Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New video series: Flutorials™

"Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity".
--Charles Mingus

"Flutorials™" is a new series of progressive video lessons for novice flutists, intended as supplemental material to enhance what the student is learning in flute lessons or band class.

Lesson 1: "Hot Cross Buns," now posted in the LeGrand Virtual Studio, presumes the student already knows how to make a sound on the headjoint, how to assemble and hold the flute, and how to play the low notes: B, A, and G.

Students are often overwhelmed with a task that seems too large, complicated or, even, amazing, to approach. The video lesson guides the student through some small, manageable steps to learn the complete song.

Teachers, I hope these Flutorials™ help you with your teaching, too! The art of simplifying is one of our most valuable teaching tools!

Look for more Flutorials™ in September!


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Feeling "Over-Exposed?": Piccolo Fingering Charts

One of my readers asked this week where to locate good fingering charts for the piccolo on the internet. Coincidentally, the topic came up this week in FLUTE LISTSERV as well, making this an extra easy blog entry to write. Thanks to listers for their ideas. you can read their responses at Archives of FLUTE@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU .

One source others mentioned that I have used before is The Woodwind Fingering Guide/Flute.
Be sure to scroll down to the Alternate Fingering Chart for Piccolo. The listed "basic" fingerings for high f-sharp and high g-sharp are actually the ones I use in normal circumstances.

Christine Erlander Beard is a recognized piccolo specialist. Her website listed a number of online sources for piccolo fingerings on the page entitled Pedagogy (that means "teaching").

I second Jennifer Cluff's suggestion on the LISTSERV to wear earplugs when trying out all the high fingerings on piccolo! No joke. Those of you dusting off your marching piccolos, get yourself some good earplugs for your summer practice!

Jennifer's website also has a fingerings page with a vast list of fingering sources and topics for both piccolo and flute.

"A Basic Guide to Fingerings for the Piccolo" by Steven Tanzer is comprehensive and has helped me out in a few difficult situations. This book can be purchased from Van Cott Information Services, Inc.

Hope this helps!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Flute Embouchure: A Rather “Square” Subject

For many years I have taught that a good flute embouchure has 4 corners: 2 corners by the upper cheekbones, one by each nostril, and, the 2 corners on the chin, below the lower lip. The location of these muscles forms a square on your face.

The exercise I call “Tongue Sandwich,” activates the Levator labii superioris (Rabbit Face muscle) and Depressor labii inferioris (Lizard face” muscle) at the same time, drawing the lips away from the tongue and encouraging an active embouchure without jaw tension.

Think of your upper and lower teeth as the pieces of bread for your sandwich and the tongue as the very generous serving of your favorite sandwich filling.

(See Dataface website, mentioned in a May post, for illustrations, descriptions and video of these muscles at work.)

I have posted a video of the “Lizard Face” and “Tongue Sandwich” exercises in the LeGrand Virtual Studio for your information and amusement. “Rabbit Face” Exercise video can also be found there.

Here is a Blogger Beta trial of an embedded video. Let me know how this works.

Good Tongue-Controlled Embouchure spit-buzzing technique, as advocated by Jerome Callet and Keith Underwood, creates a rather “boxy” feel in the embouchure—a "box " INSIDE the “square,” creating an active, yet flexible, embouchure.

Spit-buzzing encourages the use of the orbicularis oris muscle (the ring of muscle around the lips) to engage by curling gently inward creating compression of air with the wide, forward tongue.

This is also a type of “sandwich.” Try thinking of it as 3 layers of Tootsie Rolls:
  • Top layer: upper lip curling downward (feel with your tongue the thick tube-like band of muscles on the inside of your upper lip).
  • The middle layer--the forward, thickened and widened tongue with downward trajectory.
  • The lower layer—lower lip raised slightly by the mentalis muscle and curled slightly back over the tongue to support the tongue position.
I hope these ideas are useful.

Hmmm…all this talk of sandwiches...Time for lunch!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Alexander Technique with Glenna Batson

On June 30, several studio members participated in an afternoon of individual Alexander Technique lessons with Glenna Batson, PT, MA.

Glenna is an internationally recognized teacher of the Alexander Technique (qualifying in 1988), and is in residence at the Department of Dramatic Arts at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A graduate of Hahnemann Medical University in Physical Therapy, she received her doctorate in clinical neuroscience in 2006.

I am grateful we had this opportunity to receive her wise guidance, and, also, that I was invited by all concerned to observe and videotape these sessions. I look forward to future opportunities to learn from Glenna.

New Video posting: Glenna and Bruce J. allowed me to post video excerpts from Bruce's lesson, focused on improving his breathing, in the LeGrand Virtual Studio. (I apologize for the moments the camera was not on the tripod...)

I hope this info is helpful. Let me hear from you! Feel free to post your blog comments for others to read. We are a small and friendly community.

I had a lesson at my desk with Glenna, who is also an expert in treatment and prevention of Repetitive Strain Injuries, that day. I learned how to use my desk chair to provide constant feedback to keep my spine flexible during the long hours I now spend at the computer producing content for the LeGrand Virtual Studio, and, also, how to approach my computer mouse by leading with the outside of my fingers to reach the mouse without tightening my pectoralis muscles or raising my shoulder. I have lots of opportunity to practice these new ways of thinking. I am doing it right now!

Integrating lessons from the Alexander Technique into daily activities is a great way to improve your music making as you replace old habits of movement with ones that work better.

For more information on the Alexander Technique or to find a teacher in your area visit http://www.alexandertechnique.com/.

Life is a process.


Monday, July 2, 2007

Summer Jammin': Adventures in Improvisation

In a May post I encouraged you to try out new activities and approaches this summer. Several of you expressed the desire to work on improvisation or to learn how to play jazz.

Here are some great resources to help you along your way:

Flutist and composer Nathan Zalman has published a free online tutorial for improvisation entitled Unleash Your Inner Flutist! which encourages us to use patterns we already know and put them together in new and interesting ways to express a palette of emotional qualities. He identifies improvisation as a simple three-step process: feel; choose; and, play.
  1. Identify a feeling you wish to express—happy, sad, meditative, lonely, peaceful, curious, mischievous, surprised, etc.
  2. Choose a vocabulary to embody the feeling—scales, keys, rhythms, or a non-musical inspiration such as a poem or story.
  3. Play, allowing the music to come out. When you improvise, there are no mistakes, only ideas, intention and creation.
I attended the workshop Nathan presented for the Raleigh Area Flute Association in November, 2006, and truly enjoyed his creative and well-thought-out presentation. He is living his passion, as he says--a model to us all. You can learn more about Nathan, his interesting life and music at his website.

A good improvisation resource for learning jazz is the Hal Crook Play-Alongs page from the Stan Getz Library at Berklee College of Music. Entries, listed in ascending order of difficulty, include a pdf leadsheet and mp3 accompaniment track . I like "Taught 'em keys" --usually known as "Autumn Leaves."

I am gradually working my way through the DVD teaching series, "this is the Way i do it" by amazingly fluid guitarist John McLaughlin (of Mahavishnu Orchestra fame). I encourage you to visit John's official (and highly creative) new website to search for this boxed set while exploring and enjoying his virtual territory.I encourage you to include improvisation in your daily practice. I enjoy beginning my practice day with an improvisation, acknowledging and expressing my feelings before turning my attention to advancing the art of recreating music created by others.

Try something new every day! Life is waiting to be discovered.
Happy exploring...


Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Alexander Technique: Use In A Marching Band Setting

This excellent article by Lindsey Richelle Gore addresses the subject of correct use of the body providing physical relief for members of marching bands.

In my experiences as a clinician with marching bands, I have noticed other huge bonuses of correct use (or even improved use!):
  • Good body mapping results in economy of motion for more precise and better unified movements-It looks sharp!
  • Good body balance allows for better breathing and air efficiency, resulting in better tone and intonation
  • Morale of the ensemble quickly rises due to the noticeable improvement
I encourage band directors planning their Fall programs and shows to include Alexander training and reap the benefits.

Happy summer!