Articulation Inspiration

Every year at the Florida Flute Association Convention I see or hear something that inspires me, something that I try to integrate into my own playing or musical philosophy. This year I was so busy with presenting a teaching session, conducting a flute choir performance, and giving a performance presentation, that I feel like I didn’t see all that much. But, I still got my moment of inspiration!

This year’s featured performer was Aaron Goldman, principal flutist of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC. After reading about him and his experience auditioning for the NSO, I looked forward to hearing him perform and learning about him. My events were all finished by Saturday evening’s gala performance, so I was free to attend and listen without the distractions of having my own things to worry about.


I will admit that I was not captivated by his performance in the gala concert. Yes, his technique was flawless and fluid, almost effortless, and his fast articulations miraculously clean, consistent, and consisting of more tone than tongue. However in my state of fatigue I was not moved and did not stay through the whole performance. Isn’t it odd that when a performance seems too effortless, it also feels as if the performer is not really engaged? I like a little of the performer’s personality to come through, a sense that he or she is excited by the music, and that was not coming through for me.

I was sufficiently impressed, though, so that I attended the next morning’s warmup session led by Mr. Goldman where he introduced people to exercises he uses to improve and maintain his sound production. The exercises were not new to me, ala Moyse, but I was impressed that Goldman actually explained why he used certain exercises, and how he used them to continually challenge himself to make better sounds and increase his skills. Teachers and presenters often don’t give you the why of a thing, resulting in students blindly trying to  recreate something that was never defined for them in the first place.

My revelation came in the masterclass Goldman taught. With one of the performers, he was given the opportunity to address articulation and how he approaches it. This was of particular interest to me, because my own double and triple tonguing are not what I would like them to be, so I was anxious to hear what he might suggest. Simply, he put the emphasis on the tone of the notes, rather than the tonguing.

This makes so much sense! Listeners don’t care so much about the mechanics of your articulation, they are interested in hearing the notes so they have something to follow. Think of the articulation like this: each articulation has a little t or k (or whatever syllable you are using) and uppercase AH:  tAH, kAH, dAH, gAH. This fits right in with the idea that the articulation only begins the note, and that once the articulation has been made, you have to get out of the way of the note.

Personally, I have been starting out OK on lengthy articulated passages, but after a few measures I start to really bear down on the articulation and the tone disappears. This is exactly what I needed to hear about right now. It is a reminder of what I already know to be true and at the same time, a new insight. I have new goals to work on now and a method of achieving them.

Mission accomplished, my yearly inspiration has been provided!

Intonation in Action Coming Up!

It has been forever since my last post, but I have been productive in the meantime and more will be appearing here. I’m conducting two flute choirs now and the orchestra I play in has started up again, so I’ve been trying to balance all that while not overextending myself TOO much.

So, the Florida Flute Convention is this weekend and I’ll be conducting a performance by the Tampa Bay Flute Choir and presenting Intonation in Action, an extension of all the intonation stuff I post about. It has taken forever to come up with the structure of this particular presentation, but, by Jove, I think I’ve got it! If you read this after seeing the presentation, I’d be thrilled to hear what you think. And if you can’t be there and want to know what this is all about, contact me through the website and I’ll send you the PowerPoint, but only if you promise to give some feedback.

More next week, after I catch my breath. Happy Fluting!

Intonation in Action at the Florida Flute Fair 2014

Yay! My proposal to present at the 2014 Florida Flute Fair has been accepted so I will be presenting a workshop on Intonation in Action. I will also conducting my flute choir, the Tampa Bay Flute Choir, at this year’s event, so I will be busy in January!

The workshop will involve audience members in demonstrations and techniques that I use to work on intonation in playing situations. This isn’t about being able to hit a target on a meter; it is about learning how to develop intonation awareness and develop the ability to respond to changing pitch contexts. Exercise and develop those intonation reflexes!!

More about this later. You know I can’t keep from talking about intonation stuff! Check out more about the Florida Flute Association and the yearly convention here:

Virtual Flute Choir

If you haven’t heard about the Virtual Flute Choir, check this site and YouTube video out. What a cool idea! Flutists from all over the world submitted videos of themselves playing a pre-selected piece at a set tempo. Then those individual videos and recordings were recorded into a single performance. Neato keen!

To be honest, it sounds a lot better than most flute choirs I have heard. I’m a little suspicious about how much sound and pitch editing was done, but that doesn’t really matter. It is a good recording and the realization of a terrific idea. Kudos to Karen McLaughlin Large (fellow Florida Flute Association member) for her terrific idea and for making it all happen.

Here is the link to the website that describes the project and displays the video. You can also go to YouTube directly and watch the video from there.

Back from the Flute Fair! Amazing!

I’m back home from the 2012 Florida Flute Fair and I think I can say that a good time was had by all. A whole weekend of flute immersion, what a wonderful thing! We are so lucky to have this terrific event here every year.

My presentation, Cyberflute: Navigating the Internet was well-attended and went pretty well. The audience was terrific and it was an enjoyable session. I’ll have to figure out how to make the handouts available for those of you who are interested. The rest of the program was packed with great performances and presentations, including a terrific concert by this year’s headliner Carol Wincenc. She also gave a wonderful session on getting warmed up to play. The attitude of the audience was also quite impressive. At least 95% of the audience participated eagerly. It was an amazing experience to have about 100 flutists all doing the physical exercises and long tones together. We made all kinds of noises and funny faces as we prepared to sing through our flutes, figuratively and literally. I am sure that everyone there benefited from her excellent advice and amazingly positive and encouraging manner. I can’t use the word ‘amazing’ enough!

Here is a link to the program: I can’t wait for next year, if you are nearby next year, you should check it out!