Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Building an etude: practice techniques on Andersen #4, op. 21

Here's a rough video I made recently of Etude #4 from Andersen, Op. 21:
I love the haunting melody Andersen chose for this theme-and-variation-style study, and it provides lots of opportunities to practice creatively. Any of these techniques can be applied liberally to all of the music on your stand, so let's use this as a case study.

First, here's the etude as a free download.

Now, let's come up with something special to do in each section.

THEME: This can either be very captivating or very boring, depending on how much care you give to the music itself.

  • Identify the beginning and end of each phrase (4 measures in this case).  
  • Assign a character, color, texture, mood, whatever works for you, for each phrase. Every single one must be at least a little different, whether it's a variation on a previous mood or a total departure.
  • Experiment with how to produce these elements of your sound to support that assigned character: articulation (working within what's written), volume, color/quality, vibrato.
  • Put an * over the most important note in each phrase--only one per phrase. Every other note must be moving towards or away from that note. 
(PS: always remember this road map and impose it on each of the variations as you see fit!)

VAR. 1 (eighth notes): We're going to play with time here so it doesn't sound too stodgy.
  • Practice strictly in time with the metronome on the quarter note (your chosen tempo).
Now, we're going to start giving and taking time--this must be balanced to avoid creating a steady ritard or accelerando where you don't want it. If you take time on a note in any given measure, you must give it back before the end of that measure! 
  • Move the metronome to the half-note beat. Practice so that you can consistently play it at a steady tempo in this way, always playing beats 1 & 3 precisely with the metronome. 
  • Now, choose one special note every two beats you wish to emphasize. Keeping the metronome on the half-note beat, you're going to stretch that special note as much as you dare while still aligning with the metronome click on beats 1 & 3. 
  • Adjust as you see fit to create a flexible, fluid line that's not too predictable but not out-of-balance. 
VAR. 2 (triplets): More notes=more potential for mistakes! Let's make sure they all get their due:
  • Play only downbeats (assuming a quarter note beat) by themselves, using the mirror.
  • Now play only the second and third note of each triplet, still using the metronome to fill your silence on the downbeats. This will take more practice, both for rhythmical and note accuracy, but will yield perfect confidence on every note eventually. 
  • As you put all notes together, don't forget your phrase shapes (THEME) and your chosen stretch notes (VAR. 1)
VAR. 3 (sixteenth notes): as the number of notes per beats increases, we need to prioritize the moving  notes which represent the actual melody. For each phrase,...
  • First practice playing only the first two sixteenth notes on each beat (the notes that are slurred)
  • Then add the filler (articulated) notes, playing them slightly lighter and quieter than the melody notes.
VAR. 4 (Modulation to E Major): Again, we want to outline the simple melody here, for our listeners and for ourselves, to avoid making this sound like a jumble of notes. 
  • Identify the simple tune (it will be slightly different than the original melody). As I look at the first phrase, I see it as the downbeats of 1, 3, and 4 (first measure), then only the downbeat of measure 2, then  the downbeats of 1, 3, and 4 again (third measure), and in the fourth measure of this variation, downbeats of 1, 2, and 3. In other words, the notes, occurring on downbeats which are a noticeable leap (a 3rd or more) away from the notes around it. 
  • Practice slurring this simple melody many times, playing it lovingly, beautifully, and with great phrase shapes (see "THEME"). 
  • Add the rest of the notes, choosing to make them "filler" as in Var. 3 or swirling notes which propel you forward, depending on their shape and trajectory. For instance, the ascending scale fragments at the ends of measures definitely move forward (swirling), while repeated notes in between the melody notes (as in measures 1 & 3 of this variation) are filler. 
Return to the THEME (last line): how do you make this sound senza espressione, as directed? Experiment with a slightly unfocused sound, using little to no vibrato. But don't forget your special notes--every phrase must have a sense of direction, even if it's very subtle. 


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Basic recording gear for flutists

Summer is a great time to think ahead, and many students will be making numerous recordings in the fall for honor bands, college auditions, and more. So why not go out and invest a little in some decent recording equipment now, make a bunch of experimental recordings this summer, and be ready to knock it out of the park this fall? Your iPhone is not going to get the job done for something you want to share publicly, but your last name doesn't have to be Rockefeller, either.

Hand-held recorders, built-in mic
Recommended models: H4n and above, Q2HD
Recommended models: D100 Linear PCM Recorder D Series

Microphones for use with laptops
Recommended models: Yeti, Yeti Pro, Spark Digital
(In the studio, ribbon mics are actually ideal, but too pricey for home use.)

Free recording software for laptops (Windows and Mac)
(Garageband -- Mac only)

“For a good all-around sound, start by placing the mic 2 feet in front of the flutist, positioning it halfway down the body of the instrument. Raise the mic so that it is about 6″ above the flute and angle it down so that it's pointing at the body of the flute.” - Recording Magazine Resources

A thorough article on how your flute works and how to mic it:

Best shopping sites
Musician’s Friend:

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A graded list of flute etude books available on Petrucci: college level

In my last post I shared links for etude books that are on Petrucci and appropriate for middle and high school level students (roughly ages 12-17).  Here's what I've found for college level students:

Etudes - College

Altes 26 Selected Studies
Boehm Op. 37  & Op. 26
DeLorenzo 9 Studies
Demersseman Op. 4
Donjon 8 Etudes de Salon
Dothel Flute Studies
Furstenau Op. 15
Furstenau Op. 107
Gariboldi Op. 139
Hugues Op. 75
Karg-Elert Op. 107
Kohler Op. 33
Kohler op. 75
Kummer Op. 110
Kummer Op. 129
Popp Flute School Op. 205 (vol. 2)

(Also available on Petrucci: Andersens Op. 15, 21, 30, 33, 37, 41, 60, 63)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A graded list of flute etude books available on Petrucci: middle and high school levels

I have long referred my students to Petrucci ( when searching for older standard repertoire, but I don't always take the time myself to see what's there. Imagine my delight when I found LOADS of etude books we can download for free!  Some of my colleagues are of a different mind than I am regarding etudes, but here's what I think our students get from them:

1. Practice learning new music quickly
2. Therefore, lots more reading practice (goal=master one per week)
3. Obviously, technical practice
4. Musical practice, as not all etudes are inherently interesting!

But the more music you buy, the more it adds up.  I prefer to send my students directly to the living composers from whom they wish to purchase contemporary music (whenever possible), and download the old stuff that isn't copyright protected. Of course, always check for accuracy, edition, etc. when searching on Petrucci, but I think etude books are a great thing to grab, as we are rarely so picky with the edition of these books.

Here are some of my favorites on Petrucci right now, with links (part two, college level, is coming soon):

Etudes - Middle School
Gariboldi Op. 132
Kohler progressive duets op. 55
Kohler Op. 93

Etudes - High School
Berbiguer 18 Exercises
Boehm Op. 37
Demersseman Op. 4
Donjon 8 Etudes de Salon
Drouet Method, Part 4 (Studies)
Gariboldi 15 Etudes Modernes
Hugot Op. 13
Hugues Op. 32
Kohler Op. 33
Kohler Op. 66 (Romantic etudes)
Kohler expressive etudes, op. 89
Kummer Op. 110
Kummer Op. 129
Terschak Op. 71

(Also available on Petrucci: Andersens Op. 15, 21, 30, 33, 37, 41, 60, 63)

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A mini-entrepreneurship guide for grads

I wear a few different hats in my professional life, and that balance has been changing of late. While I have long thought of myself first and foremost as a freelance musician, this past year I've seen an increase in duties (and stability) in my position at University of Wyoming, which has kept me more occupied--and less available to gig. I love to travel for performances and master classes and look forward to continuing to squeeze that in when I can, but it has also been very satisfying to begin developing UW's very first music entrepreneurship program. I had already been offering some career coaching services on the side and making guest appearances on other coaching sites, and this certificate program I am developing has been a nice way to conceptualize a more wholistic approach to training the entrepreneurial side of ourselves as musicians from the ground up.

I'm in the process of accumulating and combining resources I have created in recent years for various purposes, from coaching individual musicians to developing homework assignments for my Careers in Music class. As I sort through all the artifacts of this past school year, I think I've found some general resources which could be helpful to anyone about to graduate who's asking of themselves: "what next"? Whether you're moving to a new town to establish yourself or simply re-establishing yourself as a graduated, grown-up musician in the town where you already live, there are some steps to be taken, and thought processes to follow, which can give you a much greater sense of agency over your future.  There is a lot that's too individualistic to encapsulate in a questionnaire or directory, and that's where personal advice from a trusted mentor or coach comes in. But if you're looking for some initial, basic steps to take once you're past your graduation ceremony, I hope this Grad Guide may help. Inside you'll find
  • A questionnaire to help you get to know yourself and direct your next moves
  • A directory of financial resources as those loan payments start coming due
  • Checklists to help you develop unique, cogent branding materials for your online presence
...and articles I've written and previously published elsewhere offering advice on establishing yourself as a performer and teacher in a new community.

I call this a "grad guide", but I think it's pretty applicable to anyone starting over in a new place or in a new way, as well as those looking to up their game and improve upon what they're already doing. Please share freely, and be in touch if you have questions or ideas for additional materials you think would be helpful in this resource. 

Congratulations, graduates of 2019, and let the fun begin!