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 149 – February 26th – Cloudy with light drizzle

I’m not sure the weather forecast got it quite right for today – cloudy with light drizzle turned into pea soup with lashings of rain by the time it arrived in Elmsted! It was a good day for solid pracitising, and I got in a good five and a half hours…with the help of as many cups of tea!

Like I said yesterday, I had quite clear plans for what needed practising in the Copland Duo, and think that I did quite a good job of sorting them out. It’s a pity that there’s only time in class tomorrow for the first movement, as I really like the piece and would like to prepare it ‘properly’ for something. The second movement (I had a quick play through this afternoon) is stunning. Oh well, another piece to add to my wish list.

Back to doing a full three hours of warm-ups and technique, I was surprised today just how much I got through in the time. I remember back at the beginning of December I was still taking half an hour to get through Reichert No. 2 from memory. Now I can fly through that and quite a few of the other exercises with no problems at all. No. 1 from Boehm’s Twelve Studies is finally there as well, after many painful practice sessions! Both my memory and my finger speed are certainly improving, though I do still get frustrated with myself in class if I can’t keep up with some of the others.

Day 148 – February 25th – A bit of civilisation

Only a half day of work today, as we headed into Canterbury in the morning for a bit of shopping and free time. I took the opportunity to finally get my hair cut, and feel much tidier with my newly-restored bob! I spent some time wandering round Waterstones and the market, and took the rare opportunity to find some coffee! Living out in the country certainly makes me appreciate these little pleasures.

In the afternoon, though, it was back to practice. I’m pretty happy with how the Copland is sounding, and feel that my score study yesterday is quite effective. There’s one run that’s really annoying me – precisely because it shouldn’t be hard – which will get some more attention tomorrow. Mostly, though, I need to work on good intonation in my top register, where I still play sharper than the piano. Rather than just running through the movement tomorrow, I need to pick out passages for careful, productive practice so that I really get the most out of Friday.

The other focus today was preparing the final studies of Moyse’s 25 Melodic Studies, which I’d like to finish off on Monday. There are five left, along with the final two variations of no. 20. These variations are particularly tricky – triple tonguing but with the change of note offset within the beat. I can get through a bar or two of each, but then fall apart, and need to keep doing a bit every fifteen minutes or so for the next few days.

Day 147 – February 24th – Flute-free time

I decided pretty early on today that I was going to have a break from actually playing the flute. Part of me was pushed on by yesterday’s positive feedback, but another (slightly bigger) part realised that I needed a little respite.

Despite that, or maybe because of it, I ended up getting an awful lot done. I went for a morning before our Tesco trip this morning, and really enjoyed being out early again despite the cold. For the rest of the day, I wrote a focused to-do list (I have a longer one on my iPad, but it can be a bit overwhelming) and worked by way through it with plenty of cups of tea. Along with flute-related jobs, it included things like vacuuming and applying for some jobs, which I’ve been putting off for a few days now. Most of them are done, though I’ve still got some emails to reply to.

I did spend time on the Copland Duo in preparation for Friday’s class, just not with the flute. I listened to some recordings, but then spent about an hour and a half with the piano score conducting and singing through sections. As I’ve said before, the notes aren’t particularly hard, but the challenge in fitting it together with piano is the changes of tempo and meter. I need to know the piano score inside-out, and that was today’s goal. There are still some corners that I need to return to, but overall I’m much more confident with it now. With all the scramble to prepare studies, excerpts and pieces for class each week, it is this sort of clear, focused practice that I think I’m not doing enough of at the moment.

Day 143 – February 20th – Tonguing

After last night’s festivities I had a bit of a lazy morning, but needed to get in plenty of practice in preparation for the coming week of classes. Rather than having a repertoire class on Thursday, we’ve got Juliet Edwards coming back for the last time on Friday 27th. I’m playing the first two movements of the Copland Duo for flute and piano, and am keen to perform a lot better than last time! I’ve spent quite a bit of time already studying the score, and focused today on making sure that all the tricky fingering passages weren’t going to come as a nasty shock later in the week. Though a bit boring, I decided that some good solid lots of repetition with the metronome was the best solution.

My other big focus this week is articulation, since I didn’t do a terribly good job with the Moyse studies in class on Monday. I know that articulation can’t be totally fixed in a week, but am keen to show that I can make some improvement and have strategies for making it better. Trevor’s advice was not just to focus on the things I’m finding hard, but to work all aspects of articulation, which was my mantra for today. Every ten minutes, I’d stop what I was working on and do a bit. Some of the things I worked on were:

– Articulating with the abdominal muscles alone and no tongue. Reichert No. 2 is ideal for this, and I’m still not totally happy with how F major (my starting key) sounds. The middle F and E in particular are likely to crack, and I need to increase my air speed as well as making the hole in my lips a little smaller to stop this. I do not need to move my lips or head to achieve the articulation!

– Dotted rhythms, which are my own personal difficult patch. The second variation of no. 16 from Moyse’s 25 Melodic Studies is giving me particular grief, and I spent quite a bit of my time today trying to make short sections of it sounds as clear and crisp as possible. It needs to sound almost over-dotted (definitely preferable to sounding like triplets!), but at that speed my tongue still isn’t moving fast enough.

– Double tonguing, in particular playing k-t k-t so that the weaker back stroke of the tongue gets a work out. Interestingly, I can do this really quite clearly for a bar or so, and then it totally falls apart. There seems to be no middle ground at all! Definitely in need of more work.

Perhaps thanks to the rainy weather I’m now just over halfway with my flute history project. After the last one, I’m making sure to write in short sentences and non-academic prose!