Tag: flute practice tips

Developing effective dynamics in the flute choir

October 6, 2014 at 12:17 pmCategory:Flute Choir

This season the music my flute choir is working is filled with dynamic effects. Some are simple and straightforward, others include big, quick changes. All of them need to be done cleanly and provide big impact. Wishy washy dynamic changes will be worse than none at all.

I have made plans for developing these in every rehearsal. Here is my strategy so far:

1. Practice big effects in isolation. Practice the special effects first, then integrate them into the piece. This draws attention to them, reinforces their importance in the player’s minds, and helps the piece feel more exciting right from the beginning, leaving room to create even bigger effects as the piece comes together.

2. Encourage, nay, DEMAND that players make the biggest effects possible. I want them to really punch that sfz, turn the volume way down on the piano after a fp while keeping the intensity going, etc. It always amazes when I ask for MORE, BIGGER, and players draw back, and give less, play smaller. When I can get someone to really let loose, get into the characterization, it is such a thrill for me, and them. Really, the world will not end if you play something so big that the note cracks, or heaven forbid, you draw someone’s attention. That is what those effects are for, to get the listener’s attention!! Maybe I should get a mannekin to put in the back of the practice hall and encourage people to play to it, give them a target. Hmmmmmmm.

3. Dynamic levels are relative. The particular dynamic level of any one part at any one time, depends on the role that part has in the music. There are no concrete dynamic levels. Excellent ensemble playing requires sensitive, ACTIVE attention to individual dynamic levels every single second. If every part is marked at mezzo forte, and everyone dutifully plays their concept of mezzo forte, but the melody line is indistinguishable, that doesn’t work. It may be ‘proper’, but it is not good music. The melody line has to be louder than the supporting parts, so either that player has to play out or the others have to play quieter, or both. Then as soon as the melody line moves to another part, the players have to balance that out. This requires engagement on the part of every player and attention on the part of the ensemble conductor or coach if there is one. I feel an idea for an ensemble balancing exercise blossoming!

Really when you think about it, while dynamic levels can be quantified using a decibel meter, who does that? I have personally practiced an exercise that required the player to make distinctions between 8 dynamic levels, from ppp to fff. This is great for developing awareness and control, and is an area that I don’t pay enough attention to in my own practicing. However, the most musical concept of dynamics is not to try to play at numerically defined levels, but to make sure your dynamic levels are discernible to the listener, fit the context of the music, and have the desired impact.

That’s more than enough for now. Time to put this into practice!!

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Try Gary Schocker’s trick of using a wine cork to improve flute tone

October 2, 2014 at 3:03 pmCategory:Practicing the Flute

I’ve been concentrating on improving my tone lately, and came across these videos from Gary Schocker. He demonstrates how he used a wine cork to develop and improve his sound. It sounds totally off-the-wall, but it makes good sense! And since Schocker does have a glorious sound and amazing air management, this technique must be doing something good for him!

The basic idea is that positioning the cork helps you open inside your mouth and create a freer path for your air to move through. Take a look and give it a try!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=36X5xlrPzg0

Intrigued? Here is more!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IvvKXxm3r4

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Bulletproof Musician’s 8 Things Top Practicers Do

September 28, 2014 at 2:58 pmCategory:Practicing the Flute

I’m always looking for new and better ways to make my practicing better so I often read the Bulletproof Musician blog to see what new advice he has to share. Check out his newest post to see how your practicing methods compare with the 8 top methods identified in a recent study.

http://www.bulletproofmusician.com/8-things-top-practicers-do-differently/

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Intonation in Action Coming Up!

January 23, 2014 at 11:29 pmCategory:Uncategorized

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!

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Intonation in Action at the Florida Flute Fair 2014

November 6, 2013 at 10:29 pmCategory:Uncategorized

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:

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