Wednesday, October 3, 2012

After All The Breathing...

By Lisa Nelsen

Lisa Nelse
As a ‘Part Deux’ to the warm up on this site, I’d like to suggest that players become aware of the effectiveness of the breathing exercises they’ve been doing.  In the weeks of regularly engaging the breathing muscles every morning, players will probably notice a more clear-headed approach to their daily practice.  It still may not be enough to give a sense of control to their tone production in the extreme. Many of us are conditioned to begin with tone exercises right away, to search for those beautiful colours and magical manipulation of scales and intervals.  If you struggle, like I did, try these really simple exercises first so that you can connect the breath with your instrument like a singer would engage the vocal chords with breath.

Harmonics: Start on low D, and, without moving your lips or jaw, speed up the air to the next octave. Keep the low D fingering. Then speed up the air to slur to the fifth partial (sounding A). Again, use only the air, not lips or jaw. Then smoothly switch to the actual fingering of A in the second octave.  Repeat, and then move on the Eb, E, F etc up to C which will sound G in the 3rd octave. Do this very slowly and really scoop the slurs.

Scales:  Learn 5-note scales (by memory if possible) and play these with a metronome (or with a group or find a practice buddy for added incentive) without pulling on the corners of your mouth to control the tone. Just blow and repeat each group of scales 4 times evenly and fast.  In the group I lead we start on low D and continue up about two octaves. We also change the pattern using other combinations of simple scales...blowing to connect sound to breath, and warm up the fingers.

Note bending:  Without moving your head or turning your flute toward you or away, play a long note like C, B, Bb or A and bend the pitch half a step down, back to the note, then half a step up, and then back..slowly. Your lips and jaw should be doing all the moving, and you should be making quite breathy sounds.

Ugly sounds: Don’t be afraid of making very harsh and ugly sounds. You’re working at connecting breath with sound. Refining the sound to make colours will feel a lot easier after all you find control and manipulation of the breath.

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