Tag: flute

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



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!!


Intonation Book Update, it’s on Amazon.com!

January 15, 2013 at 10:43 pmCategory:Intonation Store | Uncategorized

Just a quick update: my practice book is now formatted for eReaders and can be purchased through the Kindle store at Amazon.com. The content is the same as the PDF version I launched earlier, but formatted specifically for Kindle eReaders. Soon it will also be available through several other outlets such as the iBooks store, I’ll post that information as it happens. The book is still available in PDF form through this site, just go to the Buy the Book page for ordering instructions.

Happy Fluting!


Preparing for Intonation Contingencies

November 19, 2012 at 9:03 pmCategory:Practicing the Flute

At last week’s flute choir rehearsal, we were discussing how often we might have to tune during the concert because of people having to change to different instruments for different pieces. There were several suggestions made about how to peed the flutes warm so they wouldn’t be so flat when they are picked up for a new piece (maybe there’s a new product or gimmick to be developed here!)

One flutist described a really thoughtful, ambitious method she uses to deal with this situation. She practices the pieces as if in performance and checks the general pitch of each new instrument as she picks it up and has to play it cold. By doing this, she gets at least a general idea of how to adjust the pitch so she anticipate what she needs to do to play in tune when the flute is cold. Paying constant attention to pitch (which she should be doing anyway!) allows her to adjust as the flute warms up. Wow! This person is really thinking! Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone did this? Just one more thing to add to the list of things to do in order to be prepared for every contingency in performance. Thank you Judy for that wonderful, smart idea!


Practical Intonation Practice Manifesto

November 15, 2012 at 8:46 pmCategory:Practicing the Flute

Practical Intonation Practice Manifesto

1. Everything is a tone exercise. Always use the best tone production possible! Good intonation and good tone go hand in hand.

2. Don’t rush. Give yourself plenty of time to hear the sounds you are producing so you can determine if any changes need to be made. Pay attention to how it feels to produce a good note that is ‘in tune’ and memorize that feeling so you can reproduce it.

3. Regular, small bits of careful practice will achieve more than long sessions of inattentive, mindless practice.

4. Your ears are your most important musical tools. Improving your intonation is as much about improving your ears as it is anything else.

5. Words are important. The words you use to describe your practicing (or others’) influence what you will be able to accomplish. Stay away from judgmental right/wrong statements, instead try works/ doesn’t work, better/best.