Friday, February 21, 2014

Joshua Smith on Warm-Ups

Joshua Smith © Frank J. Lanza, 2013
Powell artist Joshua Smith has held the position of Principal Flute with The Cleveland Orchestra since 1990.  We have enjoyed reading his blog, and in particular, a series of posts that share his terrific insight on flute playing and teaching.  These posts are segments of an interview with one of his former students, Madeline Lucas.  This week, we wanted to share his insight on warm-up exercises, as you will see in the question and response below:
Madeline Lucas: What kind of warm-up exercises do you do, or recommend?
Joshua Smith: I have been interested in some new ones lately; I'm always changing them around. Recently, I found a couple of really great tone-opening and body-relaxing exercises in Moyse's book How I Stayed in Shape, and also some great ones in Trevor Wye's tone development book. The Moyse exercises throw interval jumps at you that are uncomfortable, where one or both of the notes won't easily speak, in keys that are difficult to play in, so you have to figure out how to navigate your airstream so that the interval won't break. The ultimate goal, then, is to figure out how to make the phrase sound smooth and beautifully sung. The Wye exercises are similar, but involve closer intervals, with the goal of consistency and color development. These ideas are wonderful to include in the morning exercise routine. Long tones and half steps are great, too, in pairs or in longer strings of notes. Here, you're listening to how notes sound next to each other and how well they match as you go along.
I have always rotated my warm-ups. When I first realized that it was important to improve and that exercising would help me to do so, I had a need for variety. I'm the kind of person who does not like to do the same thing in the same way every day; I resist routine. I also realize that there can be some comfort in routine, but balancing this with my personality is a good trick. Most important, your exercises need to address real issues in your playing. The minute I realize I'm having a particular problem, like, "gee, my middle register doesn't sound good today," I start looking for an exercise that will help me to improve that aspect. Tailor your warm-ups to what you need in real time.
*For more on Joshua Smith, visit his website and Powell artist profile page.

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