Saturday, April 21, 2007

Patricia George's "Flute Spa"

On Sunday, April 15, at Meredith College, Raleigh Area Flute Association hosted Patricia George, Professor of Flute at Brigham Young University, to present her workshop , "Flute Spa," 3 solid hours of teaching jam packed with useful exercises, thoughts to ponder, and stories about the legacy and icons of flute playing.

I found almost everything she said meshed with my experiences as both flutist and teacher, and ignited my own creative thought process. She provided us with a useful booklet from the clinic with:

  • Warm up exercises and routines
  • Body Mapping Check List and images reprinted with permission from Barbara Conable's Book, What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body, published by Andover Press (Amazon Link in Library).
  • "Octave Variations" (quick thoughts to remember high note fingerings)
  • "Short Scales" (a quick tour of the high octave of the flute moving through scales in the circle of fifths)-SUPER!
  • Useful pattern variations for practicing scales, including advocacy of "chunking" groups of notes in order to learn patterns faster (less practice time) in short, manageable sections. (I call these "bursts of notes".)
  • The "Flute Spa" menu concludes with Patricia's 2-page "Ideas on Phrasing 2007" which simplifies the vast, comprehensive subjects of phrasing and expression into well-explained individual elements.

Thanks for reminding us that practicing is a joyful process, one in which we can experience and celebrate measurable improvement!

I highly recommend attending a class with Patricia George. If you are using any of her materials, please credit her with their creation. I removed the document from the Library at my website after Patricia reported her materials had been plagiarized.

Also, check out the article:
"Using the 17 Big Daily Exercises for Flute by Taffanel and Gaubert, Published by Leduc" By Patricia George

Happy Practicing!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Flute Alignment or How To "DeClaw" Flutists

In my "ABC's of Wind Playing" this topic belongs in Category C: Physical Orientation to the Instrument.

Many tonal and fingering difficulties experienced on the flute can be attributed to less than ideal alignment of the instrument and/or inefficient physical orientation to the instrument. Improving alignment of the instrument can eliminate many of these problems which can distract us from what is important, the enjoyment and satisfaction of playing beautifully.

I often say, “One of my missions in life is to declaw flutists.” The meaning of this statement is twofold; flutists tend to squeeze their flutes with their thumb and index finger combos on both hands (their “claws”) causing unnecessary tension and wasted air, and, also, I don’t well tolerate “catty” comments or thoughts about other flutists, especially among my students—we’re all in this together!

It is useful to think of balancing, rather than holding the flute; to avoid squeezing the flute, be sure that the instrument is properly balanced on the inside of the top joint of the right thumb and the area just above the lower knuckle of the left index finger while also lightly touching the chin area below the lower lip. (for good placement on lip, please see my “Lip Line and Lippies” video:

If the flute is properly balanced, it will not roll backwards toward the face. Squeezing with the “claws” is usually caused by expending energy to prevent the flute from rolling backwards. If the keys are slightly turned forward (rods almost pointing to the ceiling) the flute can balance with stability, improving finger dexterity and musical performance. In order for the head, neck and jaw to be comfortable and for the embouchure to function properly while the keys are somewhat forward, the headjoint will need to be turned in some. I often suggest aligning the inside edge of the embouchure hole between the rods, though this varies some depending on the physical height and finger lengths of the individual flutist.

While searching for online resources on this topic to share with you, I came across an excellent article by Canadian flutist Jennifer Cluff, complete with historical background, diagrams and photos:


For those of you with right pinky issues, this is her footjoint alignment discussion:


I welcome your questions and comments.