Monday, May 24, 2010

Flute Diary

Did pretty well with the Presbyterian Ensemble yesterday. Somewhere between "a gentleman's C" and a B+. Got lots of phrases just right with full tone. Got the high F's and Eb's. Garbled enough notes here and there to keep things out of the "A" range, though.

Came to realize the fingering insecurity stemmed from the fact that on the alto flute, which I played a lot in the 90's between our Vermont readership on regular flute and Dr. Andy on cello, the mid-range Eb has better tone and intonation with the left index finger down, rather than up as on the soprano flute. Once I realized that bit of brain wiring was what was setting off cascades of fingering errors and bad intonation and poor tone, drilling all the little sections where that cropped up really helped.

The other thing was realizing I needed to stop playing horn for a couple of days to let my lips have the ability to finesse the aperture to fine tune the tone and intonation. 

One of the great things about the flute is that you can play as long as you want, as opposed to the horn where your practice time is limited by how long you can buzz your lips well enough for good tone. With the flute, the more you play the more flexible and enabling your embouchure becomes.

This was the most intense wood shedding I've done in a while, and it was very helpful drilling down into technique issues and figuring them out. One thing that revealed problems was to use the metronome on a variety of speeds right around the one indicated. Slightly expanding or contracting the length of the beat helped me learn the essential rhythms of the phrases. I may well have it wrong mathematically, but adjusting the rhythms to slightly varied beat lengths felt more logarithmical than arithmetic. Once I got the feel for the flow and patterns of the rhythm, could pull off the phrases at the various tempi.

One thing that really helped was that the Presbyterian Church is a wonderfully large open space with mostly exposed brick walls. Playing the flute into that space is a joy because the sound comes back at you so easily and clearly, it's almost like having another flute doubling the part. In a great acoustical space like that it's easier to refine your tone, because better tone gets a better acoustic response.

photo - early spring crocus 

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