Day 166 – March 15th – Tongue

I haven’t been feeling the best today, and wonder whether it might be my turn to come down with a cold. Hopefully not, and an early night tonight will certainly help.

I did get a few hours of practice in earlier in the day, and had something of an ah-ha moment with tonguing. I’ve been working quite a bit on articulation of late, and am still finding some things (maintaining a really clear, quick staccato; clear double tonguing) tricky. Often, it’s better when I don’t think about it, and I know that standing up in class I tend to tense up a bit.

The ah-ha moment was with double tonguing. I’ve finally worked out how to turn of the slight twitchy movement in my throat that was accompanying my double tonguing and clearly the source of its muddiness. I think it’s a combination of my work on using only the front part of the tongue, and drawing my tongue in a little bit when I double tongue. Still nowhere near perfect, and I can’t maintain in for very long, but it did feel like a substantial step forward after a few weeks of quite frustrating practice.

This evening I’ve been working on my history project, which is almost done. I’ve been working my way through all the different nineteenth and twentieth century flute designs, and have now arrived at the Kingma system – a relatively recent innovation for playing quartertones. All I’ve got left to do is a couple of section that Trevor has dropped in during class conversations; things like flageolets and mechanism options on modern flutes. If anything, I might have to do a bit of cutting down in the end to get it under 35 pages.

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!

Day 90 – December 29th – Back into it

We woke this morning to a heavy frost and deeply frozen puddles. On the walk to Trevor’s, the fields and paths lay glistening before us, iced in an ever-so-slightly spiky design. Look closer, and each fallen leaf was individually decorated and embellished, frosted round the edges and along the veins. Here smoky and dark, there crystal clear, the ice warped and cracked under my feet. In some, pockets of air had slipped in under the ice to create an ethereal marbling that foretold the rapid melting to come.

Class itself, and I was starting to feel like I might be getting my aunt’s Christmas cold, which wasn’t great. Trevor was keen to talk about things that we still need to work on over the coming months, and I earned a good list: playing expressively from the beginning, playing loudly, shorter articulation, not waving my flute around and not cutting the ends of notes. Despite these things and my feeling decidedly under-prepared (or maybe because of them?) I ended up playing quite well.

Moyse 25 Melodic Studies no. 1 was too slow, but otherwise make the mark for playing expressively and with good phrasing. Or almost – it took a while for me to play one phrase with the loudest point in the right place!

I then took a bit of a gamble and sight-read no. 2 in the same book. The notes aren’t hard, it’s just a lot of staccato semiquavers, and I did a pretty good job of getting them short. The only problem was that I was unnecessarily accenting the groups of four in the process. Overall, I still need to work on maintaining an even staccato across all dynamics and the entire flute range.

Andersen no. 10 was my low point for the lesson, which I was well and truly prepared for! There are just a few too many notes to cram in a short time. When Alyssa played earlier in the class Trevor asked her to play faster and “make it sound easy”, so I knew I wasn’t going to get too far. The first three lines (relatively accidental-free) were ok, but sure enough I feel apart a bit come the next few. Trevor seemed pretty happy with how the start was sounding though, and my request to spend some more time on it for next week was taken quite well.

Altes no. 12 and 13 were both pronounced fine but too slow, which I was well aware of. No. 12 is double tonguing hell, and to be honest I was happy just to get through it at all. Like Andersen 9b, this is a study for life rather than for just a weeks practice. I also still need to watch C#s here, as they were “horribly sharp” to begin with and I should have pulled the headjoint out before being told rather than after.

As for the impending cold, I’m really hoping that my sinus headache and general grogginess will go away with an early night and keeping warm. Fingers crossed.