Day 160 – March 9th – Practice, practice

After a weekend with some free time, today was the day for pulling out all the stops and doing some serious practice. Not only do we have studies for class tomorrow, but also several pages of Doppler’s Airs Valaques each. Throw in flute history project and our weekly trip to Tesco, and I feel like I’ve been on the go non-stop since 8am!

It’s my turn to do the tune in class tomorrow, and I spent quite a bit of time this morning on Greensleeves making sure that it was both expressive and rhythmic. I keep getting distracted by trying to achieve a homogeneous tone across the whole flute range and through the different keys – I’ll play the tune in G minor and get it sounding really good, and then moving up to G# minor find that it sounds totally different! While I do like the idea of each key having its own character even in equal temperament, I don’t like it when certain notes stick out for all the wrong reasons. For the purposes of class, though, expression and good use of dynamics is key.

Studies are a bit hit and miss this week. I’ve got a handful of the Drouet set sounding quite good, but am still struggling with Altès no. 24 and all the mordants. I feel at once so close to and so far from finishing this book. There are only 26 studies, but both nos. 24 and 25 are tricky. While I can play most of no. 25, the second page is full of trills and I know that I need to play each one evenly with a perfectly timed turn at the end. As for Andersen no. 16, it has had a late surge of improvement, but I’m not totally sure whether that will all carry into class tomorrow. We’ll have to see.

Day 150 – February 27th – Copland

Just a short one tonight as it’s all of a sudden late and I’m tired. We had our masterclass with Juliet Edwards today, and overall I was quite happy with my playing. Not perfect, but definitely a reminder that proper preparation and practice is much better than faffing about! I recorded the class, and need to make sure I find time to listen to it in the next couple of days.

Next week has suddenly become quite busy, and so there isn’t much time off in the coming days. Better get some sleep!

Day 114 – January 22nd – Studies, studies and more studies

There were only five of us for class today, as it seems like colds are doing the rounds. So far I’ve been ok, and I’m hoping that it’ll stay that way!

As I said in my post yesterday, I was feeling a little trepidation about today’s studies, particularly the two Altès that I’ve spent a lot of time on. By contrast, I’d spent very little time on the Moyse studies, and (unfortunately) not as much as I should have Andersen No. 12! The results were interesting:

Moyse #5 and #9: Good following of notes with my lips, though both could have been faster. After no. 9 we talked a little about my needing to open up the tone in my top register. When I played the study again I did it with a lovely full tone, but need to be doing that all the time rather than just when prompted.

Moyse #8: “Lovely” – just get rid of a few wrong notes. I’d practiced this one a lot at the start of the week, but not in the last few days, and so just decided to go for it.

Then Trevor was a bit mean and made me sightread the next three studies so that he could show everyone what needed working on with them! It seems that he wants me to prepare all these in time for Monday which isn’t going to be much fun.

Andersen #12: Started out well but then I fell apart at the end of the B section where there were some particularly nasty leaps. Trevor didn’t seem terribly perturbed though, which was a bit strange. He just said ‘thank you’ and asked what was next – it seems he could tell I just hadn’t spent enough time on it. Looks like that’s back on for Monday, along with no. 13 which is a whole lot of chromatic scales.

Altès #18: “Some good things about this study, but you’re not bringing out the tune” sums this one up, and I agreed. I had spent so long on the notes and making sure that the articulation patterns were right that I hadn’t thought enough about musical direction. I need to play it again on Monday, which is a bit of a pain, but I do think I’ve learned a lot from this study.

Altès: #19: Fine, though I think Trevor would have liked it a little faster. I can play segments of it up to speed, but my tongue still feels like it’s going to fall off when I try to do a page of triple tonguing at crotchet =100!

Bach Variations #12 and #13: Ok but not tight enough…. I need to being doing little bits of this every day for a few minutes to get it tight enough.

Bach Variations #14 and #15: Trevor seemed quite pleased with these, but then tried to push and see how expressively I could play. The challenge with all these studies is achieving the articulation challenges as well as making them sound musical, and I was almost there with both. A case of attention to detail and then forgetting it and letting the music come through.

With regular class as well as the two masterclasses, we still have five to prepare for in the two weeks. Trevor’s solution to this is to set us even more work, and has asked us to write a cadenza for the first movement of Mozart’s G major flute concerto as well for next Thursday. Looks like I’m spending the evening working!

Day 75 – December 14th – To-do list

I’ve been so focused on proofreading my flute history paper over the last couple of hours that I almost forgot to write my post!

Due Tuesday, the paper is just about there, and it’s got to the point where I’m just being a bit overly pedantic about things like footnotes and spelling. I’m just about ready for bed now, and will finish off the sections on Renaissance and Baroque flutes tomorrow morning. There’s no class tomorrow; we’re going to Tesco instead since we have a class on Tuesday in preparation for our concert.

In addition to all this, I’m trying to sort out some final Christmas cards and presents, as well as starting to think about my application for the Bang on a Can summer festival in Boston, USA next year. And of course there’s always practice!

Day 62 – December 1st – Advent

All of a sudden it’s the start of December! Following my lovely weekend away (I’ve added some pictures to the posts now), I’m back in to the swing of things here and feeling that there’s a lot to get done in the lead-up to Christmas. Here’s what the next month looks like:

Thursday 11th – Masterclass with Rachel Brown

Saturday 13th – Day trip to London

Tuesday 16th – Submit flute history project and Christmas concert for the local gardeners’ association

Saturday 20th – Christmas concert in the Hastingleigh church

Monday 22nd – Final class, in the evening I’m leaving to stay with family for Christmas

That’s in addition to the regular classes and all that needs preparing for them. Phew!

After my misgivings yesterday, I played a little better in class than I thought I would. Part of it, I think, was that each time I stood up, I committed to playing as expressively as possible, enjoy it and enjoying myself. It didn’t work every time, and I was told told off for being “too scared of making a mistake” when I played Moyse Little Melodic Study No. 14. i have to admit to getting frustrated with Trevor over this one, as he kept telling me to both not hold the first too long and to play it expressively. I knew that he wanted something along the lines of a nice shimmery bit of vibrato, but I wasn’t managed it, and so he interpreted it as me wanting to play with poor rhythm. Study no. 15, however, went quite well, as did the two Altes studies I’d prepared. Andersen No. 7, which was the one I was most fearful about, came across better than I had hoped, though did prompt further discussion of my inability to play loudly. I’ve been told anew to practice tone exercises for a really loud, resonant sound, and will have to make some time for that in the coming days!

I’ve been doing some bits and pieces of reading on different ways to practice, and saw a link to this blog, which gave me some food for thought. The article suggests that it’s better to practice in small chunks so that we are better at re-setting and (hopefully) producing under pressure. It argues that this method of practice avoids mindless repetition and gets things into the fingers and memory in a way that makes them stick a bit better. I’m going to have a try starting tomorrow, as preparing the number of studies Trevor wants a week is still tricky!