Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Give me your elbows!" // Karg-Elert Video!

Another post inspired by a student!

While preparing to play a long passage of soft, repeated notes, I noticed my student's arm structure tense upward: her elbows and shoulders raised. I asked her if I could place my hands under her elbows as she played, and she agreed.

"Give me your elbows. Let them release into my hands." I asked her to play while letting me hold her elbows, and we were both amazed at how easy it was to play the long, difficult line at a very soft dynamic.

Amy Porter first introduced me to this idea, and it is astounding how much of a difference it makes. Inhibiting the habit of tensing the arm structure and bringing the elbows up is something that all flutists should be aware of. Not only does it become easier to breathe and move fingers freely, it also prevents pain.

Additionally, I have been promising myself that I would memorize Karg-Elert Caprice Number 4. I found myself having to stop to think logically about notes and patterns with this one, and I'm excited to take on more Caprices! 


Monday, October 8, 2012

Play Better by Doing Nothing

I'll just apologize in advance, but every post between now and December is going to contain some indication of my love for fall.

I would like to express that I miss foliage. I am also sad to have missed our cranberry harvest this year. (These photos were taken at home last October.) 

Now on to flute-related fun! This post is inspired by an exciting lesson I had with one of my wonderful students.

After she played her piece once, I asked her simply to listen to what she was playing instead of trying to create sound.

"WOW" was my response. I am continuously surprised by how much of a difference this simple mental change can make in one's playing.

Her sound had opened up tremendously-- her tone was more resonant, articulation improved, the ends of notes were less abrupt, and I heard a greater sense of direction in phrases. She also gained a greater sense of presence in the room-- she looked effortless.

During his master class two weeks ago, Jean Ferrandis continuously asked each of us to "stop reading the music." He emphasized that the best musicians never read the music, but instead hear the sound they want. "You do not need to try to make the sound. When you hear the music, the sound will always happen on its own."

Hear the sound you want as you play. It's important to have a sound concept, either from another flutist's recording of a piece, another instrument, a color, a mood... sound can be inspired by anything, and your sound will automatically improve when you play with intention.

Listening is the key to creating an effortless and compelling performance, but it can be difficult to maintain this mentality for an entire piece. We lose focus, start thinking of other things, start inching closer to the notes on the stand, and we lose awareness of ourselves and the outside world.

Beginning a piece by saying: "It is my intention to listen to the music as I play" can make a tremendous difference. It also reduces the pressure we often feel to play perfectly. Our tendency is often to try to create sound-- what a relief it is to know that a great sound comes from doing nothing!

Open your ears to open your sound. It makes a bigger difference than you might realize!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Happy October!

It's October! (Though based on the fact that it is 86 degrees, I'm going to call it "August: Part III.")

I missed my chance to post during the entire month of September, and that's a reflection of just how busy the first few weeks of school have been. Wonderful things have happened in the past month, and I feel incredibly grateful to be a member of such a thriving community of musicians.

1. I bought a piccolo! Burkart Professional model with Wave headjoint. I am in love. It has a gorgeous, flexible sound. I can even taper in the upper register! What a wonderful change it is to not be completely panicked through an entire rehearsal!

2. Jean Ferrandis visited our studio to teach master classes and present a recital. My jaw was on the floor every time he played, and his "Afternoon of a Faun" performance gave me the chills. It was such a joy to meet him!

3. Andover Educator and flutist Rhonda Cassano visited from Jacksonville to present a Body Mapping workshop, and she gave me a private lesson that completely reawakened some important ideas about breathing and movement. We first met at Amy Porter's Anatomy of Sound masterclass in 2011. I learned a lot from her!

4. Every single lesson I've had with Professor Amsler has been life-changing. She is an intuitive teacher, and she genuinely cares for her students, offering the most encouraging learning environment possible. We're going back to the fundamentals, and I feel that I'm on a wonderful journey that will lead me to more mature playing. I'm thrilled about this! She has helped me to clarify many of the Body Mapping ideas I've been confused about, as well. I'm so grateful to have such an incredible teacher!

I've been trying so many new ideas in the past few weeks that I'm still feeling overloaded. As I continue to refine these new techniques, I will be writing about them each week. Stay tuned for some exciting tips!