Friday, June 28, 2013

From My Undergrad Archives: Expressive Note Shape Chart


While recently cleaning out my files, I came across this page in a practice notebook from my college days.

Scrawled freehand in pencil on erasable bond typing paper, it has become smeared and blurry over the years. I have referred to this piece of paper frequently during my many years of teaching as the beginning of my personal journey to musical expression on the flute. Those of you who have studied with me probably recall conversations about this page, and I thought you might enjoy seeing an image of the document.

While an undergrad student at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, I obediently practiced the excellent and plentiful tone and technical exercises assigned by my teacher Robert Cavally, but I desired to practice tone on a more microscopic level--how the shape of each individual note could serve a phrase.

This required considering that every note has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. One day in the practice room I drew out this chart of possible shapes for note beginnings and note endings. I dutifully practiced the shapes on the chart on every pitch over a period of months and noticed increased control over phrase direction and expression in my music making.

Here is a cleaned-up/legible version of the chart-- I invite you to try it out--or I encourage you to create your own chart!

c. 38 Days to Mastery


Throughout his 2008 book, The Outliers, Malcom Gladwell repeatedly mentions the "10,000-Hour Rule", claiming that the key to success is basically to practice a specific task for about 10,000 hours. But here’s an approach that will foster great improvement in tone and embouchure flexibility in just over a month!

How many different notes can you play on the flute? The answer varies slightly depending on your specific playing range and whether on not you have a low B  key. Three octaves of flute notes from low C to high C creates a total of 37 notes. If you can play a low B and/or extended high range notes above high C your total number of notes will be higher. If you are a beginner or intermediate student your total number of notes will be lower.

“Attack and Slurring of Notes” from Moyse’s De la Sonorite

Use as a model the section from Moyse’s De la Sonorite named “Attack and Slurring of Notes.” 

Begin the exercise on a different note each day, practicing the expanding intervals in each direction to every other note you can play on your flute. 

If you master the tone and smooth transitions in one expanding interval exercise each day, in just over a month you will have perfected every possible interval on your flute!

Of course, there is no such thing as “perfect” tone, but I challenge you to see how much your tone and flexibility will improve!

Non-flutists, this study will also improve your playing!  Give it a try!