Month: April 2022

The Gizmo Key

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Charles Parker on Pexels.com

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

Happy Fluting!

Feel Good Flute Friday

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

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

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AFFIRMATIONS FOR MUSICIANS

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

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

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

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

AFFIRMATION EXAMPLES

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

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

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

“I embrace challenges as opportunities to advance.”

“I’m confident in my abilities.”

“I trust in my capacity to grow.”

“I look forward to today’s discoveries.”

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

“Music is my true love.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have the power to create change!

*****

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

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

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

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

I am grateful for my music software.

I am a legend.

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

I’m grateful to be able to make music.

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

I embrace challenges as opportunities to advance.

I’m confident in my musical abilities.

I trust in my capacity to grow.

I look forward to today’s discoveries.

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

Music is my true love.

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

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

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JOURNAL PROMPTS FOR FLUTISTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy fluting!

Practice Blueprints – Chant de Linos

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

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

            Introduction (Improvisatory in nature)

            Section A – Slow 5/4

            Section B – Moderate 3/4

            Section C – Fast 7/8

            Section D – Moderate 7/8

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

Practice Blueprints – Chant de Linos

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

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

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

And 2 measures after rehearsal letter D:

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

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

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

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

Also 1 measure before rehearsal J:

And 1 measure before rehearsal P:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy fluting!

Top 10 Flute Rock Cover Videos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Fluting!