Month: May 2022

Solo Sunday – #4 El Bachiano for Solo Flute (Raimuno Pineda)

Greetings and welcome to a new Solo Sunday!

Today’s video, El Bachiano by Raimundo Pineda, is a newer piece (2017) and a spicier spin on the famous Bach Partita. I worked on this piece late last year in preparation for a competition and absolutely fell in love with it. Doesn’t it just make you want to dance? Well, that is the point (see the description from the composer below). 🙂

Enjoy! And as always, happy fluting!

-Dr. G.

From the composer: “The Bachiano was written for the Venezuelan maestro Jose Antonio Naranjo, pillar of the flute  school in my country. When I was a child, I was his pupil. He taught me to love, among other  things, the traditional music and to make it an inseparable part of my identity as a musician  and as a person. The first part of the piece is a Venezuelan national dance (Joropo) with Bach  style, with melodic twists that makes us remember the great German genius. Though it’s  possible to execute thinking about the tempoes of a baroque dance it’s necessary to have in  mind that the Joropo is a dance, in which the tempo must not be very slow. The central part is very calmer, like a melancholic fantasy, if it’s wanted. This interlude slowly shows the Joropo up to leading it in the middle of acelerandos and spasms to the awaited refrain, where the music acquires a very much faster tempo in which the singers of the Venezuelan east  improvise comparing their talent with the mandolin players and the performers of the  “cuereta”, type of accordion that it’s a leader voice in the oriental folk music of Venezuela.  The virtuosos arpeggioes tests the ability of the improvisers and take the dancers to the paroxysm.”

Headjoints 101

Greetings and welcome to another Flute Friday.

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I am in the process of purchasing a new flute. Part of this process is selecting the best headjoint for my own playing style and everything that goes with that (the good, the bad, the ugly, and the not-yet-discovered). We sometimes underestimate the power that a headjoint has to transform our sound in new and exciting ways. The type of metal used can brighten or darken the sound and even the cut of the embouchure hole can modify the projection of certain registers. In today’s blog, we will look at some of the basics of headjoints. Bottom line: a headjoint will sound different for different players. The best approach is to gather your list of sound wants/needs and try everything. The perfect headjoint may not look the way you expect.

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HEADJOINTS 101

Density vs. Stiffness – The material of a headjoint is based on two elements: Density and stiffness. Density refers to the amount of matter in a given space. For example, if an element has a large amount of matter, it will have a high density. Stiffness refers to the tendency of a material to resist being compressed. Different metals will have different degrees of density and stiffness. These differences result in different types of sounds on each type of headjoint. The sound of the flute, after all, originates in the headjoint.

Embouchure Components – Headjoints have two embrochure components: A lip plate and a riser. A riser is the piece of metal that holds the lip plate to the flute. These can be the same material as the headjoint itself or a combination of materials.

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Material – There are five primary types of metals that headjoints are made out of:

  1. Nickel – Nickel is most commonly used on student model headjoints. Although some describe the sound as fuzzier and less clear than sterling silver headjoints, others characterize the sound as crisp and bright. This metal has a low density and is very resistant. The downside is that it often causes allergic reactions.
  2. Sterling Silver – Sterling Silver typically contains 92.5% pure silver combined with other metals for structure. As described on the Burkhart website, silver creates a “sound with classic brilliance. Silver has the ability to produce a balanced sound with projection and shimmer.” Silver headjoints are known best for their pure tone, and light, fluid sound that offers more sparkle than their gold and nickel counterparts.
  3. Gold – Gold darkens the sound and is often described as having a “warm” tone. A gold headjoint can add new dimensions of colors at an affordable price. Denser than silver, the combination of a gold lip plate and a gold riser puts the gold at the exact tip of the blowing edge, producing a richer sound. Even just a gold riser can add a degree of color to a silver headjoint.
  4. Platinum – The Burkhart website describes platinum as delivering “stunning richness and depth.” Known for free-blowing fortes and subtlety of color, platinum headjoints add projection and help facilitate softer dynamics in the high register. Perfect for the orchestral player for blending with other instruments.
  5. Wood – Although less common, wood headjoints are used primarily for baroque music. Although some players criticize wood headjoints as being difficult to produce a clear tone on, they are great to use in chamber music settings to blend with other period instruments.

Embouchure Hole Size and Shape – The size and shape of the tone hole can also effect sound, even within different registers. A larger tone tole will produce a bigger sound while a smaller tone hall will result in a sweet sound. An oval shape is better for high register sensitivity while a rectangular shape produces strong middle and low registers.

Blowing Edge – The cut of the blowing edge will also impact sound depending on how much resistance is given to the airstream. This also effects the ease of articulation. Players that use a lot of air tend to prefer a headjoint offering less resistance while players who struggle with articulation in the middle register gravitate towards a blowing edge with more resistance.

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Crowns – Crowns are often made from the same material as the headjoint, effecting sound in the same way. Some players use crowns with various stones for decoration. Regardless of material used in the crown, the material of the cork generally remains the same.

Tips for Selecting a Headjoint:

  1. Identify your flute playing strengths and weakness with your teacher. What are you looking for in a headjoint? How do you want to change your sound? Write out some of the things you’d like to address and consult with a specialist at an instrument retailer. They will help you identify certain headjoints with materials and cuts that address your specific needs.
  2. Try out a variety of headjoints using different materials with and without risers. Explore the range of your options.
  3. Consider where you perform the most. A headjoint can help you produce a sound that best fits your chosen performance scenario. For example, soloists need a headjoint to help them project while orchestral players gravitate towards a headjoint that helps them blend with other instruments.
  4. Write down 1-word adjectives when trying out different headjoints to help quickly compare the pro and cons of each. This is also a great task for your teacher for a second opinion. What headjoint sounds best to you? Which one sounds best to your teacher? Which sounds best on a recording? A handy list will help make your final decision a lot easier.
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Again, bottom line: Try everything. Finding a headjoint is like finding a perfect haircut. It has to work for your unique playing style and no two players are exactly alike.

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What type of headjoint do you prefer and why? How do you select your perfect headjoint? Any noteworthy headjoint selection experiences? Please comment below.

Happy fluting!

Solo Sunday – #3 Kokopeli (Katherine Hoover)

Greetings and welcome to a new Solo Sunday! Today’s video is Kokopeli for Solo Flute by Katherine Hoover. I love this piece because it sounds haunting and almost ethereal, like walking into a forest on a misty evening – You know there are secrets in the tress but cannot see the path in front of you. Spooky!

As Glen Walker explains, “According to San Ildefonso legend, Kokopelli was a wandering minstrel who carried songs on his back, trading new songs for old ones. According to this legend, Kokopelli brought good luck and prosperity to anyone who listened to his songs. Kokopelli embodied everything pure and spiritual about music. He and his magical flute traveled from village to village bestowing gifts and spreading cheer to all whom he visited. His flute was said to symbolize happiness and joy. When he played his flute, the sun came out, the snow melted, grass began to grow, birds began to sing, and all the animals gathered around to hear his songs. His flute music soothed the Earth and made it ready to receive his seed. The magic of his flute was also thought to stimulate creativity and help good dreams come true.” http://www.indigenouspeople.net/kokopelli.htm#:~:text=According%20to%20San%20Ildefonso%20legend,pure%20and%20spiritual%20about%20music .

Enjoy! And, as always, happy fluting!

-Dr. G.

Practicing Improvisation

Greetings and welcome to another Flute Friday!

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Some moments in our flute lives end up living permanently in our memories, often teaching us valuable lessons much later down the road. As a sophomore in high school, I was super excited to be selected to play principal flute in the Idaho All-State Orchestra, however, as just a simple farm girl from the sticks, I had never been in an orchestra. Intimidated was an understatement! Although the first couple rehearsals were difficult, by the last rehearsal I was feeling a bit more on top of my game – Until the conductor decided to flip the script. The final rehearsal ended with a group improvisation. The conductor narrated a story, periodically pointing at principal players to improvise a melody or play a specific part from the music by only alluding to the phrase in his story. I did not know the first thing about improvising and wanted desperately to hide under a bass drum and hand my role over to my second in command. I thanked my lucky stars every time the conductor pointed at other section leaders. I tried to listen carefully to his story, but my own anxiety closed off the sensors between my ears and my brain. Suddenly it was my turn. I stared across the ensemble to an authoritative index finger pointed in my direction. I had to improvise something but instead froze. I didn’t know the rules. I wasn’t confident without a score to rely on. I was very much out of my element. I chose instead to play one of my solo passages and he moved on to the next player. I was embarrassed and confused. What is improvisation? How do we do it? What does it mean to just play what your ears want you to play? I have never forgotten this fear of the unknown but over time I have learned to embrace the freedom of creative expression offered by improvisation. In today’s blog, I will offer a few suggestions on how to practice improvisation. Ditching the rules is not really as scary as it sounds! You might even be surprised at the music just waiting to escape from your soul.

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PRACTICING IMPROVISATION

Tip No. 1 – Improvise over a drone. The drone can be as simple as a sustained piano chord or a sustained pitch played by a friend or student. This could be quite a fun activity trading drones with other instruments such as an electric guitar or a contrabassoon. Several years ago, I recorded a video demonstrating this technique with one of my students. Check it out here: https://youtu.be/9snmnlKojV8 (sound quality is a little bunk but recorded on 2014 technology – I am also 50 pounds heavier in this video, but the demonstration is still good!).

Tip No. 2 – Improvise over a pre-prepared track. I was in a flute club meeting late last year where we worked with Walter White’s Long Tone Accompaniments https://walterwhite.com/product-category/wwshop/walterwhitelongtoneaccompaniment/#:~:text=The%20Walter%20Whites%20Long%20Tone,harmonies%20and%20steady%20pulsating%20rhythms , which are excellent tracks to improvise over because they center on two tonal centers on each track. Easy peasy! The Flute Practice also has a great improvisation track starter pack with tracks in F, G, and C major as well as D and A minor. https://www.theflutepractice.com/improvisingstarterpack Both of these options are easy, inexpensive, and very fun to improvise over.

Tip No. 3 – Pick one scale each day and set a timer. Make improvisation a super easy addition to your daily routine by focusing on one scale per day and improvise for a set time only using the notes of this scale. Remember the key cadential notes to help improvise a set of phrases (for example, know where the 4th, 5th, and 6th scale degrees are to help frame your cadences).

Tip No. 4 – Use improvisations to try out strange, unorthodox cadences from Baroque, Classical, Contemporary, and Jazz repertoire or even Pop and Rock genres. This of course will require some score analysis, but it is well worth the effort. Play only the notes of each chord at first and then gradually add a few passing tones. Lead sheets are good to use with this method.

Tips No. 5 – Use improvisation to practice using a particular type of articulation or to practice a new technique such as beatboxing or singing and playing. Because improvisation removes the rules of music, which are often a bit confining, it is easier to experiment with new concepts in a safe, exploratory environment.

Tip No. 6 – Improvise a new phrase that begins on each note of a single scale. For example, play the first phrase beginning on a G, the second phrase beginning on an A, and the third phrase beginning on a B. Continue upward the scale to end up back on a phrase that begins again on a G.

Tip No. 7 – Take a basic melody and add some improvised ornamentation to the line. Add scales and other deviations as you become comfortable straying from the main melody. Pop tunes are great for this! What is your favorite song on the radio? Look up the simple outline of the melody and create your own ornaments.

Tip No. 8 – MOST IMPORTANTLY, go with your ear and have fun! There is no right or wrong when it comes to improvisation. Play from your heart. Play whatever comes to mind. Test things out. Invent new sounds. Most of all, play what you love in the style that you love to play. What do you sound like when the rules no longer apply?

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Improvisation Resources

Books:

  • Improvisation for Flute, The Scale Mode Approach by Andy McGhee. This is a great book that includes exercises using different modes and scales. https://amzn.to/3Mdqry4
  • The Technique and Theory of Improvisation by Bill McBirnie. This is all about Jazz improvisation for those interested in trying your hand at Jazz. https://amzn.to/3sBY4C5

Videos:

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Do you struggle with improvisation? What is your favorite approach? Do any of the above tips resonate with you? Do you encourage your students to practice improvisation? How do you practice improvisation? Please comment below!

Happy fluting!

Solo Sunday – #2 Danse de la Chèvre (Arthur Honegger)

Greetings and welcome to a new Solo Sunday. The second installment in this series, today’s video features Danse de la Chèvre by Arthur Honegger. I have also previously posted a Flute Friday blog entitled “Barnyard Dreaming,” analyzing of this wonderful piece, which may be found here: https://racheltaylorgeier.org/2015/10/10/barnyard-dreaming-danse-de-la-chevre-by-arthur-honegger/

Enjoy! And, as always, Happy fluting!

Business Writing for the Busy Flutist

Greetings and welcome to another Flute Friday!

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Flute professionals are super busy. Whether it is teaching private lessons, jumping from rehearsal to rehearsal, participating on committees, serving on jury panels, or everything in between, we do a lot on a daily basis and often need to communicate to many different groups of people for a variety of needs. Sometimes our communications tend to reflect the chaos running through both our lives and our heads. I can help! As a flutist who has spent the past 11 years working in academic administrative positions, I have developed very solid business writing skills that keep all of my outgoing communications professional, clear, supportive, efficient with a spoonful of pep that brings a smile to the face of even the grumpiest reader. In today’s blog, I am sharing some of my best business writing tips for the busy flutist. Looking to streamline and restructure your outgoing emails? This blog is for you!

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BUSINESS WRITING TIPS FOR THE BUSY FLUTIST

1.         Keep emails short. If an email is longer than two paragraphs, your reader is likely to file it away until they have enough time to digest all of its contents. That time may never come. If you are trying to get a response from them that is in any way time sensitive, it is best to briefly discuss what you need and when you need it in a simple, one paragraph email.

2.         Regarding Emails: Place any action items or upcoming deadlines in the first paragraph and highlight in bold. We all receive many emails on a daily basis. Placing the most important information in bold at the very beginning of an email ensures that your reader will understand quicky and clearly what is needed and by what date.

3.         Make use of short, bullet-point lists in place of longer descriptions. This is most important when listing out things you need from your students or from any other group you are working with. Make it easy for them to scan and understand quickly what is needed. Longer descriptions may be sent as separate emails.

4.         Use Doodle Polls and Google Polls. These are great tools if you are trying to schedule an event or meeting or if you need to request volunteers for various activities. Make it as easy as possible for folks to respond with their availability.

5.         If you have a lot of attachments on an email, consider saving them to a Google Drive folder and including the link in a shorter email. Make sure you list out any specific printing instructions or action items related to these attachments in your email (again, bullet-point lists will help here).

6.         Consider sending separate emails for separate subject materials rather than long emails (even if they are being sent to the same group of people). Shorter emails take less time to digest and are easy to file and recall later. Make use of simple subject lines to help others clearly understand the main objective of the message.

7.         Think twice before sending hard copy letters. Ask yourself if a hard copy is necessary or if this can be converted to an email. Emails provide a better means of tracking and allow easier follow-up.

8.         Keep follow-up emails short and clear. For example, open with the line, “Just following up on my previous email. Please let me know if you are available to (list action item) no later than (date/time). Thank you! Happy to answer any questions.”

9.         List recipients in BCC lines rather than CC or “to” lines whenever sending bulk emails. This retains privacy for individual email addresses and prevents the all too familiar “reply all” comments from clogging up email inboxes.

10.       Make use of Zoom meetings in lieu of in-person commitments and use the transcript function whenever possible. Some meetings must be conducted in-person (such as rehearsals) but others (such as studio meetings, parent meetings, club meetings, or event planning meetings) can easily be conducted over Zoom. We all know how to Zoom by now (thanks to various lockdowns). Offering Zoom meetings will encourage more participation because they are more convenient than in-person meetings. There is also a feature that allows Zoom to capture a transcript of your meeting. No need for a human to take notes! Just send out the transcript to those who cannot attend.

11.       Avoid using all caps. Even if you need a response asap, avoid using all caps. All caps reads as if you are yelling at your recipient which, understandably, discourages a friendly response (if any response at all).

12.       Ask for volunteers from a large pool before reaching out via email personally to individuals. Some of your potential volunteers may be extroverts and others may be introverts. These two groups respond differently to volunteer requests. Extroverts are more likely to volunteer at group meetings while introverts will be more inclined to accept invitations one-on-one via email. Make sure to offer both options to widen your pool. Avoid delegating tasks to others before discussing availability (preferably via email) outside of the group – Introverts, in particular, will not be okay with this approach.

13.       If you are sending YouTube links, make sure to include the title of the video and the performer with the link. Include only the basic information when introducing a clip. Avoiding sending too many clips at once (hello, YouTube overload!). Instead, consider sending separate emails to group clips together under related subject headings.

14.       If you have to send a letter, do your best to keep it to one page. Use a clear Intro-Details-Closing three paragraph structure and keep information as simple and clear as possible.

15.       Remember to always include a polite yet professional greeting and closing. For example, your greeting may include the following: “Good Afternoon, Hope you are well!” A simple closing could include: “Thank you and please let me know if you have any questions.” This is that spoonful of pep that I mentioned in the beginning of today’s blog. It is quite true in business writing that you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. Sugary sweet often wins the game!

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What do you struggle with when drafting emails? What approaches do your audiences resonate with and which ones seem to take longer to receive a response? Which groups tend to be more responsive than others? What types of emails to you struggle to structure? What other types of business writing do you need help with? Please comment below!

Happy Fluting (and writing)!

Solo Sunday – #1 Syrinx (Claude Debussy)

Greetings! Today marks the beginning of a new series on this blog entitled Solo Sunday! As I have discussed in previous Flute Friday posts, I do not have a lot of flute videos circulating on the web, and one of my goals this year is to record more. Cue in Solo Sunday! I will release a short solo flute performance on Sundays for the next five weeks. I may continue this series if successful or update release dates moving forward.

Today’s solo is Debussy’s Syrinx. Enjoy!