Month: June 2022

Flute Poems

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

There seems to be a lot of ugliness in the world this week. I think this is the perfect time for some self-care! Grab a cup of tea (iced or hot – depending on your climate), kick up your heels, and join me as we dive into the rabbit hole that is poetry. There are some beautiful words written about the flute and flute playing. In today’s blog, I am featuring a handful of poems that discuss the flute, including one at the end written by yours truly. Enjoy!

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No Conflict by Hafiz (Daniel Ladinsky) Original Language English

No

Conflict

When the flute is playing

For then I see every movement emanates

From God’s

Holy

Dance.

***

Invisible Caravans by Muhammad Shirin Maghribi, English version by David & Sabrineh Fideler, Original Language Persian/Farsi

Love’s concert is calling,

but the flute can’t be seen.

The drunks are in sight,

but the wine can’t be seen.

Hundreds of caravans

have passed

this very way —

Don’t be surprised

if their trace can’t be seen.

***

Song at Dawn by Meshullam da Piera, English version by T. Carmi, Original Language Hebrew

When they sang together,

when my morning stars sang

     as the night was ending

     and light came up from all sides;

when the night was ending,

     the darkness expelled,

     and my sun rose in the East;

when my thoughts shook off slumber

     and my limbs woke from their sleep of night —

then I sought to greet the dawn with music

     and to worship the morning with song.

In my hands I held the lyre and the pipe,

     and my left hand moved skillfully over the strings.

I tied the timbrel and the flute to my side

     and adjusted their loops,

     now tightening, now loosening them.

Then I began to sing and improvise,

     to see if my instruments would answer my words,

     to see if they would comfort me in my wandering,

     in this land of exile which is my home.

But though I sang, my flute did not answer,

     and even the birds did not raise their voices in mirth.

O masters of mysteries,

     have you ever known a musical instrument

     that would not strike up when I sing —

     and the birds voiceless among the branches, the swallows songless in my house?

Yet I wish them well,

     for with their silence

     they counsel me to hide my works,

     to hide my words from men,

     to conceal my secrets from all men

     with even greater care.

***

Say I Am You BY JELALUDDIN RUMI, TRANSLATION BY C. BARKS

I am dust particles in sunlight.

I am the round sun.

To the bits of dust I say, Stay.

To the sun, Keep moving.

I am morning mist,

and the breathing of evening.

I am wind in the top of a grove,

and surf on the cliff.

Mast, rudder, helmsman, and keel,

I am also the coral reef they founder on.

I am a tree with a trained parrot in its branches.

Silence, thought, and voice.

The musical air coming through a flute,

a spark off a stone, a flickering in metal.

Both candle and the moth crazy around it.

Rose and nightingale lost in the fragrance.

I am all orders of being, the circling galaxy,

the evolutionary intelligence, the lift and the falling away.

What is and what is not.

You who know Jelaluddin,

You are the one in all, say who I am.

Say I am you.

***

Flute By Maruetta Shaginian, Translated by Yulia Berry

The springs are still sweet

And autumn is quiet and empty …

And the sad dewy damp is poured into the soul, like it fills in flowers.

The corn is turning red in the fields,

Grapes has turned in amber.

The yellowing garden bent over under the sweer ripe cargo.

On the tower of the old chime

Dawn makes a detour.

Musicians are watching from the balcony

When the steam boat arrives.

They will be silent, then someone’s complaint,

Like a sad dove, again

The gloomy flute coos

About autumn, about pain, about love …

***

The Old Prison, Written by Judith Wright

The rows of cells are unroofed,

a flute for the wind’s mouth,

who comes with a breath of ice

from the blue caves of the south.

O dark and fierce day:

the wind like an angry bee

hunts for the black honey

in the pits of the hollow sea.

Waves of shadow wash

the empty shell bone-bare,

and like a bone it sings

a bitter song of air.

Who built and laboured here?

The wind and the sea say

-Their cold nest is broken

and they are blown away-

They did not breed nor love,

each in his cell alone

cried as the wind now cries

through this flute of stone.

***

Flute By Dr. Ram Sharma

I want to become your flute,

place it on your lips,

please fulfil my last wish,

fill the life in it,

move the slightest particle of the universe,

produce symphony of such melody,

hynotine every listener,

silence the inner evils,

drive away the darkness

led us to light

***

The Amateur Flute By Anonymous

Hear the fluter with his flute,

Silver flute!

Oh, what a world of wailing is awakened by its toot!

How it demi-semi quavers

On the maddened air of night!

And defieth all endeavors

To escape the sound or sight

Of the flute, flute, flute,

With its tootle, tootle, toot;

With reiterated tooteling of exasperating toots,

The long protracted tootelings of agonizing toots

Of the flute, flute, flute, flute,

Flute, flute, flute,

And the wheezings and the spittings of its toots.

Should he get that other flute,

Golden flute,

Oh, what a deeper anguish will his presence institoot!

How his eyes to heaven he’ll raise,

As he plays,

All the days!

How he’ll stop us on our ways

With its praise!

And the people–oh, the people,

That don’t live up in the steeple,

But inhabit Christian parlors

Where he visiteth and plays,

Where he plays, plays, plays,

In the cruellest of ways,

And thinks we ought to listen,

And expects us to be mute,

Who would rather have the earache

Than the music of his flute,

Of his flute, flute, flute,

And the tootings of his toot,

Of the toots wherewith he tooteleth its agonizing toot,

Of the flute, flewt, fluit, floot,

Phlute, phlewt, phlewght,

And the tootle, tootle, tooting of its toot.

***

The Golden Flute by Sri Chinmoy

A sea of Peace and Joy and Light

Beyond my reach I know.

In me the storm-tossed weeping night

Finds room to rage and flow.

I cry aloud, but all in vain;

I helpless, the earth unkind

What soul of might can share my pain?

Death-dart alone I find.

A raft am I on the sea of Time,

My oars are washed away.

How can I hope to reach the clime

Of God’s eternal Day?

But hark! I hear Thy golden Flute,

Its notes bring the Summit down.

Now safe am I, O Absolute!

Gone death, gone night’s stark frown!

***

Performance Anxiety By Rachel Taylor Geier

My confidence hands me a celebratory beer,

But my fear reminds me that it may still go wrong.

My brain tells me it doesn’t matter,

But my heart does not want to let me down.

I watch the seconds slowly tick by,

And feel the pit in my stomach grow larger as time draws near.

I care too much.

My lioness pride holds me captive.

The perfectionist in my soul aches for a flawless performance,

While the rebel awaits impending disaster to declare anarchy.

I’ve rehearsed what can be rehearsed,

Planned what can be planned,

But understand the unpredictable nature of fate.

The greenroom is shrouded in an invisible sheet of ice,

That only I can feel.

I hear the applause of an audience that is not yet there,

And see the stone-faced gaze of the critics waiting to pounce.

The stage manager is waving me on stage.

The show must go on,

Whether I am ready or not.

Breathe. Just breathe.

***

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now it’s your turn! Do you have a poem that you’ve written about the flute or flute playing? Share it below! Do you have a favorite flute poem written by somebody else? Also share it below! Today is all about beautiful words and warm fuzzies.

Happy fluting!

Brace Yourselves – Playing with Braces

Greetings and welcome to a belated Flute Friday/Saturday.

Photo by Nick Oz on Pexels.com

I was blessed with relatively straight teeth. With the exception of one tooth in the back that grew in wonky from the beginning (requiring a crown later in my teenage years), my teeth have been low drama. I know that I am not the norm. I watched many of my friends and family members struggle with braces in my youth and have seen my own students struggle with them in my adulthood. I received an inquiry on my blog several years ago to discuss how best to approach the flute with braces. Wishing that I had a better frame of reference from the player’s perspective, today I would like to share a few tips that I have gathered from the teacher’s perspective. Braces are not easy but keep in mind that in most cases they are not forever. And the best part is that your embouchure will be even better by the end which often makes your sound even better than it was pre-braces.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

What Happens When the Braces Go On.

Your lips will have some serious gymnastics to perform as they must now extend beyond your braces. You may immediately notice a loss in lip strength and flexibility which, in turn, may make your sound a bit more difficult to produce. Your mouth needs time to adjust and your lips need practice moving slightly more forward. If you have a naturally “smiley” embouchure, you may have an even more difficult time fighting against the tendency to pull the corners of your mouth back which, with braces, can be very painful. The bottom braces also make it difficult to place the headjoint in the ideal spot.

What You Can Do to Make Playing with Braces Less of an Obstacle.

  1. A good place to start is by practicing getting your lips around the braces to shape the aperture. Practice blowing through a narrow coffee straw to form the aperture. When this becomes more comfortable, move to practicing just on the headjoint.
  2. Be patient with your sound. Your sound will be airy while your embouchure builds back strength. Spend some time playing through long tones and octaves to slowly re-build these muscles. Octaves in particular will help build embouchure flexibility.
  3. Do smaller, more frequent amounts of practice. You do not want to tax your developing lip muscles too much with longer practice sessions.
  4. Practice in front of a mirror or record videos of yourself playing. This will help you see how you are positioning your lips. You may be holding yourself or the flute in ways that cause more harm than good.
  5. Make sure your embouchure is relaxed. A tight embouchure may lead to the metal digging into your mouth (ouch!).
  6. Practice in short sessions with and without the topical wax on your braces. You may find that the wax helps your lips and vice versa. Find what works for you.
  7. Experiment with your blowing angle. Try aiming your air toward the ceiling and then toward the floor. Again, find what works for you. Remember that in general the lips should cover the tone hole approximately 25-30%.
  8. Try placing the flute lower on the lip. This is just a good tip in general (with or without braces). We all have a tendency to play too high on the lip. Bringing the flute down will help with both sound production and intonation.
  9. If you have a “smiley” embouchure, practicing harmonics will help as they require the lips to move out and forward.
  10. Use this time to focus less on your sound and more on technique. This is a great time to focus on your scales and etudes. Your fingers are not connected to your braces (that’s the good news!). Practice all of those technical bits that don’t necessarily need a great sound to execute.

Other Things to Keep in Mind.

  1. Make sure your teacher knows that you will be getting braces. They can help you come up with a game plan. Teachers – work with your students on that game plan using some of the tips from above.
  2. Schedule putting on your braces at a time that doesn’t conflict with any major performances or auditions. Summer break is great for this. Can you schedule during the summer break?
  3. Having braces often improves your sound after they are taken off because your embouchure is stronger and the extra space in your mouth creates more resonance.
Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

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Did you ever play the flute with braces? Do you have students struggling to play with braces? What does your braces game plan look like? What are the biggest challenges? What are the best changes that occur when the braces come off? Please comment below!

Happy fluting!

Rock(stro) and Roll!

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

I was performing in a masterclass in college when I was first introduced to the Rockstro position. No, this is not some weird yoga move. The Rockstro position is an approach to holding and balancing the flute that takes the pressure off the fingers while improving the center of the sound by aiming the airstream closer to the outside edge of the tone hole. As a performer that has always tended to play on the sharp side of the pitch, the Rockstro position immediately improved my sound and intonation while helping correct some of my bad habits (such as putting too much pressure on the outer edge of my left-hand index finger). In today’s blog, we will look a bit more closely at the Rockstro position – What it is, where it came from, how to do it, and the possible benefits to applying the Rockstro or Modified Rockstro positions to your daily routine.

THE ROCKSTRO POSITION

What is it? The Rockstro position originates from Richard Shepherd Rockstro’s treatise, A Treatise on the Flute (1980). Part of the Rockstro approach involves positioning the headjoint relative to the rest of the flute so that the headjoint is rolled inward while the body of the flute is rolled outward. The tone hole in then aligned so that the far-left side aligns with the center of the keys. The left index finger then comes more under the flute to form a shelf while the right thumb slides to the back of the flute. This balances the flute on three different points: 1.) The lip plate pushing against the chin, 2.) The left index finger “shelf”, and the 3.) Right thumb at the back of the flute which guides the flute forward against the pressure of the lip plate pushing against the chin. The support of the instrument therefore falls in a triangle formation between the left index finger, right pinky, and the right thumb.

Benefits. The Rockstro position relieves some of the pressure on the left index finger and the tendency to grip the flute too much with the right hand. It also takes the pressure off the lower lip while freeing up the fingers so they move more fluidly between notes. The sound is also bit more responsive as it is easier to aim the airstream to the tone hole, creating more center to the sound and, in some cases, producing a darker overall sound while increasing embouchure flexibility. This is great for players that tend to play on the bright side. It is also great for those of us that veer sharp and the natural tendency of the position will lean under the pitch. This of course means that you may have to correct other pitches that tend to fall on the flat side. Word of warning: Try to avoid pulling the corners of the mouth back as this produces a buzzy, forced sound. The Rockstro position is also great to combine with placing the lip plate slightly lower on the bottom lip.

The Modified Rockstro Position. The Modified Rockstro position is discussed in books such as Music and the Flute by Thomas Nyfenger https://amzn.to/3zwxKgY and The Flutist’s Progress by Walfrid Kujala. https://amzn.to/3O9PEKw  In the Modified Rockstro, the tone hole is placed somewhere between centered with the keys and far-side aligned. The left index finger is more under the flute than to the side, but not quite forming a shelf. The right thumb is placed halfway between under the flute and around the back of the flute. Finally, the right pinky does not press down as hard in the Modified Rockstro, making it easier to lift without losing the balance of the flute. This is a great compromise if you want some of the benefits of the Rockstro position without compromising the balance between the triangle of support points.

Where did the Rockstro position originate? The Rockstro position was not new when Rockstro discussed it in his treatise. This positioning was the traditional approach of flutists prior to the introduction of the Boehm flute. In fact, in his treatise, Rockstro references historians and performers such as Quantz, Devienne, Berbiguier, Drouet, Dressler, Lindsay, Tulou, Nickolson, and Coche as proponents of the approach. He even quotes Drouet’s Methode by stating, “The flute should be supported by the. . . . first finger of the left hand; by the thumb of the right hand, and by the lower part of the under lip. It is necessary to practise holding the flute perfectly steadily, and supported only by the three points indicated above, so that when it is placed to the mouth every finger, with the exception of the right hand thumb, may be free to move without endangering the steadiness of the instrument….” The tip of the thumb should be pressed against the inner side of the third joint of the flute, between the fourth and fifth [of the six open finger-] holes.” (A Treatise on the Flute, Rocktro, Page 424) He continues to cite the following individuals as supportive of moving the right-hand thumb to the back of the flute: Tromlitz, Tulou, Walckier (Tulou’s pupil), and Drouet.

Famous performers that use the Rockstro Position include James Galway, Susan Milan, Geofrey Gilbert, and William Bennet.

More Resources:

I have used and loved the Modified Rockstro for many years and often experiment with the full Rockstro from time to time. The key is to experiment to find the position that works best for you. If the Rockstro throws off your sound and your equilibrium, it may not be for you. If you are a sharp player, then you might give it a go. Bottom line, experiment and find the best approach for your unique flute style.

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Do you use the Rockstro or Modified Rockstro position? What were your experiences with the approach? What do you find most beneficial in using the Rockstro position? What is most challenging with this position? Please comment below!

Happy fluting!

Do-it-Yourself Duets – Acapella App Reviews

Welcome to a very much belated Flute Friday/sorta Solo Sunday combo blog.

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

When I was just starting to learn to play the flute, back in the days of cassette tape recorders, I loved to practice duets by recording myself playing the 2nd lines so that I could play along with the top line on playback. I mostly did this for fun but it also helped me to prepare both parts, as was typically required at my flute lessons, and memorize some of the trickier entrances and cues. I noticed a couple of years ago that some of my colleagues were making amazing videos of themselves performing duets, trios, quartets, and even entire flute choir pieces in a single video. How cool! I finally looked into this for myself and tested out a couple of apps that made this possible. In today’s blog, I will be reviewing three acapella apps to create these types of Do-It-Yourself Duets (not sponsored – although I should be). These are great to use for fun, as assignments for your students, or as a handy way to perform small ensemble pieces on various social media outlets.

1. TOP CHOICE – Acapella. This app was super easy to use! What I love about this app, aside from how user-friendly it is, is, unlike the other apps, you can set it to record in durations from 15 seconds to 10 minutes. I also really like that the countdown timer appears very large on your screen so you know exactly when the recorder is set to start, which makes timing your entrances easier. Finally, this apps give you a number of choices when it comes to saving the final product. If you do not want to publish immediately to social media, you can save to your My Photos folder and post later. There is also a great trimming feature so you can edit anything out from the beginning and end of your video and you can also add interesting filters and fun boarders. The bummer is that it is not free (*enter sad violin music). This app will cost you $9.99/month after a 7-day trial. I still think it is worth it if you enjoy creating these types of videos or would like to encourage your students to create videos of their own. I was able to easily create a short video featuring Mozart’s “Non so piu” from The Marriage of Figaro:

2. DO NOT RECOMMEND – Riff. This app seemed user-friendly at first. You may only record up to 1 minute on the free version but the custom timer on the paid version of the app ($1.99/week after a 7-day trial) does not have a max. The countdown timer is not nearly as clear as the Acapella app and it does not let you add cool filters and boarders. What I found to be the automatic fail in my book was they delay in playback. I recorded the same Mozart duet with this app in the same way as Acapella, but the playback on the top line was delayed slightly, which unsynced the version of the piece that I was playing along with. Below is the recording of this video using Riff (warning – this video is horrible due to the delay in playback):

3. DO NOT RECOMMEND – Mixound. I couldn’t even get this app to work! There is no countdown, no settings for the time limit, and certainly no filters or boarders. Totally not user-friendly. You don’t even know that the video is recording when it is on! I don’t even have a terrible sample to share with you because this app was such a flop. Do not recommend.

So the clear winner is Acapella. I will likely keep this app and record more extensive duets in future Solo Sunday videos (although, I guess it would be more like Duet Sunday). Get ready for a future Doppler Solo Sunday! Here is another short video I was able to throw in using the Acapella app (featuring Blavet’s Tambourin)

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What acapella apps do you use? Do you have a favorite? Have you had success with any of these apps in the past? Share your stories (and your videos) below!

Happy Fluting!