Friday, June 26, 2015

Improving Articualtion with Leone Buyse

Click this caption to watch the full video lesson.

If you've struggled with articulation exercises, Powell artist Leone Buyse has a terrific video lesson on the MUSAIC website.  In this three-minute lesson, Ms. Buyse briefly touches on the Taffanel-Gaubert scales, which she practiced in the past using different articulation patterns to improve her articulation.  However, after acting on the recommendation of her colleague Linda Chessis, Ms. Buyse now uses the Altes Method for articulation exercises.  She specifically recommends practicing pages 213-215 and demonstrates a bit of these in the lesson.  She recommends practicing these very slowly to "find a good core sound and also to try to get a ringing quality" to her articulated sound.  After practicing these exercises slowly with single tonguing, she found that it has greatly helped her double tonguing.  The suggested tempo is the quarter note equal to 100-120, although she says they can be played "as fast as a quarter note at 184, which is really fun to work up to."  Follow this link to watch the full video lesson on the MUSAIC website.

To learn more about Leone Buyse, click here to view her artist profile page on the Powell website.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Lindsey's Flutes

Powell Silver Handmade Custom

If you follow our Flute Builder blog, you're probably familiar with the name Lindsey McChord.  Lindsey is a flute finisher and headjoint cutter for Powell who has shared so much with us on the flute  and headjoint making processes.  In addition to her flute-making skills, Lindsey is also a professionally-trained flutist. She majored in flute performance for her undergraduate and graduate studies, receiving her Bachelor of Music degree from the University of New Hampshire and her Master of Music from the Longy School of Music.  Lindsey is a devoted Powell player, but we were curious about the history of her flutes -- from her days as a beginner until now.  How many did she have?  What were they like?  We sat down with Lindsey to find out...

Lindsey began playing the flute in the 5th grade, and at that time, her school provided her with a traditional student flute with closed hole keys.  She told us that, unfortunately, it didn't make playing the flute very easy, sharing, "I'm surprised I even chose to stick with the flute!"  But, luckily, she did, and she found a private teacher who encouraged her to get a step-up flute.  She went to the local music store and picked up an intermediate model of a popular student brand.  This flute, however, had a sterling silver headjoint and body.  She recalled more of the specs -- "silver-plated open-hole keys, split-E, offset G, and a B foot."  Another feature of the flute that caught her eye was the gold-plated, engraved lip plate.  Although this was an intermediate flute, it got her into college and made it possible for her to play very advanced repertoire.  

After her freshman year of college, Lindsey knew it was time for a professional, handmade flute.  She traveled to the Powell shop in Maynard, Massachusetts, and once she picked up a handmade Powell Custom, she noticed a huge difference.  She said the Powell made it "apparent just how hard I had been working with my other flute to get it to work for me," and it was definitely time for a professional flute.

Lindsey told us that when she initially visited the Powell shop, she was able to take a .018' heavy wall silver Powell Custom out on trial.  She knew it was the right flute for her, commenting that it "had the right amount of mass and felt like a real instrument in my hands."  She had tried .014' silver flutes from other flute makers and felt that they were simply too thin.  Lindsey felt that the silver was perfect for her -- it had a big sound that was also a bit darker. It was never shrill or bright but also not too dark.  She told us that she fell in love with a silver Boston cut Powell headjoint with a 14k riser, noting that this riser gave the flute an added darkness that made it perfect.  Although she selected that headjoint right away on her first visit to the shop, she told us that she "came back many times to see if there was anything else, but that was always the one."  

After much time with the demo and several trips to the shop, Lindsey ordered a brand new .018' silver Powell Custom.  She was able to pair it with the Boston headjoint that she loved, and she was also able to get one additional special customization. Lindsey told us that she had trouble reaching the D# key, so she asked if Powell could make that one key just a bit bigger so that she would be able to reach it comfortably.  She said that Powell agreed and that it was no problem at all.  So, Lindsey was set with a truly customized flute suited perfectly to her!

During the process of selecting a flute at Powell, Lindsey worked with Christina Cobas, who is now Powell's Marketing Director. You may recall seeing Christina's name in a previous post we did about her own "history of flutes," which you can read by following this link to the post, titled "Christina's Flutes."   Lindsey said, "I really enjoyed working with Christina, and I thought the customer service at Powell was terrific.  It really made a difference." We're so glad that Lindsey found her perfect flute at Powell and even happier that she came to work for Powell -- making flutes that will be "the one" for many more flutists!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Triplets with Paul Edmund-Davies

Powell artist Paul Edmund-Davies focuses on triplets in his third lesson in his series on sonority.  Whereas the three notes of the triplet are equal in duration, he mentions that he prefers to play the first note of the triplet just slightly longer to help play the figure musically.  He does emphasize that there is a "fine line" between expression and playing something so unevenly and out of tempo that "we make ourselves ill."  His illustration of this concept is really quite funny!  Once again, with his wonderful light-hearted sense of humor, Paul makes us laugh while demonstrating his ideas very clearly.

He also reminds us that there should be a great degree of flexibility and flow when playing triplets, especially if we are to play them expressively.  The lesson is based on a four-bar phrase that is 15 seconds in duration.  Paul suggests taking a breath after the second measure when you first begin practicing the four-bar phrase.  When one is able to bring the phrase up to tempo (quarter note = 60), it should be possible to play it all in one breath.  Click here to view the full lesson on Paul's Simply Flute page.

Sample of music for the Sonority 3 lesson. Click here to view the full lesson. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Video Masterclass: Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream with Joshua Smith

Click here to watch the full video masterclass.

In another excellent video from MUSAIC, Powell artist and Principal Flute of The Cleveland Orchestra, Joshua Smith, coaches flutist Matthew Roitstein on the Scherzo from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream. One of the greatest challenges of the excerpt is breathing -- as we know, it's quite difficult to find a good place to breathe that does not disrupt the musical line.  Joshua addresses this, giving tips not only on where to breath, but also how to approach the breath and how to use air efficiently.  He discusses the importance of keeping a smooth rhythmic flow, suggesting a two-measure pulse to achieve this.  Another point he emphasizes is the need for clarity of articulation, which he illustrates by focusing on airspeed and the shape of the mouth.

The video clip features an introduction by Michael Tilson Thomas, Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, commenting on the excerpt as well.  Click here to view the full video masterclass on the MUSAIC website.

For more on Joshua Smith, follow this link to view his artist profile page on the Powell website, and visit his personal website at