Practicing Flutist Tshirt Sidehustle

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May 17, 2017 at 6:06 pmCategory:Uncategorized

In case you didn’t know, I have a sidehustle that includes designing Tshirts.  And surprise, surprise, many of them have musical themes. Might be a little weird, but it’s fun. It’s even more fun with people like them and buy them, makes me feel like I’m making a connection with them. Below are links to my newest efforts, available on Amazon’s newest POD Tshirt service. You can also search for Practicing Flutist to find them.  If you like them, share them! Or send me ideas for what you want to see on a Tshirt.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072BWXF3S

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0711RZS26

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Practicing Scales on Autopilot?

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May 15, 2017 at 7:05 amCategory:Practicing the Flute

Are you practicing scales on autopilot? Perhaps you turn on the metronome and then tear through them as fast as you can to get them over with for the day. There’s nothing interesting about practicing scales after all, is there?

If this is what you think, you are short-changing yourself. Practicing scales or anything else on autopilot, without engaging your powers of observation and problem-solving, is only minimally productive. And it is boring!

Here are some things you could be improving in your scale practice, besides speed!

Fluent, relaxed finger technique, full, relaxed inhale, tone quality and consistency, articulation, rhythm, intonation, air management, dynamics, musicality, posture, alternative fingerings, beatboxing techniques. . . . . what am I forgetting? Probably at least a half dozen other things.

Here are some recommendations of what to listen for the next time you practice scales.

1. Tone first, always. Everything is a tone exercise! Each and every note must be as beautiful as the one before and after it. Any inconsistency in the sound is caused by an inconsistency in the air or the fingers. Listen for it, diagnose the cause and eliminate it. Keep the beautiful stuff going through every note!

2. Intonation, always. Good intonation and good tone go together, so improve the intonation and the tone will also be improved. Are you stretching your octaves by going sharp as you ascend the scale or flat as you descend? Set your tuner or other drone generator to the keynote of the scale to use as reference, then tune each note of the scale to that drone. Then play the scale at a medium tempo and work on landing the keynote (or tonic) perfectly in each octave. (Great for arpeggio practice, too!)

3. Articulation. Use your scales to practice as many different articulation patterns as possible. Staccato, legato, slur, air only attacks, double tonguing, triple tonguing and every variation you can think of. Do a different pattern on each scale, then tomorrow rotate the patterns so you practice different ones on each scale.

And as in the tone exercise, make each and every articulation at least as good as the one before it and the one following. If a note doesn’t ‘speak’, stop and figure out why. What is keeping the air from getting to the flute so that the note speaks clearly?

I’ll skip going into practicing with a metronome for evenness and speed because I assume you are probably already doing that. If not, then please do! What I’ve described will help you form a good foundation for productive scale practice. You can expand on them to include much more, but the most important thing is to always be engaged and actively listening and problem solving as you practice. This makes practice much more productive and hopefully endlessly interesting. So switch off the autopilot and put your scales to work!

 

 

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Practice What You Don’t Know First

March 3, 2017 at 11:39 pmCategory:Flute Practice Epiphany | Practicing the Flute

Practice what you don’t know first and most.

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? It is all too easy to start our practice with what is most familiar and comfortable. But that does not help us conquer what is difficult and uncomfortable. Especially when we have limited practice time and are overwhelmed by what we feel we need to accomplish. The simplest and most efficient approach is to start with what we are most unfamiliar with. After all, why practice what we already know when there is so much we want to learn and improve?

I learned this firsthand when there was a period of time where I had a lot of unfamiliar music to learn and limited time in which to learn it. I tried to make the most of what little time I had, ten minutes here, maybe a half hour there, if I was lucky. Subsequently I was amazed that by concentrating my full attention (and please note that I am emphasizing attention and not pressure) on the passages that I was least comfortable with, I made quick progress toward being performance-ready.

I credit my teacher during this time, Alex Murray, for this approach. He gave me many practical, common sense ideas to use in my practice, and this is one of what should have been one of the most ridiculously obvious of ideas.

So if you have little time to practice, start with the passages that give you the most trouble. Give them that laser-like focus that you have when your time is limited. You might be amazed by what you can achieve.

 

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It All Started With the Flute . . .

December 17, 2016 at 5:02 pmCategory:Uncategorized

Imagine if the invention of the flute was the first step to the invention of computers? Musicians already know that musical activities can inspire great ideas in other fields. Steven Johnson, writer and researcher on the history of innovation, presents an entertaining and informative video describing how the invention of the flute 40,000 years ago can be connected to the invention of computers. Another prime example of how important music is to the human race (and should be in homes and schools, hint, hint!)

Click on the link to see Johnson’s TedTalk video, it’s surprisingly fun as well as informative!

How Play Leads to Great Inventions

 

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Inspired by Pentatonix

December 9, 2016 at 9:08 amCategory:Uncategorized

I believe that much inspiration can be gained by listening to and watching the performances of excellent musicians, whether they perform Classical or pop, are instrumentalists or singers. One of my favorites to listen to and watch is the acapella group Pentatonix.

Especially at this time of year, I find listening to Pentatonix, and watching their videos to be very inspiring.  Their arrangements of Christmas classics combine the familiar beauty of old-fashioned carols with fresh, modern interpretations. Performance-wise they display such perfection of intonation and attention to detail that I think of them as excellent inspiration for what can be achieved by conscientious musicians playing in an ensemble.

From watching them in the videos it is evident that they  listen to each other closely, ALL THE TIME, EVERY SINGLE SECOND, so they can interact and adjust accordingly. I feel like I can almost see how intensely they are listening to each other, blending their individual voices into the overal sound and texture.

They also put the maximum amount of effort and attention into every syllable. It doesn’t matter whether they are singing lead or backup, each singer performs each and every note as if it were the most important note in the song. And their use of different syllables and mouth shapes to create specific sounds (also applicable to wind players, especially flutists!) demonstrates how much thought and pre-planning they put into making each piece of music special.  They are fully invested in making every moment great, because they know that every note counts.

For emphasis on intonation in a simple carol, check out Pentonix singing First Noel.

To hear how they approach tunes without lyrics, this link takes you to Pentatonix singing Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker Suite, a fun listen and entertaining video!

And if you want just a little more, this arrangement of Carol of the Bells is fantastic! I hope that as you listen and you sill be inspired to continue developing your musical skills!

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