Friday, September 30, 2011

Flute Diary

This summer I spent a lot of time on the alto flute after something like seven years of hardly touching it and it was great to play it again. I recruited Hayley from the Orange community band to join me and Dr. Andy to work up music I'd arranged back in the 90's for flute, alto flute, and cello, along with some things I'd written for keyboard with those instruments.

Jumping around from instrument over the years has its drawbacks, but there are wonderful advantages as well. All the work with the horn and the regular flute meant I was able to get much better tone and volume on the alto flute than I did in the past. There's also sometimes a complete absence of the hissing, tire leaking air sound that used to be a regular feature.

I think the work with BE, Jeff Smiley's embouchure method for trumpet and horn, helped me better understand the way all the breathing and muscles work together to produce the embouchure, and that the better you "get" that, the easier it is to have a comfortably open throat and jaw, which in turn allows for creating centered, full tone. 

With both flute and horn my tendency was to obsess over what the lips were doing. I've never particularly liked buzz words, but that 60's hip term gestalt really fits the bill for explaining the true nature of embouchure. Embouchure is how everything else you're doing manifests in the lips. I realize this is one of those commonplaces of teaching wind instruments, but it's also one of those things where you have to experience what the words are talking about. Just because the words make sense to you doesn't mean you have a full understanding of their import. 

The other thing that has struck me (all over again) is what a perfect trio the flute, alto flute and cello make. There's the wonderful balance of treble, midrange and bass sounds, and the flutes have that difference tone ghost of an extra instrument from time to time, and all three are agile instruments.

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