Month: January 2022

As Light as Air – Articulation Exercise Recommendations

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday! As we reach the final days of January, the momentum we had at the beginning of the month to tackle that list of New Year’s Resolutions normally dwindles (especially if we set goals that are a bit too lofty on unreasonable timelines). This is a great time to reevaluate and seek out new, better resources to reach our goals. Was working on articulation on your list of flute resolutions this year? If so, today’s blog is for you! In today’s post I will be discussing some of my favorite exercises to practice lightening and simplifying articulation. The first part of this list includes my recommended never-fail, gold standard exercises. This is followed by a list of exercises that can be used to diversify your articulation practice or focus on specialized articulation challenges. You may choose any combination of articulations to use for many of these exercises, but a good place to start is by practicing your toos, coos, and too-coos. For more ideas on articulations to practice and some of their suggested uses, please see my blog “You Say Potato, I Say Potatho” https://racheltaylorgeier.org/2014/02/28/you-say-potato-i-say-potahto/.

Articulation Exercises – The Gold Standards

These are my very favorite, no fail exercises. Memorize them! Mix and match during your typical daily warm-up and you will see your articulation improve tenfold in record time.

1.  Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17 Daily Exercises, Exercise #4. Are you sick of me recommending this exercise on my platform yet? We all know and love this one, am I right? I’ve been practicing this exercise for decades and it is forever burned into my brain. Exercise #4 is great because it functions as a basic canvas to try any combination of articulations. The basic articulations to use on this exercise are toos, coos, and too-coo (I recommend alternating your articulation on key changes). I really prefer practicing my coo’s on this exercise to strengthen the back of the tongue. Another great idea is to practice one of the MANY scale games devised specifically for this exercise. Please see my blog “Scale Games – Are they Really “Fun”?” for a listing of available scale games or devise your own, practicing a new articulation each day https://racheltaylorgeier.org/2013/05/28/scale-games-are-they-really-fun/.

2. Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Felix Mendelssohn, Scherzo Excerpt (Found in Orchestral Excerpts for Flute by Jeanne Baxtresser). This is a very standard orchestral excerpt requested at most orchestra auditions. The challenge of this short segment is to keep your articulation super light while taking breaths at appropriate places that do not interfere with the momentum of the line. My favorite way to practice this excerpt is using “chirps” or articulation-less puffs of air. This is great for working on projection using only your air. Switch back to double-tonguing after playing once on chirps and you will notice a world of difference.

3. Sonata No. 4 in C Major, II. Allegro by J.S. Bach. This is also another great one to memorize! I use this movement to practice various approaches to double tonguing. Some of my favorite syllables to use on this exercise are uka-tuka (which helps develop the back of the tongue) and duk-ky (which I learned from Keith Underwood back in the day as a way to keep articulation crisp and light).

4. Trevor Wye Practice Book of the Flute, Articulation. Articulation II (Page 10). Although the instructions in this section indicate to single tongue all of the mini exercises, you may mix it up with a combination of articulations to fit the line. What I like the most about this particular exercise is that the emphasis changes on Page 14 from duplets to triplets, allowing you to fine tune your single, double, and triple tonguing all with the same basic melodic outline.

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Articulation Exercises – Various Approaches

The next set of exercises are taken from various other exercise books and can be used to address specific issues in articulation or function as an interesting melodic canvas to practice your favorite articulations. Be creative with these etudes! Try out all of the articulations listed on my blog “You Say Potato, I Say Potatho” https://racheltaylorgeier.org/2014/02/28/you-say-potato-i-say-potahto/ or any others that you come across in masterclasses or your own flute lessons.

1.  Karg-Elert, 30 Studies, Opus 107. Exercise #24. is a great exercise to practice alternating quickly between double and triple tongued patterns. Pick your favorite or experiment with new syllables. The name of the game in this etude is to remain flexible, keep your eyes moving forward, and plan ahead (mark all duples and triples in your score).

2.   Koehler, Eight Studies, Opus 33. Exercise #5. This etude is perfect for practicing embouchure flexibility while refining your articulation. Essentially patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time #work. There are huge jumps from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high. Remember to move your lips slightly forward for the high notes and back for the low. This is a great challenge for any double-tongued articulation. I also recommend practicing some of your coos on this exercise for an added challenge to strengthen the back of your tongue.

3.  Koehler, 12 Studies, Opus 33. Exercise #7. Get ready to practice those triple-tongued syllables! This exercise demands light articulation but also a flexible plan as slurs interrupt many of the patterns in unexpected ways. Indicate in your score where you will use double tonguing and where you will use triple tonguing. The octave jumps are not as wide as in the previous example, but many will still require some embouchure flexibility. And finally, do not forget about accents and tenuto marks. This etude requires juggling many techniques at once. Happy juggling!

4.  Moyse, Grouping of Keys (Op. 125) by Furstenau. Exercise #16. This is the perfect exercise to practice your triple tongued patterns. Triples dominate two pages of varying articulations amongst complicated accidentals and key changes. Remember to circle those accents and hit them hard with a “Too.” Like the Mendelssohn, this is an excellent etude to practice your “chirps”. Quite a workout!

5. J. Donjon, Pasquinade (Etude en MI Majeur), No. 6. (Found in The Modern Flutist, Southern Music Company). This etude is great for practicing your various double-tongued passages! Not only does it feature various accidental changes but it also includes quick 16th note trills and requires a bit of embouchure flexibility (particularly in the final measures). Again, musical multi-tasking! Take this etude slowly at first to master the accidentals. Then add the trills. I recommend using a duk-ky syllable combination to keep your articulation as light as air.

6.  Boehm, 24 Melodious Studies for Flute. Exercise #19. This is a great canvas to practice all of your most favorite double-tongued passages as quickly as possible. Word of warning – the accidentals are a bit complicated. You may want to begin by slowing the tempo waaay down and practicing a few variations on single tongued syllables to both learn the notes and refine your single tongue technique. I recommend experimenting with a “tut” articulation, which will set the tongue in a proper place for each subsequent note. When you are comfortable with the notes and articulation, switch to a double tongue syllable combination. This is a great exercise to refine your uka-tukas or to try out one of the more complicated multiple articulations such as ta-ka-da-ga-ra-ga-ya-ga (challenge accepted!).

7.  Cavally, Melodious and Progressive Studies. Exercise #9. This is another great exercise to practice your various triple tongued syllables. Be very careful, however. There are certain groupings that work better as duples rather than triples (the opening measure is a good example). I suggest practicing a du-gu-du (or du-gu for duples) articulation on this etude as the tempo is a bit relaxed. Try connecting each note to the next for a fluid type of articulation.

8. Andersen, Twenty-Four Progressive Studies for Flute, Opus 33. Exercise #11. Another great exercise for your triple tonguing! This one moves fairly quickly and requires a very light articulation. I am reminded of the Mendelssohn in this etude. I recommend practicing your “chirps” or uka-tukas on this one. The wrench in the mix this time, however, are the grace notes. Remember to also keep these light and swift and avoid lingering so long that you rush the subsequent articulations.

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What are your favorite articulation exercises? Do you have your own Gold Standard exercises that you practice every day? What is your go-to syllables to practice single, double, and triple tongued passages? Are there any exercises not listed here that you would also recommend? Please comment below!

Happy Fluting!

Moyse’s Astrological Chart

Welcome to another Flute Friday!  

https://unsplash.com/photos/E0AHdsENmDg

This week is a little different than last…My name is Aleah! Thank you for featuring me as a guest on your site, Dr. Geier! Before we get started, keep in mind that this article is for entertainment purposes only. Astrology is a great way to have fun and help understand the things around us- but it’s important not to take it too seriously. Now, onward! 

“flautista i compositor” Photo owned by: Cccrrriiissst

Moyse was born on May 17th, 1889 in Saint-Amour, France. His mother was unwed, and she had run away to this small and quiet town in order to give birth to him. She passed away only a week after he was born, so he was adopted by a widow named Josephine Perretier, and raised alongside her two daughters. (Marlboromusic.org/archives).

Moyse grew up around a plethora of choir, reed organ, and flute music. He eventually studied under the tutelage of both Gaubert and Taffanel. He also studied at the Paris Conservatory. He is known for being a soloist and principal flute of several Paris orchestras- as well as a fantastic teacher. He said he taught his students to play the music- Not the flute. The way he crafted melodies and tone colors still baffles many of us classical flutists today. 

According to the Moyse society, Marcel Moyse had “A profound effect on the flute playing of the twentieth century”. His books De La Sonarite, Games et Arpeges (This one is a personal favorite of mine), and 20 Exercises and Studies for Flute are still widely used. 

Let’s see what the stars have to say about this virtuoso and his musicianship. 

This is Moyse’s natal chart and primary placements:

Moyse’s Sun Sign was Taurus. People with their sun sign in Taurus are very grounded, as it is an Earth sign. They are often described as having solid traits and being consistent. They are hard-working, while still being able to enjoy the finer things in life. Taurus’s love to surround themselves with art, and that is exactly what Moyse spent his life doing. 

Marcel Moyse has Taurus sun written all over him, from his multiple publications and solo works to his great dedication in his studies. He was able to do it all while remaining attentive to detail. Moyse was known for being extremely diligent in all that he did- And it’s written all over his chart, too. Another interesting (yet little-known) fact about Moyse is that he was studying carpentry and sculpture at the same time he was learning flute and solfeggio. 

People with a sun in Taurus always read a little bit firey to me, despite technically being an earth sign. It seems that he was indeed, a bit bullish! He loved music so much, that, when he was a child, he stole over 30 bottles of wine from his grandparents, in order to sell them for opera tickets. 

From 1916-1918, Moyse was asked to perform during Nadia Boulanger’s music classes. He felt the need to prove himself even more to her, so he tried out to be the first flute at the Paris Opera. He received the position but ended up turning it down because he was too busy with traveling, and his other performance obligations. Those who were close to him often said he was hard to deal with. Like fire signs, Taurus’s can be very stubborn, and love to show off at least a little bit (As a Leo-sun, Aries-moon flutist, who am I to judge?!) 

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Moyse’s Moon Sign was Sagittarius. Moon signs can tell us a lot about a person’s emotions that are hidden under the surface. A Sagittarius loves their freedom. They are creative and spirited and don’t want anything or anyone tying them down or holding them back from their wildest dreams. Those with moons in Sagittarius often shy away from commitment in romantic relationships, or, only find themselves happy when those close to them don’t hold on too tight. They love change and travel. 

Moyse met dancer and singer Celine Gautreau in 1911 when he was playing the principal flute in a version of Don Quixote. According to Malboromusic.org, she was dating both Moyse and the composer of the piece at the same time! She ended up choosing Moyse in the end, and they married in 1912.  It seems that Celine’s feisty nature and artistry were enough to intrigue Moyse!

Though Sagittarius is a fire sign, it is mutable. Those with a moon in Sagittarius often make great teachers. His passion for teaching lead him to found the Marlboro school of music after he and his wife moved to Vermont in the 1950s. With a moon in Saggitarius, it all checks out! 

Moyse’s Mercury was Gemini. Those with Mercury in Gemini have “artist” written all over them. Whatever creative endeavor they embark on, they do it with grace. They are witty and well-learned. Mercury is all about communication: Those with Gemini placements often come across as intimidating- And who wouldn’t be intimidated by one of the best flute virtuosos in the world?! 

Moyse’s Venus was Taurus. He has double Taurus energy! Venus shows how we love. This placement suggests that Moyse was stubborn, yet trustworthy and consistent in his personal life. 

Moyse’s Mars was in Gemini. Mars shows how we get things done. I think it is really interesting how he has double Taurus and double Gemini in his chart. The dualistic symbol of Gemini in Mars shows that people with this feature are great multitaskers. Moyse did a ton of musical multitasking throughout his life: Often jugging teaching, writing, and performances all within a short period of time. Throughout his life, he wrote 37 books, played in the premiere performance of Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring, held the position of first flute at the Opera Comique, and was a soloist under Prokoviev, Strauss, and many others. 

Lastly, 

Moyse’s Jupiter was Capricorn. This placement shows discipline, maturity, and an extremely strong work ethic. There are so many places in his chart that show that he is hardworking and driven. This final placement is the icing on the cake! 

Learn More About Moyse

I have found the website https://www.marlboromusic.org/ to be extremely informative when it comes to learning more about Moyse. If you are interested, check it out! 

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I hope everyone had a good New Year. Stay safe, and keep fluting! 

About the Author: 

Aleah Fitzwater is a classical flutist and music educator with a passion for arranging pop-punk and alternative songs for flute choir. She also teaches people how to digitize sheet music with optical music recognition on the ScanScore blog: https://scan-score.com/en/scanscore-blog/ 

You can find more of her multi-genre fluting on Youtube, Instagram, and Spotify under Aleah Fitzwater, and AleahFlute.https://aleahfitzwater.com/ 

30-Day Flute Challenges for the New Year

Back in 2018, I was fascinated by the various 30-day challenges making their way through social media. One of my most popular blog posts at the time, the 30-Day Taffanel & Gaubert Exercise #4 Challenge, was based on this idea and has since inspired many flutists to jump-start (or at least reimagine) their T&G scale practice game. This year, as you begin to take action steps on some of your most important new year’s flute playing resolutions, I encourage you to consider adding a 30-day challenge to your to-do list. Incorporating a 30-day challenge can be like a flute boot camp not just for your scale game but also for a number of other facets of flute playing (ex. tone studies, repertoire, sight-reading, etc.). This may be the very thing you need to quickly get to the next level in your flute playing! Also, who doesn’t love a challenge?!?! In today’s blog, I offer suggestions for various 30-day challenges to tackle tone studies, improve technique, conquer super intimidating etudes, master new (and old) repertoire, and work on various other challenging elements of flute playing that allude even the best of us. Dare yourself this month to break out of your comfort zone and try something new. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much better your flute playing is by the beginning of February!

30-DAY FLUTE CHALLENGES

TONE

  • One Register per Week Trevor Wye’s Practice Book for the Flute, Book 1 Tone, is perfectly set up for a 30-day challenge. For the first week, practice only the exercises listed for the low register (approx. pages 7-12). For Week 2, practice only the exercises listed for the middle register (approx. pages 13-17). During Week 3, grab a bottle of water and some ear plugs, and work on only the exercises listed for the high register (approx. pages 18-21). For the final week, work on the flexibility exercises on pages 28-33, which will combine all of the work you have done previously in the month with increasing embouchure flexibility throughout all of the ranges. Your tone will improve tenfold during this program! Success stories are encouraged below.
  • Slow Movements Only – If you are sooo over tone books, you may want to switch up your tone studies for examples from standard repertoire. Pick four slow movements from your favorite works (for example, Poulenc Sonata – Movement II; Mozart Flute Concerto in G Major – Movement II; Burton Sonata – Movement II; Prokofiev Sonata – Movement II) and play through each one over the course of a week. Concentrate on retaining the same quality of sound and power of projection from note to note. Connect all of your notes as if they are all on the same string. How beautiful can you make each movement? Four movements, four weeks!
  • Tone Color Challenge – This is a great challenge to help you think more creatively about sound. The first step is to create a color spectrum (please see my article in The Flute View, Rainbow Score, for a simple color how-to). Once you have your color plan in place, select a few of your favorite slow orchestral excerpts (Brahms 4 and Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun are good examples). Play through these excerpts each day with a different tone color for 30 days. You may discover along the way that your Debussy sounds a lot better with a purple tone color than it does in yellow! This is a great way to master your unique tone color plan and experiment with new ways to organize your sound.

TECHNIQUE

  • 30-Day Taffanel & Gaubert Exercise #4 Challenge – Select a new articulation each day to use with your Taffanel & Gabuert Exercise #4, #1, or really any of your favorite exercises from this book. You may even want to create your own articulation plan for the 30 days. Go for it! Add some extended techniques or harmonics for a bit of a challenge.
  • Taffanel & Gaubert Challenge #2 – This is a bit broader of a challenge for your Taffanel & Gaubert game! Practice one study per day (ex. #1 on Monday, #2 Tuesday, etc.), alternating the articulation each day. There are excellent suggestions at the top of each exercise, but you may also create your own articulations (ex. slurs on Mondays, slur two/tongue two on Tuesdays, coos on Wednesday, etc.). When you get to the end of exercise #17, start again with exercise #1. Remember: Use a different articulation each day.
  • The Flutist’s Vade Mecum by Walfrid Kujala – This book is perfect for a 12 (or 24) WEEK challenge! There is already a challenge outlined at the back of the book (thanks Wally!). If you are an advanced player (college and up), I recommend playing through one key per week, cycling through all of the studies gradually throughout the week. If you are a less experienced player (or a player with less available practice time in general), cycle through a new key set every two weeks. These exercises require a lot of mental flexibility and stamina but will gradually whip your technique into great shape.

ETUDES

  • Karg-Elert’s 30 Studies (Opus 107) – Easy peasy! 30 days, 30 studies. Practice one study per day. Some will be easy. Some will be super challenging! At the end of the 30 days pick one or two (or more!) to record yourself playing on video. Share on social media if brave (or just use for yourself to identify ways you may improve).
  • Kohler’s Virtuoso Studies for Flute (Opus 75) – Since these are a bit more challenge than the Karg-Elert, I recommend learning (or re-learning) one study per week (extending the challenge of course from 4 weeks to 10 weeks). Video record yourself playing each etude at the end of the week. Like the Karg-Elert, share on social media if brave.
  • Paul Jeanjean’s Etudes Modernes – These etudes are super challenging (and have tormented a lot of us for decades). Start by practicing one new etude per week. You will likely want to give up on these halfway through the book. Your 30-day challenge is simply to keep plugging away even when you’d rather ditch Jeanjean for Karg Elert. Jeanjean teaches us how to have grit in the face of challenging repertoire!

REPERTOIRE

  • Bach 12 Sonatas Challenge – For the first 12 days of this challenge, practice the opening movement of each of the 12 standard Bach Flute Sonatas (Book 1, Book 2), one movement each day. For the next 12 days, practice the slow movement from each sonata (again, one movement per day). For the last six days, select either your favorite dance movement or final movement from the sonatas in Book 1 (#1-6). This will give you a nice introduction to the Bach flute sonata style and structure. You may even discover some interesting parallels and/or themes between movement types.
  • Telemann 12 Fantasies Challenge – This is similar to the Bach challenge outlined above. Start by practicing the opening movement (or section) of each fantasie for the first 12 days. Master it! Then move on to the slow sections or movements for the next 12 days. Finally, record yourself playing your favorite six fantasies (one fantasie per day) for the remaining six days. Post your recordings to social media (even add a hashtag if you’d like: #drgs30daysoftellemannchallenge).
  • Memorize (or Re-memorize) One Piece Per Month – Pick out your favorite 12 pieces (even if they are just single movements from standard repertoire). Concentrate on playing from beginning to end without stopping. Playing along with a recording or an AI system such as SmartMusic will be very helpful as you learn cues in the music surrounding the flute line. At the end of the year, you will have 12 pieces memorized to be performed whenever an opportunity arises.

OTHER

  • 30 Days of Improvisation – Challenge yourself to improvise for at least five minutes a day at the end of each practice session for 30 days. You may improvise over a simple drone or using clever improvisation programs such as Walter White’s improvisation tracks: https://walterwhite.com/product-category/wwshop/walterwhitelongtoneaccompaniment/
  • 30 Days of Sight Reading – This is a fun way to involve the others in your life! Gather up all of the etude books you’ve purchased but never had the time to practice, old books that you hadn’t played all the way through, or even head to your local music library to check out etude books you have never even heard of. Pick one book each day and let your family members or other non-flutist colleagues decide which exercise you will sight read that day. Place it on your music stand, hit “video” on your smartphone’s camera, AND GO! You don’t have to share the video if you don’t want to – but it will come in handy as you review what happens to you and your flute playing under pressure. You will get great sight-reading experience and learn a lot about yourself during this challenge!
  • Sunday Night Living Room Recitals – This is another great way to involve your family in your flute playing! Prep a set of solo works, etudes, and pieces with AI accompaniments during the week. The duration and complexity of the program is up to you! For the next four Sundays, schedule a time in the evening for a mini-recital in your living room with your family and/or friends in attendance. Record your performances for an extra bonus! Play different repertoire each week. I find it most intimidating to perform for loved ones, because playing well for them means far more than playing well for an audience of strangers.

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Which one of these challenges are you most excited to try? What areas of your flute playing could use a 30-day challenge? Share your stories below! I would love to know how any/all of these challenges go for you (the ups, the downs, the struggles, and of course the triumphs!).

Happy Fluting!