Day 104 – January 12th – E flat

Today has been rather quiet, both because of our lack of class and because it’s utterly horrible outside. This morning I had grand plans of going for a run, but that was soon halted when I saw just how wet and windy it was outside. Instead, the large knitted jumper from grandma has come out, and I’ve spent the day practising, getting odd jobs done and drinking lots of tea. Last night, I finished one of my hand-warmers (or are they fingerless gloves?), which I’m very pleased with. The pattern I’m using is here. If this weather keeps up, the other one will be done before too long as well.

My first hand-warmer!

My first hand-warmer!

All the technical work that we’re doing makes me play round the circle of fifths multiple times a day, and as always there are some keys that sit better than others. When it comes to my least favourite keys, though, I’ve rather surprised myself if recent months. As a teenager and undergrad student, I always feared C#/Db and F#/Gb majors and Bb and D#/Eb minors because there were scary numbers of flats and sharps not matter how I thought about it. Maybe that ultimately made me practise them with more vigour. Now that I’m here at the flute studio, the keys that I’m most inclined to slip up on are Eb major, Eb minor and G#/Ab minor. I think one of the main things about Eb is that we’re not allowed to use thumb Bb for technical work, and so all of a sudden the fifth of the key is a awkward fingering. Reichert no. 2 becomes particularly treacherous because the fifth is in both the arpeggio and the dominant 7th.

Other exercises where I’ve noticed this are the Boehm study and Trevor’s scales in thirds. With the thirds, we start in C and play the scales in C major, harmonic minor, melodic minor and whole tones. Then we play the major, minor, second inversion minor (so F minor for C major) and diminished seventh of the next key (C#) all in broken thirds. The whole exercise then moves up a step to C# major and so on. In class we tend not to get too much further than D, as Trevor decides it’s time to move onto something else, but I’ve one of my goals to play through the whole thing. That was, until I got to Eb. The major is ok, but the minors are utterly awful! At this level, the aim is to erase weaknesses in tricky keys, and I’m of course going to persevere, but it could take a while to get past the Eb minor block.

In some ways, today was an Eb minor sort of day; dark and ominous. In the major, I quite like the richness of this key, and the minor can also be rich and velvety. It might be even more so if I could overcome my battle with it!

Day 95 – January 3rd – Fast fingers

Everyone was a bit slow to get going this morning, I think as a result of the fondue last night! It was wet and rainy for most of the day – perfect weather for good solid practice sessions.

Once again, I need to keep reminding myself to look at what I have improved on over the last three months. Though all the various Reichert and other warm-up exercises aren’t perfect, they’re definitely faster and more fluent that even just a few weeks ago. Though the minors with lots of sharps and flats continue to frustrate me in Taffanel and Gaubert-style scales, on the whole they’re faster as well. I’ve been trying to spend less time on each individual exercise and jump around a bit more, in the hope that it will encourage me to play from memory more spontaneously. So far it seems to be helping, and I’m playing things correctly the first time through rather than making silly slips.

My feeling of achievement today was that I managed to get through all the Moyse finger exercises at crotchet = 128. The experience wasn’t exactly comfortable, but all the notes were there and even. The Boehm study, which I’m trying to memorise with the aid of a lot of mental practice, is getting there. Eb, Ab, Db and F# are still a bit hit and miss, but the others are sounding alright. Now it just needs to be faster!

As for studies for this week…all of them need to go very fast. Andersen no. 10, which I’m playing again, has an awful lot of accidentals but needs to sounds easy with four in a bar. At the moment I can do that for all the bars with few or no accidentals, but then I’ll hit a wall of D, E and F double sharps and it will fall to pieces! Today I practiced only the hairy bars with the metronome set to where it just felt uncomfortable. Hopefully I can still maintain the same speeds tomorrow. As for the Altes studies, they’re less scary and more just an awful lot of notes to get under the fingers.

Day 80 – December 19th – Rehearsals

This afternoon was taken up with rehearsals for our concert tomorrow. The weather was lovely for our walk to Trevor’s – I can’t believe it’s still up around 10 degrees – and we were introduced to Mr (Robert/Richard?!) Scott who will be playing piano with us. All in all Trevor was rather jovial, and though there were still a few criticisms of our playing he seemed to think the performance would go rather well. I enjoyed the rehearsal, we’ve come to play well together and the jazz pieces are particularly good fun. I just need to remember to be expressive and less strict with rhythm in the beginning of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. 

As for the rest of the day, there seems to be a bit of a feeling of Christmas holidays already. I did a few hours of practice this morning, and am finally feeling that Boehm’s No. 1 from Twelve Studies is coming from memory. The lesson here is almost a silly one, but worth reminding myself of. I know that I don’t have as good an aural memory as some, and had been really struggling to memorise this study despite our playing it regularly in warm-ups. However, once I took the time to sit down and write the chord pattern under each bar, it’s all of a sudden coming easier. Though I wouldn’t have struggled to identify the arpeggios verbally at any time, the act of writing them out has made the whole structure so much clearer, and then hey presto I can almost play it from memory. Something important to keep in mind, as Trevor is going to keep pushing us to play increasingly difficult scale and arpeggio exercises after Christmas!

View down our road at 4pm!

View down our road at 4pm!

Though I’m not totally sure we will be asked for studies in class on Monday, I’m now into the final lap of Moyse’s 24 Melodic Studies, and am preparing no. 22, 23 and 24. I’d played all of them for someone at some point before coming to study with Trevor, but really feel that I’ve learned a lot from preparing them for him each week. They really are the studies when it comes to phrasing, melody and fundamental musical skills, and I still don’t feel that I’ve mastered most of them yet! Once these are done, we’ll be moving on to the 25 Melodic Studies, which I’m sure will continue to reinforce many of the same things. However, I need to remember to revisit this book regularly as well. There are still a lot of things I can learn from practising them, and I need to keep remembering to be my own best teacher and listening observantly and critically to my playing.