tech crew. In today’s blog, I will discuss some of my best tips for performing in the pit. Remember to remain flexible and do your best to enjoy the show.

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TIPS FOR THE PIT

  1. Have all of your equipment with you in an easily accessible place. This includes instrument stands, pad blotting paper or cigarette paper (very important – I cannot tell you how many times I’ve used my music to wipe off condensation from my pads in a pit-related emergency), a set of tiny screwdrivers (you can pick these up from the dollar store), ear plugs, pencils, and small bottles of water. You likely will not have a lot of space to store these things so try to bring a small bag that can be draped over the back of your chair for essentials. I really like to use a simple drawstring backpack for this purpose.
  2. Be prepared for some less-than-ideal lighting. It is called “the pit” for a reason. The pit is literally a cave below the stage where the stage lights do not roam. Most music stands in the pit will be equipped with a standard metal stand light, but this does not guarantee proper lighting for all of your music, particularly if you are reading from an oversized score. I always try to pack my own portable, clip-on stand light for extra lighting that will not distract the other musicians around me. Purchase one ahead of time from Flute World or Amazon: (LEPOWER Music Stand Light/Book Reading Light/USB and Battery Operated/Clip on and Portable Lights for Piano, Travel, E-reader & Bed Headboard (Dual Arms)).
  3. Stick to your conductor like glue. The conductor has quite a difficult job in the pit because they must lead both the orchestra and the vocalists on stage, neither of whom can see one another. The conductor is the single point of communication for all tempos, cues, dynamics, and so much more. Keep your eyes glued on them. Remember that tempos established in rehearsal may or may not be the same at the performance (vocalist sometimes get nervous and rush). Be as flexible with tempo as you can and play whatever your conductor indicates.
  4. Count your measures of rest – even if you have a lot of them. I know it is much easier to doze off and wait for an important cue to wake you up from your mid-performance nap, but I very much advise against this. I experienced this once during my junior year when most of our orchestra missed the beginning of an important number because we naively placed our faith in a single trumpet cue that was missed at the performance, creating a snowball of other missed cues. We had nobody to blame but ourselves for not counting our measures.
  5. Always have a pencil on your stand – even at performances. Operas and musicals often run for multiple performances. Make sure you are ready to write down all of the weird things that happen during the first performance to prepare for the second. Record everything (cues, words, time signatures, key signatures, tempo changes, lighting changes, etc.).
  6. Write in lyric cues. If you play right after a recitative or if there are acting breaks between numbers, write in the last word or sentence spoke or sung before your entrance. Sometimes the conductor must react quickly to what is happening on stage and you will have a much easier time if you have multiple cues at your disposal.
  7. Know and anticipate the beat patterns the conductor will be using when the time signature changes. If a 6/8 will be conducted in 6 for the duration of an aria, make sure to indicate this in your music as a reminder. These indications are particularly important for numbers written in cut time and waltz tempi. It is difficult to remember all of the style changes that occur throughout an opera or a musical. A visual cue is very helpful for quick changes.
  8. Wear comfortable concert dress. Dress professionally (concert black, aka no tennis shoes), but avoid tight or voluminous clothing in the pit. You will be sitting for quite a while so it is important to be comfortable. There is also not a lot of extra space in the pit, so leave the ball gowns, top hats, and poofy skirts at home.
  9. Plan your page turns carefully. The show is not going to stop for you to turn a page. Make sure to map out any complicated page turns ahead of time. Copy your music as needed and tape page turns to one another to avoid any hiccups.
  10. Be prepared for anything. I was once asked to dress up and play the opening piccolo solo in Sour Angelica on stage in a kabuki mask (see picture below). On another occasion, I had a ringside seat when a broken plate prop was accidentally hurled at the conductor from the stage during a performance. Literally anything can happen. Be as flexible as possible and remember, in the immortal words of Freddie Mercury, that the show must go on.

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Have you participated in a pit orchestra? What were some of your challenges? What techniques did you use to make your musical environment work best for you? What stories do you have from your time in the pit? Please comment below.

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Happy fluting!