Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Practice Tips

Tammy Evans Yonce
Practice Tips by Tammy Evans Yonce

Establish a solid practice schedule: 
  • Actually block off time in your schedule designated specifically for practicing. Avoid using it for lunch, socializing, homework, errands, sleeping, and so forth. As a musician, practicing is part of your job, so treat it with professionalism. 
  • Write your designated practice time in your schedule. Enter it into your online planner. Make sure it ends up wherever you will see it until it becomes habit. 
  • Arrange your practice time for when you practice best. Some people love getting work done first thing in the morning before anyone else is around to be a distraction. Others work best late at night. Maybe right before or after lunch is when you’re most alert. Figure out when your most effective practice time is and make sure you schedule around that. A reasonable amount of focused practice is better than lots of unfocused practice. 
  • Your practice time doesn’t have to be one large block. Maybe you have 30 free minutes between classes early in the morning. That’s perfect for your warm-up! You can then schedule another practice session for technical work and repertoire, or you can split that work into two sessions. 
When approaching a new piece: 
  • Listen to a quality recording of the piece. Yes, this counts as practicing!
  • Do a quick run-through of the piece to get a feel for it and where the difficult parts are.
  • Actually write the tempos of each problem area in your music (in pencil) so you remember where you are the next time you practice. You will probably have different tempos for each difficult section of the work, but that’s ok. You’ll eventually work them all up to the same tempo. Don’t forget to update the tempo in your music after you’ve made progress.
  • In particularly difficult sections, it may be necessary to break your practice down into just 2 or 3 notes. This may seem too simple, but it’s a much more effective use of your practice time than simply running through the music and making little, if any, progress.
  • Save run-throughs. Start doing more of these as you approach a performance to get a feel for the work in its entirety and to start building endurance. It’s also helpful to do occasionally to assess how well your practice is going, but it’s simply not enough to be your sole practice strategy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flautists Who Sing

Flautists Who Sing
By Jane Rutter

I  gave a flute masterclass yesterday  at the Australian Institute of Music.Coming away from it, the main thing I talked about  to the class,was the concept of Bel Canto. The notion of connecting the sound with a sense of voice. The technical ability to follow the vocal line in the music.

Jane Rutter
So here are my initial tips for  playing with communicative intent. Margaret Crawford commented on how lucky she–and I- were to be exposed to the wonderful Rampal school of flute playing in Paris.So here is the legacy of Joseph & Jean-Pierre Rampal and Alain Marion.… it’s my legacy to my students now too!

Flute players who sing through the flute–first tip from Jane Rutter: 

1. Use Marcel Moyse’s brilliant ideas from the Art of sonority, and tone development through interpretation. These books themselves are fantastic but they also are meant as a guide for you. If you have trouble technically sustaining the sound–particularly in fast passages–apply the same rules to your pieces. Play Marcel Moyse’s examples in every octave. Play them piano, Forte, with different tone colours. In fact  invent your own hoops to jump through!

A) Start with the first exercise in the art of sonority, which is like a yoga stretch for flautists, and play it chromatically. A good extension of this exercise is–when you get to low C, go back up in the same manner as high as you can. Turn around at the top and go back down to C3. This exercise illustrates the simplest possible form of phrase: from one note to the next semitone. You should play it from the heart and is musically as possible.

B) follow the same ideas as scales–connect the notes and imagine you’re playing a rhythmically and harmonically interesting piece. Place scales with emotional and communicative intent.

C) play difficult, fast pieces very slowly as if they were at tone exercise (see above). Join the notes and give them exactly the same line they would have if you were playing at the correct tempo. If they involve double or triple tonguing, you can still apply this principle: articulate as you would normally but join the notes together as part of one phrase. If the phrase is for today and you run out of breath playing it slowly, briefly unique to commence the new part of the phrase buy beginning with the last note you’ve played before your breath. This method allows you to practice any phrase in music and will improve your vocal line, your control of expression and your breathing. More later!

*Jane Rutter performs on a 14K Powell Handmade Custom Flute.  Find more information about Jane on her website:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Flute Choices

When choosing a flute for yourself, what are some of the factors you take into consideration?  We know that brand and model choices are ultimately determined by personal preference, but are there additional factors that help you make your selection?  Do you read reviews on other sites or forums?

For your students, we realize there are differences between what suits your needs as a teacher and performer versus what their needs are as growing musicians.  What helps you determine the brand and model choices for your students?  Have you noticed changes in the selection of brands and models over the years?  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hand Position

Hand Position
By Cindy Ellis

Cindy Ellis
Make sure that the flute is balanced properly in your hands. The main points for support are the right hand thumb and the first finger knuckle joint of the left hand. Keep in mind that there is some counterbalance coming from the flute resting on the lip/chin area as well. Orient yourself in a room facing one wall:  The left hand palm should face the wall to your right, keeping the elbow joint rather low. The right hand thumb can be placed under the F key, or slightly lower, but oriented underneath the index finger. Make sure that there is no break in the wrist joint, so that the right arm has a smooth line all the way to the  elbow.  These little adjustments in hand position may encourage smoother finger technique. Fingers move from the knuckle down: the hands don't move. Use a mirror to check your hand position frequently.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Recital Preparation by Tammy Evans Yonce

Tammy Evans Yonce
Preparing for a recital can be a daunting process. If you’ve ever given a recital before, you’ve discovered that there’s more to the process than just learning the music. You often collaborate with a pianist or other chamber music partners. You perform in a space that might differ significantly from your usual practice room, acoustically speaking. You perform in formal attire as opposed to your usual clothes. And let’s not underestimate the effect that nerves and adrenaline have on a performance. So what do you do? Here are some ideas.

- Technical work. As you get closer to the date and the music starts coming together, there might still be some technical spots that continue to give you trouble. As reassuring as it is to keep practicing the music that you *can* play, it’s a smarter idea to focus most of your available practice time on working out the tricky spots.

- Recordings. Listening to recordings is incredibly helpful. They can quickly clarify questions that you might have about interpretation or ensemble. On the other hand, they might also be a good indication of what you *don’t* want to do. Either way, listening to a variety of recordings is a valuable investment of time when preparing for a recital.

- The importance of rehearsals can’t be overstated. No matter how easy the coordination between the different parts of a work may seem, there are always those quirky mistakes that can spring up unexpectedly. If you’ve spent a reasonable amount of time in rehearsal, you should be able to minimize those unfortunate mistakes. Write in cues for music in the other parts that you seem to always notice. Even if the performance is going perfectly well, those aural reassurances might be just what you need to set your mind at ease.

- Try to practice in the recital hall as much as possible. In larger venues, this isn’t always possible since they tend to be booked up all the time. You can still talk to people who have played in the space before. Is it a live space? Muffled? Hard to hear your chamber music partners? Do there always seem to be balance problems? Get as much information as possible before your dress rehearsal and performance.

- Do some practice run-throughs in your formal clothing. For guys, this probably isn’t such a huge change, but for ladies, this can be a major adjustment. Think about the temperature in the hall. Do you want to wear something sleeveless, or will you be shivering? If you’re wearing a dress, make sure it isn’t too long; you don’t want to trip over the hem on your way across the stage. And don’t forget to think about your shoes! If you tend to stick to flats most of the time, this might not be the time to try out those 4-inch stilettos, no matter how good they look. It’s a good idea to practice in the shoes you intend to wear for the performance itself.

- I’m a big believer in practicing in small sections. As far as learning technical material, it’s really the most efficient way, even though it requires more focused practice. However, the experience of giving a performance is completely different from working in these small chunks. As your recital date approaches, it’s a really good idea to start playing through your entire program. A couple of weeks before is usually a good time to try this because your technique should be solid and you should be quite familiar with the music. If you can’t make it all the way through, that’s ok. You still have a couple of weeks to build up endurance. Keep trying to make run-throughs of your recital program and try to get a little further in it each time.

- Basically, preparation is the key to a successful performance. Trying to visualize all aspects of the performance from the actual music to the performance space to your clothing will help you pull off a polished, solid recital.