Getting Experimental: Singing and Playing on the Flute

Photo by Charles Parker on Pexels.com

Hey there musicians! Spring has finally sprung! And I am so glad to be back for another guest post this Flute Friday. My name is Aleah, and I’m going to be talking about the benefits of singing and playing. 

I have been admittedly practicing more guitar and piano than I have been flute lately…And it’s been apparent in my tone. Uh oh. One way I like to get my embouchure and breath support back into shape is by playing overtones, and, from singing (humming) and playing. 

Singing and Playing: An Introduction 

Did you know that you can both sing and play the flute at the same time? When the concept was first introduced to me in undergrad, I nearly scoffed out loud during my lesson. My flute professor wanted me to do what?!

My prof was working on a solo piece by a modern Iranian composer, which involved singing different tones than what you were playing. I wish I could recall the name of the piece and or the composer, but alas, it escapes me. 

When I expressed interest in trying out the technique myself, all the etudes and bookwork I had been assigned went to the wayside, and we focused the entire lesson on singing and playing. While I didn’t succeed for the first week (and didn’t get much besides a spitting sound the first day…), this is now one of my favorite ways to warm up. 

Singing and playing is one of the three ways we can create multiphonics on the flute. This technique is easier to create on the flute than on other winds because the flute has such a low level of resistance (back pressure). 

Background: Singing and playing is a 21-st century extended technique. This technique can be found in genres from contemporary classical, and flute beatboxing, to modern jazz. 

And while it isn’t found in flute repertoire very often (There actually isn’t even a standardized way to notate it yet!), I find it to be one of the most helpful ways to practice. Here’s why: 

  • It improves your tone
  • It trains your ears
  • It helps you conserve your breath
  • It gets you multitasking

Before I dive too deeply into the benefits of this technique, here are a few tips for getting both your ‘hum’ and your flute tone to sound simultaneously:

  • Stop being such a ‘good flute player’
  • Start by singing the same note you are playing  
  • Try alternating between starting your hum first then adding the flute note in, and then vice versa 

When we try and keep our embouchure very focused and proper, oftentimes, extended techniques will not sound at all. Get experimental with your embouchure. Think about that feeling when you do percussive tonguing or other extended techniques you don’t typically see in Classical-Era classical music. Don’t be “A good flute player”. 

While you may be tempted to jump right into turning this new flute party trick into a multi-phonic, you may want to hold the phone for just a minute. I found the most success with starting out on the same note in both my voice and the flute. It doesn’t necessarily need to be in the same octave, though.

The last tip I have before I really get into the ‘pros’ of singing and playing is this: Don’t try and do both at once! This may sound counterintuitive, but adding in the voices one-at-a-time, so to speak, will help you have better control. 

The Benefits of Singing and Playing 

It Makes Your Tone More Resonant 

When you sing and play at the same time, it forces your throat to be open. Tight throats are an enemy of any flutist looking to have a soaring and brilliant high range. If your throat is too closed, the hum simply doesn’t come out or is very weak. Balancing the levels of the two voices is key. 

As I’ve been teaching a new adult student of mine these past few weeks, I’ve been talking more and more about the changes I’ve been noticing in my throat as I transition to different air directions or targets. 

It Trains Your Ears

Because the flute is so close to you, it is very difficult to sing a different note than what you are playing, even if it isn’t dissonant.  You know when you are having a great tone day, and you can feel every note you play reverberating in your fingers? Now, try going against the grain. 

Fight against that tonic, and hum something else over top of it. 

And octave? Pretty easy. 

A tritone? Not so much. But with practice, you can really improve your ear training and even sight-singing by doing this. 

It Forces You to Conserve Your Breath

Even if you decide to keep practicing humming/ singing the same note that you are playing, you still are focusing on an essential skill on the flute: conserving your breath. 

As an asthmatic and classical flutist, I should honestly incorporate this into my practice more often. 

When I am singing and playing, I imagine this small graphic in my mind- The air from my lungs coming up, and splitting into two equal parts: 50% for singing, and 50% for playing the flute. Now, I’m not exactly sure how scientifically accurate that description is, but nevertheless, when you sing and play, you will need to conserve your air for sake of expression. 

Multitasking 

This extended technique almost feels like playing the piano, when it comes to the sheer brainpower it takes to make it happen. Who says flutes can’t play two notes at once?! 

Pieces

Once you get your feet wet and are incorporating singing and playing into your daily practice, consider adding one the following pieces into your repertoire: 

-Lookout (Robert Dick) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCFjaRSCHS0 

-The Great Train Race (Ian Clarke) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHzBFZmGsDo 

Lookout is one of Robert Dick’s most famous pieces- and for good reason!  This piece for flute alone is both haunting and ethereal. The Great Train Race is probably the most daunting piece that I’ve heard with this type of multiphonic (But it has other extended techniques in it as well). If you’ve always been a train enthusiast, or just like a good challenge, this one’s for you! 

Conclusion

Diane Picchiottino

Whether you want to improve your singing and playing to have a new (and impressive) flute technique under your belt, or to improve your air conservation and tone, it’s worth taking the time to check out! 

Have you ever tried singing and playing? What tip helped you consistently get both tones to sound? Comment down below!

Oh- and happy (experimental) fluting! 

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/ 

Playing from the Heart – Lessons from Irish Music

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day! Hope you all wore green, ate some wonderful Corned Beef and hash, and played a few tunes on your tin whistles. St. Patty’s Day always reminds me of an Ethnomusicology project I completed during my doctoral studies that took place at an Irish pub (a very fun place to learn about Irish folk music!). Not only was I surrounded by excellent food, overflowing pints of Guinness, and fun and laughter from all directions, but I was also immersed in music – Music that came directly from the heart. What struck me during these sessions was how differently music was used as a communication device between players and not just a performance for a hushed audience. It was refreshing to see performers free themselves from the crushing need to play the notes “correctly” and just, well, play! I walked away with many valuable lessons about Irish music and playing from the heart. In today’s blog, I will be sharing some of these lessons. Irish music isn’t just about playing fun jigs on tin whistles – It is also about connecting with others in new and meaningful ways.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM IRISH MUSIC

1.   Perfectionism. Particularly in America, there is a certain and constant “need to get it right” when it comes to performing music. As Mirjana Lausevic explains in her book, Balkan Fascination, musics found outside of the Western classical music society, such as Balkan music, uncover these tendencies and offer alternative reactions to the music making process:

Unlike Western classical music, much music and dance in the Balkans is not reserved for the talented few.  People of various levels of skill and experience often sing and dance together.  This accessibility of music-making to all members of a community is very appealing to many Americans who do not want to be “perfect,” but to make music in a communal and friendly atmosphere.  Specialty scenes and contexts like the Balkan camps provide alternatives to the competitiveness and exclusivity of most classical music education. (Page 33)

Irish music also falls under this non-Western genre of music. Accessibility opens music up to more people seeking a musical community regardless of skill or experience. The beauty of creating Irish music in America is that musicians can confront their perfectionist tendencies head-on, using music instead as a vehicle of socialization rather than a tool for performance.

2.  From the Heart. The pub owner at the time told me that many musicians in Ireland do not read music because they learn it all “by heart.” Freedom from the score means they can better internalize the music they learn and carry it with them always.

3. No Seating Charts/Chair Designations. There was no formal seating chart for the Monday night Learner’s group – They all simply sat around small tables, sipping wine and pints of Guinness, waiting for the rest of the musicians to arrive. No fighting over principal parts.

4. No Formal Starts. Irish musicians play melodies that are organized into “sets,” which include three tunes that are played three times with no rests between pieces. The music contained no formal “start” as everybody joined in when they felt ready. Players began playing and stopped during a set whenever they felt appropriate.  This informality gave the group a more laid back, gig-style performance.

5. Community-Based Dynamics. During a set, performers varied their dynamics to let different instruments stand out of the texture.  Whether this was intentional or not was unknown at the time, but it would later be discovered as part of a “follow the leader” technique that was employed in virtually all of the pieces played in session music.

6. No Stops. As the group moved seamlessly from the first set to the next, the music remained steadfast regardless of who was “lost” and where others wanted to join in.  For example, when a fiddler left momentarily to pour a glass of water, the group played another tune in the same way with sporadic entrances from different instruments. 

7. Strong Sense of Beat. Despite the piece and/or duration, every session musician had an extremely strong sense of beat. Nobody ever “fell” off the big beat.

8. Everyone is a Leader. During an observation of the Advanced session, the musicians allowed the music to trail off until another instrument assumed a leadership role and initiated a new tune.  Uncomfortable breaks remained at a minimum.

9. Taking Breaks – Make New Friends! At the conclusion of a group of sets, when it was appropriate to take a break, there was a small moment of awkward silence before individuals began to indulge in conversations with the musicians in their periphery, typically related to non-musical subjects such as the events of the weekend and previous Facebook communications. 

10. Follow the Leader Style. When starting a new set, the group often waited for the leader to finish playing through the melody once, varying dynamics after joining the melody in order to allow that leader to play out from the group whenever necessary. The proceeding leaders followed suit and began a great guessing game – When will the melody change?  In Ireland, the tune will last as long as the leader wants it to.

11. Laughing at Mistakes. Irish musicians were less concerned with “getting it right,” and tended to laugh more with one another when making mistakes. When was the last time you laughed at a missed note??? Try it sometime!

12. Tunes as Tradition. Tunes are passed down through tradition but the translation of that tune (whether written or otherwise) is really just a record of how one person played a tune at a particular time. There may be hundreds of notated versions of the same tune, but the authenticity of one is never valued over another.

12. Teaching Irish Music. One of the musicians I met during this project told me that the objective in teaching Irish music is to “teach people how to teach themselves.” Teachers are urged to empower, not discourage students.

13. Ornamentation is Ornamental. The true melody of a tune is valued above any ornamentation. Used as a way to emphasize a beat, the two most common types of ornamentation in traditional Irish music are cuts and rolls.  Applying Western Classical musical terminology for a moment, a cut can be compared to a single, very quick grace note played on the beat of the ornamented note, often taken from the “diatonic” note above.  A roll is a fast turn surrounding the primary note and is again played on the downbeat. The leader typically plays the unornamented melody first before adding ornamentation. Players do not have to copy the leader’s ornamentation but are encouraged to devise their own – As long it is used to highlight the primary melody.

14. From “the Dots.” Using scores, although rare, is known as playing “from the dots.” If we think about manuscripts as just “the dots,” it is easy to separate the page from the performer. We are the ones that bring the dots to life, after all.

15. Localities. Traditional tunes are based on the locale they originate from – Like a musical museum. Many pieces are dance tunes taken from different traditions. Part of the challenge is finding the local inflections buried in the music and bringing these out.

16. Happiness is the Answer. The Irish musicians I observed during this project seemed to enliven the music as they danced along to melodies in their seats and tapped their feet along to the beat essentially with their entire bodies.  The strongest players laughed and treated the music with a type of happiness that is often missing from classical groups. Is happiness the key to Irish music? After all of my observations, I indeed believe that happiness is the greatest gift that Irish music offers to its performers.

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Do you play Irish flute? What are some of the lessons you have learned shifting between the Irish music tradition and Western Classical music? What do you think we can learn by studying Irish music? How often do you “play from the heart” rather than “from the dots”? Please comment below!

Happy fluting!

A Sleight of Lung – Circular Breathing

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

I have been reminiscing a lot this week about past flute lessons and some of the obstacles I have faced in previous chapters in my flute playing life. A reoccurring theme back in my younger days was breathing. I often placed breathing at the bottom of my performance priority list to focus on technique and playing my high notes as loud as I feasibly could. This was often to the dismay of my flute teachers (sorry, y’all!). The good teachers helped me devise better breathing plans and the great teachers introduced me to tools designed to help me work with the air capacity I already had (breathing bags, breath builders, etc.). Even so, there was always one technique that seemed mysterious and unattainable yet way too far over my head. I knew it would help if I could master it, but I could not muster the courage to try. That technique was circular breathing. Some of the professional flutists I admired most wrote about this technique, practiced it religiously, and regularly performed incredible phrases on what seemed to be a single breath of air. Was it a magic trick? Was it a sleight of hand (or, I guess, in this case it would be a sleight of lung)? I wanted to know but was too shy to ask. As an adult regaining my flute mojo, I am ready to dive headfirst into learning more about this technique (however unsuccessful I end up being at actually executing it). In today’s blog, I will be looking at circular breathing – what it is, how to do it, what resources are available, and if it is worth learning. For all of you fellow shy or rebellious breathers, hopefully this post will inspire you to try something new!

CIRCULAR BREATHING

What is it? Circular breathing, in a nutshell, allows a player to simultaneously inhale air to fill the lungs while exhaling air to seamlessly sustain a note or phrase. Learning how to do it takes a lot of patience and teaching it takes a lot of cheerleading. It often takes months to years to learn how to do it and it can be used on all types of flutes (including piccolo). Circular breathing on the flute is quite difficult because the flute does not have much natural resistance (instruments such as the oboe have a much easier time learning this technique because a reed or mouthpiece offers a larger degree of resistance). Instead, flutists must have great control over their embouchure to create enough resistance to keep the airflow moving. The sound produced from circular breathing is similar to that of a stringed instrument (such as the violin) when it sustains a note, changing bow directions without changing the sound.

Background. It is said that circular breathing originated with 13th century Mongolian metal workers who used the technique to continuously blow into tubes to melt gold and silver as they created ornaments and various other trinkets. It has since been used widely on various flutes from around the world including the Australian digeridoo (to sustain drones), the Klui (Thailand), the Suling (Bali, Indonesia), the Saluang (Sumatra, Indonesia), and the Di-Zi (China). Will Offerman has a wonderful page where you may hear audio samples from some of these very unique instruments: https://www.forthecontemporaryflutist.com/etude-10/ . Check it out! Circular breathing is quickly becoming more mainstream. Kenny G, for example, used circular breathing in 1997 to set the Guinness World Record for the longest-held note on a wind instrument at 45 minutes and 47 seconds, a record that has since been broken several times (For those way younger than me, Kenny G. is an American Smooth Jazz Saxophone player who was super popular in the early 90’s). Kenny G. even has his own tutorial on circular breathing: https://youtu.be/bkA_pxHaNZQ

How to Do It (The Simple Version):

1. While playing, store some air in your mouth by inflating the cheeks.

2. Expand the cheeks and allow the remaining air in your lungs to fill the newly created space in your mouth.

3. When the cheeks are inflated, move the back of the tongue upwards to touch the back of the hard palate, creating a separate reservoir of air in the mouth and an open pathway from the nostrils to the lungs.

4. Play a note until just before you are about to run out of air. Use the pressure and resistance from your cheeks against your embouchure to push the air out at the same speed as when you are playing normally.

5. SIMULTANEOUSLY (yeah, you read that right..), play for a short time by squeezing the air out of the mouth and cheek muscles while filling your lungs with air by inhaling through your nose.

6. Return the back of the tongue to the normal position, restoring the airflow from the lungs to the flute again and play normally.

7. Repeat (as many times as needed).

A great way to start practicing circular breathing is by using a straw and a glass of water. Blow bubbles into the water through the straw using the resistance of your cheeks to keep the bubbles going while inhaling simultaneously through your nose.

Resources. There are a handful of great resources to use while you are learning to circular breathe. I really like the following videos by Melissa Keeling (who recommends 5-10 minutes of practice per day) https://youtu.be/UtpGyZif-h8 and the video series by Rogier de Pijper https://youtu.be/9qegpjuxBe0 because they both break down the technique into smaller steps that you may practice gradually. I really like this approach and recommend starting here! Robert Dick’s book, Circular Breathing for the Flutist, is essentially the flute bible of circular breathing: http://robertdick.net/product/circular-breathing-for-the-flutist/. Wil Offerman also has an etude devoted to circular breathing in his book, For the Contemporary Flutist (Etude #10): https://www.forthecontemporaryflutist.com/etude-10/. Finally, there are a handful of flute works that require the performer to know how to circular breathe including Gergely Ittzes’ Projections and Ian Clarke’s The Great Train Race.

If you are struggling and just want a pep talk (or a chuckle), check out Angus McPherson’s article, The Seven Worst Things about Circular Breathing. https://www.cutcommonmag.com/the-seven-worst-things-about-circular-breathing/ He touches on some of the downsides to circular breathing which include snorting and drooling (eww). The moral of the story, however, is to keep working on it even when it gets difficult. It is a skill that is well worth the effort to learn!

Potential Benefits. Learning to circular breathe makes playing transcriptions of string repertoire much more attainable. Is there a piece written for violin that you would LOVE to play on the flute? Learn to circular breathe to sustain those notes and unending phrases! It is also great to use in orchestral works (such as Mahler symphonies). Robert Dick, for example, used circular breathing as principal flutist of the Brooklyn Philharmonic in New York and has made it, “part and parcel of my compositional and improvisational approaches to the flute.” (from this awesome blog post on the NFA website: https://www.nfaonline.org/community/the-nfa-blog/community-blog/nfa-community-blog/2020/05/20/why-and-how-i-learned-circular-breathing)

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Do you know how to circular breathe? How did you approach learning this technique? What resources do you recommend? Have any inspirational success stories about circular breathing experiences? Please comment below!

Happy fluting (and breathing)!

BOOK REVIEW: The Top Octave Book – Playing with Artistry by Patricia George

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

If you have been reading my blog lately, you will know that I am on a quest to get my playing chops back into shape after spending the past couple years writing a book. Part of this process involves facing the things that challenge me the most. My high register and I have had a complicated love/hate relationship from the very beginning. In my younger days, I was quite proud of my ability to belt out notes in the high register like an 80’s hair band guitarist (rock on!), however this was mostly to distract from the fact that playing softly in same range, with a decent center and focused sound, was definitely my Achilles heel. I relied on using more air to create more sound. Seemed like a simple principle at the time… As I morphed into a more advanced player, I realized that it doesn’t really work that way. Now as an experienced adult flute player getting her flute playing groove back, I am trying to redevelop the better habits I’ve picked up along the way and avoid the old standards that keep my high notes from singing as effortlessly as they should. I picked up a copy of Patricia George’s new etude book, The Top Octave Book, recently and found it to be a great resource to accomplish some of my nearest and dearest high register goals. In today’s blog, I will be reviewing this book, discussing, among other things, some of my favorite elements on the design of the studies, the creative warm-ups and exercises, and the flexible nature of the entire work (Please note: This is not a sponsored post. Just supporting a book I am enjoying). Thank you, Patricia George, for creating such as wonderful way to work on my Achilles heel!

Before I begin, I also wanted to mention that Patricia George will be hosting a Teacher’s Exchange workshop with the Chicago Flute Club this weekend (Sunday, March 6, 2022, 2:00-3:30 pm CST) where she will be discussing topics such as stance, setup, harmonics, teaching scales with tetrachords, and note-groupings. This is a virtual workshop and the cost to join is only $5.00 for non-members or free to Chicago Flute Club Members (that’s less than a drink at Starbucks!). The deadline to register for this class is tomorrow at 10:00 pm CST! Please visit the following link to sign up: https://www.chicagofluteclub.org/page-18192 (Please note: This is also not sponsored. I just really love these virtual classes offered through the Chicago Flute Club. I am a big fan of their Fluting with Stars series and hope that it continues into the future). Check it out!

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BOOK REVIEW: The Top Octave Book – Playing with Artistry

So, this is going to be less of a “review” and more of a list of things I love about this new book. As someone who has spent countless hours in the past drilling top octave patterns from Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17 Daily Exercises (particularly Exercise No. 1) and stress-practicing excerpts from works such as Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony and Peter and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, this book has been like a type of therapy for me. I’ve learned to deconstruct my high register gradually while thinking about melodies in new, creative ways. If you also struggle with your high register, this is totally the book for you!

1.         Structure. As an ISTJ Myer’s Briggs personality type, I am addicted to structure. The Top Octave is organized in an easy-to-follow format that varies different types of exercises in a progressively difficult structure, complete with a guide-map on page 5 (“Practice Plan”) that explains what each of the five parts of the book intends to accomplish and recommendations on how much time to spend on each exercise. This, of course, will vary depending on your skill level. This structure reminds me of Walfied Kujala’s Vade Mecum but in a far more accessible way that can be used in each practice session without having to constantly shift between short exercises.

2.         Warm-Ups. There is an excellent Warm-Up section on pages 6-7 that includes a handful of simple, yet very effective, warm-ups for your high register. What I like the most about these is that they are short and super easy to memorize (this reminds me of some of the Trevor Wye exercises that I love and have used for decades). Word of warning – Do not be fooled by appearances. These are harder than they look (particularly double tonguing at the top of the range).

3.         Interesting Stories in Descriptions. I also really like the gems that can be found in some of the descriptions in this book. One of my favorites is Joseph Mariano’s idea of octaves as slices of bread and sound as the ingredients between these slices. Brilliant!

4.         Short, Clear Exercise Descriptions. I’ve often come across technique books that do not really give us an idea of how to practice an exercise or what the overall objective is. On the flip side, some books include so much descriptive material that nothing is really left up to interpretation by the performer (my way or the highway-type editions). This book offers clear, concise descriptions that give us a basic idea of how to approach the material (for example, some of the exercises in Part 3 indicate to play 8 bars, slurred in one breath, making it clear that breath control is the name of the game) but also allow flexibility to change it up by using various articulations.

5.         Barret Progressive Melodies (Part 5). The last section of the book includes 40 Progressive Melodies by A.M.R. Barret. These are wonderful high-register melodies that are short enough to practice one each day for more advanced performers. These remind me a lot of the studies in Marcel Moyse’s Tone Development Through Interpretation book (which is also a great companion book to The Top Octave). Many of these studies challenge the player to successfully play piano (p) in the high register, often at the very beginning of the work. This puts my Achilles heel front and center (no hiding, this time)!

6.         Seamless Octaves Exercise. There is an exercise in the middle of the Barret Progressive Melodies entitled, “Seamless Octaves.” This exercise serves almost as a reminder of the important fundamental skills and finger dexterity needed to successfully complete the book on, pardon the pun, a high note.

7.         Part 3 – Pair with Articulation Exercises. Many of the studies in Part 3: Advanced Top Octave Preparation, can be practiced with the same type of articulation exercises (aka scale games) that we use for Taffanel and Gaubert’s Exercise #4, particularly the Major Scales and Dominant 7ths. For ideas on scales games to use in conjunction with these exercises, please see my blog, Scale Games, Are they Really “Fun”? https://racheltaylorgeier.org/2013/05/28/scale-games-are-they-really-fun/

8.         Chunking. This book presents the concept of “chunking” (or note-grouping) in a very clear, easy to follow way, first with a great concise description of the technique on page 5 (“Special Challenges”), followed by scale studies organized in clear chunks (“Part 2: Top Octave Preparation.”). This is a great place to start practicing chunking if you, or your students, are new to the technique.

9.         Remember the Cork! There is a really good description on the importance of aligning your cork on page 2. We often forget about the cork and its role in helping the high register to pop.

10.       Simple Embouchure Exercise. There is a very simple yet effective embouchure exercise using just the headjoint on page 4. Again, this is something that simplifies the process of working on embouchure flexibility that can easily be memorized and used on a daily basis.

11.       Part 3 – Advanced Top Octave Preparation. I think this is overall my favorite part of the book! These exercises are all about using your embouchure, air speed, and airstream to balance your sound throughout the range while successfully using less air at the very top of the register. How else are you to get all 8 measures of each technical study in one breath? Very clever! Word of warning – Don’t be fooled by the easier studies at the beginning. The ones at the very top of the top octave are not easy! This is a great challenge but an obtainable one with practice. Pro Tip: Try practicing “snappy fingers” between each note (moving fingers deliberately and quickly – I sometimes refer to this as “robot fingers” to my students). This will help keep your technique fluid yet controlled while you place your primary focus on your embouchure and air control.

12.       Part 4: Phrasing Tips for 40 Progressive Melodies by A.M.R. Barret. This is my other favorite part of the book! Part 4 includes some really great ideas on how to add color and contour to phrases in Part 5 (Barret’s 40 Progressive Studies). I especially appreciate the discussion on using dynamic variations as a phrasing technique (this is a great description for students). These ideas make players think a bit more critically and creatively about the subsequent musical material. There is, after all, more than one correct way to color a phrase.

Thank you to Patricia George for writing such a great exercise book for the top register!! You are helping repair my Achilles Heel one top-octave scale at a time.

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Where can I purchase this book?

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Do you own a copy of The Top Octave already? Enjoying it? Do you also have a love/hate relationship with your high register? What are your favorite exercises and/or etude books to work on notes at the extreme high end of the flute range? Please comment below!

Happy fluting!

Fluteboxing

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Pexels.com

Earlier this week, I was perusing new flute music collections at my local instrument shop while my husband, an avid drum enthusiast who often likes to “shred” in our garage, shopped for a new kit. We, of course, were located on opposite sides of the store – Me in Orchestra Snob Land surrounded by walls of beautiful violins while he jammed in Cool Kid Land, adorned with walls of electric guitars in all shapes, sizes, and colors and walkways lined with various other intense-looking rock band equipment. It made me pause for a moment – Why are the classical and rock genres so often separated from each other (both physically and psychologically)? Are there ways that we can bridge the gap between the two worlds? Luckily for flutists, a way has been chartered via beatboxing. “What the heck is beatboxing? Is this some weird new fad the kids made up?” you may ask. Yes and no, but one thing is clear – It is definitely here to stay. In today’s blog, I will take you on a deep dive into flute beatboxing: The background, the key performers, and the videos that make it a famous new-ish flute genre.

Photo by anna-m. w. on Pexels.com

FLUTE BEATBOXING

What is it? – According to Wikipedia, flute beatboxing is the “production of stereoscopic flute tones (producing two separate sounds by humming while blowing into the flute) combined with vocal percussion and aural prestidigitation (slight-of-ear).” Uhm, okay… Sounds like a science experiment or a magic trick, right? To put it more simply, flute beatboxing is really an integration of flute playing and percussive techniques. Needless to say, it requires the utmost coordination.

The Basic History – The group RadioActive has been credited as hosting the first ever beatboxer on the pan flute (see video below), but others suggest that Tim Barsky was the first beatboxing flutist as evident by a 2001 recording (below) that resurfaced in 2006 (thanks YouTube!). Shortly thereafter, flute beatboxing went viral when performer Greg Pattillo released two very important, well-known flute beatboxing videos: Inspector Gadget and the Super Mario Brothers Theme. These two videos still hold the most views of any flute beatboxing videos on YouTube, Inspector Gadget at 31 million views and Super Mario at 26 million views. According to NoteStem, the “combination of a culturally popular melody, hip-hop style rhythms, and the apparent virtuosity of the technique led [Inspector Gadget] to be a popular video among many..” https://www.notestem.com/blog/flute-beatboxing/ Check these videos out below! I must admit that I posted both of these to my MySpace page back in the day. He is still considered by many as the best flute beatboxer in the industry today. I am definitely a Greg Pattillo fan for life!

The Key Performers

Tim Barsky – Barsky is originally from Boston, Massachusetts and is now based in the Bay Area. A graduate of Brown University with a degree in Islamic and Judaic Religious Studies, he also studied at the Berklee School of Music with Chasidic folklorist and archivist, Fishel Resler. Barsky was trained as a Jewish storyteller and his theatrical works have put him front and center in the Bay Area theater scene. His theatrical piece, The Bright River, achieved cult status in the Bay Area and he was awarded the Gerbode Playwright’s Grant in 2007 for his work, Track in a Box, a hip hop and circus-based play. A former line-producer for the Burning Man Arts Festival, Barsky is a member of the Hybrid Project at San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts and has taught beatboxing in San Francisco juvenile facilities. Serving as both the Artistic Director of City Circus (2007-2010) and Co-Founder of Vowel Movement Beatboxers, he has been featured as guest lecturer at The Royal College of Art in London, Stanford University, Oberlin College, and appeared as featured speaker at the American Press Institute.

Greg Pattillo – Greg Pattillo was originally from Seattle, Washington and is now based in Brooklyn, New York. The New York Times has described him as “the best person in the world at what he does.” Holding Bachelors and Masters degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, Pattillo studied with Joshua Smith, principal flute of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. Pattillo was the founding member of the Collaborative Arts Insurgency and the 16th and Mission Thursday Night series for performers in San Francisco. In June 2007, Pattillo was named one of 21 winners of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s “Music Under New York” Program, giving him an official permit to play music in the New York City Subway. In May 2010 he premiered a Concerto for Beatbox Flute by Randall Woolf with the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra (video below). He currently performs with Project Trio, a flute/cello/bass chamber group featuring Eric Stephenson on cello and Peter Seymore on double base (check out their videos here: https://www.youtube.com/c/freedomworksfilms).

Other Key Performers include Nathen “Flutebox” Lee who performs with groups such as The Prodigy, Asian Dub Found, and his band The Clinic. Check out his video below (so cool!):

Pattillo’s Beatboxing Notation – Greg Pattillo has created a notion system for flute beatboxing that adds a staff-less percussion line below the flute line using letters to indicate basic beatboxing sounds. For example, the bass drum sound is indicated by a letter “B” and back beat kicks by the letter “P.” This system is based on notation used for drum kits, specifically those relating to the hi-hat, snare rimshot, and bass drum. His method book, Beatbox Flute Method Book, can be purchased from the Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company here: https://www.flute4u.com/Pattillo-G-Beatbox-Flute-Method-Book.html. If you are looking to expand your beatbox study even further, Tilmann Dehnhard has also published a beatboxing etude book, available for purchase here: https://www.musiciansupply.com/shop/c/p/Flute-Beat-Boxing-Tilmann-Dehnhard-x17245091.htm

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Do you beatbox on the flute? Interested in learning more about this style and its origins? Want to join the Greg Pattillo fan club (obviously yes!)? What are your favorite beatboxing videos? Any good tips on getting started with beatboxing? Please comment below!

Happy Fluting (and beatboxing)!

Flute Polls

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday! Since this is a holiday weekend here in the States, I thought we might do something fun today. I have compiled a number of flute polls on various questions we flutists receive from time to time. You may notice that some of the options include an “other” response. Please feel free to expound on any of these “other” responses in the comments section of this post. I am fascinated to see how we all answer! This may become a recurring type of post if it gains enough popularity. Please let me know if you enjoy it (either by commenting below or sending me a direct message: racheltgeier@gmail.com).

Please Note: All polls close on Thursday, February 24, 2022 at 11:59 pm. I will discuss some of the results in next week’s post.

Have fun! And as always, Happy Fluting!!

-Dr. G

Burpees for Burgers – Getting Back into Flute Playing Shape

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

I have been working on a book for well over three years now. A majority of this time was also devoted to a full-time day job, which made finding time to practice in between these, and all of my other life responsibilities, quite difficult. As I begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a rough draft of my book, I can begin to find my way back to regular flute practice. Optimistic? Yes. Intimidated? Also, yes. I am like an athlete that has traded in burpees for burgers – Completely out of shape and in need of some newfound practice motivation. My story is not unique. Many of us, for one reason or another, fall off of our flute practice routines and struggle to get back on the horse. We need a plan to get back to our full flute playing awesomeness (or at least a few tips to help us get back on track). In today’s blog, I will discuss some of my best advice on how to get back into flute playing shape. The road ahead may be long and filled with lions and tigers and bears (oh my), but with a bit of optimism and a plan, we can all find our way back to the Emerald City of our flute playing.

GETTING BACK INTO FLUTE PLAYING SHAPE

First things first – Schedule a clean, oil, and adjust (COA) for your instrument. Fighting an uphill battle with an instrument that has fallen into a state of disrepair is like strapping 10-pound weights to your ankles before climbing 20 flights of stairs. Totally avoidable. Fix those leaky pads and troublesome keys. Make your flute play perfectly before you dive into regular practice routines again.

Block out specific practice times in your weekly schedule and commit fully to those practice times. That means no phones, no TV, no internet, no distractions of any kind (unless emergencies, of course). Find a place where you will not be interrupted and bring only the exercises and repertoire that you intend to practice for that session. It is very easy (and tempting) to pull up an old, easy favorite that you love but that does not necessarily challenge you. Getting back into shape also means getting out of your comfort zone.

Build up practice durations slowly. You don’t need to begin with a grad school 4 hours per day. In fact, that is the best way to burn out and burnout will likely lead you to abandon ship for Netflix and wine. Start with 10 minutes. Then 20 minutes. Then 30 minutes. Once 30 minutes is comfortable, practice 30 minutes every day for a week before upping your routine to 45 minutes. This makes practicing seem totally doable and not a huge commitment when you are starting back up after a break.

Keep a practice journal. No, I don’t mean just a list of how much you practice each day (like we all did in middle school for our band directors). Keep an actual notebook on your music stand with your goal(s) for the day, things to work on, ideas that spring up while you are practicing, what you are struggling with, what you enjoy, and any wins you have during your session.

Set a single challenging, yet achievable, goal for each practice session. Note that I said a single goal – not 40 different goals. This will help keep you focused during your session and help build back your skills gradually. More than one goal may be overwhelming and, if you are a perfectionist (like myself), not achieving every goal on your list may be discouraging during an already discouraging time. Start small yet realistic.

Meditate before each practice session. I know what you are thinking: Why be a buzzkill with a meditation before jumping into some Taffanel and Gaubert? Remember that embarking on a new daily routine will activate your inner critic who will no doubt tell you lies like, “you are too out of shape,” or “how did you let this happen??” or “you will not get back to your former glory.” Uhm, SHUT IT, inner critic! A simple guided meditation for 5-10 minutes will help clear your mind and give your inner critic a time out. Perfect way to start your session with a positive growth mindset. Remember, you are building your skills back (better than before!), not simply hopping into a musical time machine.

Start with technique. I know – It sounds crazy. What about long tones??? What about scales?? Don’t worry – they’re next! This is a bit of a mind trick and some clever musical motivation. Find your etude books and play through various exercises from a couple of mid-range difficulty collections. The Karg Elert 30 studies, Op. 107 or the Furstenau Grouping of Keys are good options, but you may select others that better fit your ability and skill level. Technical exercises will work out your fingers muscles and help your brain remember standard melodic patterns such as scales and arpeggios. This is your starting point. You will be able to identify exactly what your limitations are now and energized by the new challenges that technical studies provide. If an exercise is too difficult, find an easier one and work up to the more challenging etudes. Be patient with yourself and use this time to identify clear future goals.

Next, move on to harmonics. Harmonics are great for reconstructing your low register from scratch. There are a number of great etude books on the market that dive deep into harmonic exercises (future blog topic FYI) but as you are just starting back up the best ones to practice are those on page 6 of the Trevor Wye Practice Book on Tone. Simple, straightforward, easy to memorize. Make these a part of your daily warm-up routine and your low register will be in great shape in no time!

Long tones – Start with the middle register. Playing in the middle register requires less work from your embouchure, which you will be strengthening back up gradually. Again, Trevor Wye’s Practice Book on Tone is a great resource because it contains separate sections for the low, middle, and high registers. Once you’ve spent some time refining your middle register, move on to the low register exercises (if you’ve been practicing your harmonics on the daily, this register should be sounding good and ready to work more closely on). Save your high notes for later – these require more gymnastics from your embouchure.

Octaves. Once your long tones are in good shape and your harmonics are kickin’, add a few octaves to your daily routine. Start on a low G and make your way to a middle G, high G, and higher G, and back down before moving chromatically up the chain to a G#. Remember to let your embouchure do the hard work and avoid relying on your air to play in higher registers.

Redefine your vibrato. After taking time away, your vibrato may be all over the place. Add some simple vibrato exercises to your daily routine. My favorite exercise was taken from a Keith Underwood masterclass in my youth and is as simple and as useful as they come. Begin with a middle/high range B natural and descend chromatically for four notes (B natural, Bb, A, Ab), placing 8 beats of wide vibrato on each note. Then begin again on a Bb and follow the same patten descending chromatically four notes, but this time with 7 beats of vibrato on each note. Repeat starting on an A with 6 beats of vibrato, Ab with 5 beats of vibrato, G with 4 beats of vibrato, and Gb with 3 beats of vibrato each. Start again with 8 beats of vibrato on F and continue the same pattern into the low register. Really listen to your vibrato and work to create a vibrato that is integrated into your sound rather than one that sits on top of the sound.

Become better friends with Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17 Daily Exercises (especially Exercise #4). This is the best exercise to play to redevelop your articulation chops again. Start with slurs only so your fingers know where they are going. Then practice your “too”s (single tonguing), both tenuto (connected) and staccato (short). Next, move on to your “coo”s to strengthen the back of the tongue. Finally, practice your “too-coo”s (double tonguing) on all of the scale patterns. Make this a daily habit (they are called “daily” exercises, after all).

Schedule days to focus only on intonation. Why? Because working on intonation is frustrating (let’s be honest). Schedule periodic days where you patiently work with your tuner on intonation. What are your natural tendencies for each note? How can you counteract these tendencies (ex. aiming your air differently, using more/less air, etc.)? Be patient with this process. Mastering intonation is tricky but an essential part of flute playing.

Add improvisations to the end of each practice routine. As you are packing your music up at the end of your routine, spend a couple of minutes improvising. Play from your heart. This is what music is all about anyways! Walter White has created some very fun tracks to improvise along with if you need a little improv inspiration: https://walterwhite.com/product-category/wwshop/walterwhitelongtoneaccompaniment/. I highly recommend these if you are new to improvising or just want to make it a bit more fun.

Record yourself. I know it is intimating. Recordings are mirrors for your ears that you may not want to look into. But listening to yourself on play back is the best way to identify things you can work on (and even things you don’t even know you are doing). If it is scary, keep it short in the beginning – a couple minutes here and there. Once you are comfortable analyzing your sound on an audio recording, move onto video recordings using your smart phone’s camera. This will give you even more information about how your posture changes when you play and if you are holding yourself in ways that may be detrimental to your flute playing.

Dig out those old lesson notebooks and look for great gems of advice from your past teachers. You saved these, right? There may be a few very helpful tips buried in there that you completely forgot about. Or reoccurring tendencies in your playing that you can work on now before you fall back into bad habits. Learn from the past!

Set some performing goals. Okay – don’t freak yourself out at the beginning. The beginning is for restructuring your fundamentals and technique. But as you become more comfortable with the practicing process, add a couple of short term and longer-term performance goals to your radar. Perhaps you’d like to perform a recital in 6-8 months or audition for a local orchestra in the Fall and a not-so local orchestra come Spring. Write down your goals and anticipated deadlines. What are the action steps needed to make these into reality? Take the first step!

Watch and and listen to the pros. Spend some time on YouTube watching performances from your favorite professional performers. What can you learn from them? How do they make seamless tone color changes? What does their articulation sound like? Can you emulate it? What are they playing? Is there a great new piece that you could add to your repertoire? Take notes.

Attend free (or nearly-free) online masterclasses. These are great for gathering new ideas from the pros, often for a very nominal fee! These also provide good opportunities to ask questions from the experts and connect with other flutists in the chat box. The Chicago Flute Club features many of these types of masterclasses in the Fluting with the Stars Series: https://www.chicagofluteclub.org/page-18172

Take a couple of lessons from professional flutists. These can be formal lessons or not-so formal get-togethers (for example, if you are already at a professional level, you may ask another professional flutist to listen to you perform an etude or piece of repertoire and request some honest yet constructive feedback). Private teachers can help give you some great advice and help you with any specific challenges you may face. They are also great at suggesting ways to structure your practice routine to best work for your individual needs.

Look for new fundamental exercise books. There are new etude books published every day! Once you are comfortable with your good, old standards, look into newly published books to freshen up your routine. Check out Flute World for some great new options or simply spend some quality time on Google. Or, you know, email me for suggestions (of course)!

Speaking of adding something new to your routine, find a new interesting piece to work on. Working on a new piece is a great challenge and adds a bit of newness to your routine. Flute boredom is cancelled! Listen to a few recitals on YouTube or out in the world for some great new ideas or hit up your local flute community for some recommendations.

Always celebrate your wins! As you make progress, reward yourself for any wins. This could be mastering a new piece, performing an audition, or recording a video of your playing from start to finish. Rewards could be new flute accessories or concert tickets to a local orchestra. Whatever motivates you to achieve your goals!

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Have you fallen off your flute practice routine? What techniques help you get back to your best flute playing life? Are there any tips listed above that work well for you? Are there any missing from this list? Please comment below!

Happy fluting (and practicing)!

Fixing a Faulty Trill – Dr. G’s Top Five Trill Etude Recommendations

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday! This week’s blog will be similar to last week’s discussion on recommended etudes that isolate certain flute playing challenges. One of the items on my own list of New Year’s flute resolutions is to tighten and improve my trill game. Although they seem so basic, it is super easy to fall into the trap of playing lethargic or uneven trills. Why? Because they are often ignored. How many times have you simply wrote “faster” above a trill in your music to fix a faulty trill? Did it work? Or were you simply putting a band-aid on a larger problem? (*I am definitely guilty as charged!) In today’s blog, I will highlight my top five favorite etudes to work on trills. Remember that one of the best ways to improve trills is by taking the pressure off of the trilling key. To do this, use a slightly firmer grip on the depressed key adjacent to the trilled key (for example, put slightly more pressure on the 2nd finger of your left hand while trilling a middle register G). Like everything, practice makes perfect (even when it comes to trills!).


Dr. G’s. Top Five Trill Etude Recommendations

  1. Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17 Big Daily Finger Exercises for the Flute, Exercise #17. If there was ever a Gold Standard trill exercise, this would be it! This exercise takes you through all trills from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high (or at least a top octave C – trills beyond this are rare). Make sure you have a great resource handy to look up trill fingering for some of the third octave ones that receive less air time (like high A’s and B’s). There are several fingering charts available online but I always like to have James Pellerite’s A Modern Guide to Fingerings for the Flute within arm’s reach. Taffanel and Gaubert remove all other technical obstacles in this exercise so you many focus solely on the evenness of the trills themselves. Take notes as you practice these. Which ones are easier than others? Which tend to be naturally slower and/or uneven? Slow them down and speed up gradually.
  1. Koehler’s Eight Studies, Opus 33, Exercise #8. Word of warning – this one is a doozy! Koehler’s exercise takes us through a variety of different durations of trills, some with grace notes, some without, some with accidentals and some with virtuosic runs extending into upper registers. This etude requires you to figure out how best to place your trill into the context of larger and (much) smaller beats. Take it slowly at first to work out all of the ever-changing accidentals. Make sure not to linger too much on your trills that there is no space for the grace notes that follow. Strive to keep your trills virtuosic but still controlled and even.
  1. Robert Cavally’s Melodious and Progressive Studies, Page 52-53, Andante “Exercise on Trills.”
    The name says it all – this is a trill exercise! This is a much more melodic, toned down version of the Koehler exercise. Featuring dotted rhythms, the trills in this etude are primarily quarter notes (with a few eighth notes thrown in for variety) and feature very few grace notes. This is a good one to practice in preparation for the Koehler. What I love about this etude is that it is short and can be practiced on a regular basis (dare say, even from memory for an extra challenge). I also like that it features trills in the middle and lower registers, which often naturally sound a bit more lethargic than high register trills. This is a great exercise for working on these “tubby” registers.
  1. Theobald Boehm’s 24 Melodious Studies, Exercise #15. Now that you have mastered some of the more technical examples of trill playing, Boehm will ask you to play your trills with grace and beauty. This exercise features trills of a variety of durations, including dotted eighth trills at the beginning and toward the end of the page. Like the Koehler, it is important not to linger too long on the shorter trills that you take rhythmic space away from the notes that follow. Above all, keep your trills even yet lyrical. Sing these trills! Dolce after all means to play “sweetly.” How sweet can you make your trills?
  1. Furstenau’s Groupings of Keys (Ed. Marcel Moyse), Exercise #21. This exercise is essentially a cadenza. Your trills, therefore, typically lead into a virtuosic line for you to perform your best technical gymnastics. What your trills need here is energy. Of course keep them even. Of course keep them spinning. But now also add a bit of flavor! I like to think of these trills as the fuse that is ignited on a firework. Quiet, sustained anticipation leading to an impressive light show! The quality of your trill will heighten this anticipation but also help show your audience where the line is leading. Experiment with tone colors here. It may be marked “pp” but ask yourself how you can add a bit of sparkle to your trill using your sound. Be creative and think outside of the trill box!

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What is your favorite trill exercise? Do you have a favorite exercise that is missing from this list? Do you have any great tips to work on trills? Do you struggle making your trills even? Please comment below!

Happy fluting (and trilling)!

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/