Day 153 – March 2nd – Tempo

We had a bit of an unusual Monday class today, and spent the morning working on Doppler’s Airs Valaques rather than studies. One of the pieces on the list for Juliet Edwards’s class on Friday, Trevor was keen to work through it in more detail. Now we all have to learn sections of it by next Monday! The notes aren’t terribly difficult, but there are a lot of them. One more thing on the to-do list.

When we did get onto studies, we rather powered through them. I finished off the Moyse 25 Melodic Studies with only a few comments – mostly that my articulation still needs a lot of work. I got through three Drouet without too much trouble, but Altès No. 24 wasn’t fast enough and I need to do a bit more work on it. The main feedback on my playing today was that I don’t always start out at the right tempo, tending to end up on the slow side even when things are marked allegro. I think some of it is that I’m erring on the safe side and trying to make sure that I get all the notes right! Trevor wants both correct notes and correct (fast) tempos, which I’ll keep in mind when preparing all the studies for next week.

This evening we got together to rehearse pieces for the Bodsham Primary concert. While it was only a first read-through, it was great to notice how much our intonation has improved as an ensemble since December.

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 146 – February 23rd – Andersen No. 15

Today was a good day, as it seems I’ve finally broken my streak of very negative classes. The Moyse studies, while not perfect, were definitely improved. I still need to focus on tonguing at the front of the mouth rather than doing funny things further back. However, the end is in sight with the 25 Melodic Studies – I might even be able to finish then off next week.

My big achievement for today was Andersen No. 15. I can’t quite believe that I learned it in three days and managed to play it in class to that standard. I’d really focused on the feeling of the piece, showing the dynamics, chord changes and colours. Trevor seemed pretty impressed, and even say it would “stick in my memory”. I just needed to iron out the wrong notes. I wish I’d recorded that lesson now, then I could play it on repeat for the next month to remind myself I can do things right occasionally!

Altès and Drouet studies were mostly ok, definitely nothing like the outburst of last week. It’s the first time in a while I’ve felt really positive after a class, though I am quite exhausted. This evening was declared a no-work time (despite earlier pledges of working on my project), and I’ve spent the last few hours doing very little. Ching Ting made some yummy sushi, and I think after out walk I’ll be early to bed.

Day 145 – February 22nd – Stormy Weather and Motivation

As I sit writing this there is one big storm going on outside. It started just after 4pm, just as I’d decided to go for a walk, and looks set to stay for the night. Hopefully my room won’t get too cold with the wind.

After the very late arrival home last night, I had a bit of a lazy morning, helped on by some Skype chats with friends in Australia. To be honest, I could have done with a day off practice all together, and if we didn’t have class tomorrow would certainly have been tempted to leave the flute in its case and go on a very long walk! This lack of motivation to practice seems to be a problem in recent weeks – I feel ready for a break to properly relax and digest all the information I’ve received. I think most of the others feel the same way too, as nobody seems terribly enthusiastic about class! However,  we still have five weeks to go, and so the holiday will have to wait a bit longer.

I decided today to cut the technique practice down a bit and make sure that I had plenty of time to work on studies. The Moyse 25 Melodic Studies still feel hairy, and I know that with more time I will continue to improve on all the various aspects of articulation. For now, I know I’ve worked hard on it for the past week and that I’ve improved, with I need to keep in mind whatever the feedback tomorrow. By contrast, I’m rather surprised and pleased that Andersen No. 15 feels quite good. On Friday I probably would have said it couldn’t be ready in time, but with quite a bit of work yesterday and today it’s sitting quite nicely. Hopefully it’ll sound good in class tomorrow, and my ability to learn things quickly is improving.

Though I spent most of the day lacking in motivation, a CD I listened to this evening has reinvigorated my musical passions. My listening topic for this week is Barthold Kuijken, a baroque flute specialist. One of the CDs I borrowed out is of a live concert recorded in Rome as part of the Flautissimo series, and features Kuijken playing three of Telemann’s Fantasies for solo flute. The performance was beautifully rhetorical – every note had a meaning and the music was just stunning. Then the next track was of Mario Caroli playing Ferneyhough’s Carceri d’invenzione IIb! A wonderful contrast, and testament to the diversity of the flute. It’s the Telemann, though, that will be playing through my dreams tonight.

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!