Tuesday, November 28, 2017

New music review: Breath of Souls: Five Waiata for Solo Flute

Breath of Souls: Five Waiata for Solo Flute (2010-2014)
Peter Adams
©2015 Promethean Editions Limited

Native New Zealand composer Peter Adams studied with Peter Maxwell Davies, and he also cites the serial work of Anton Webern as an influence. Breath of Souls is clearly very carefully crafted with regards to structure, and it favors both symmetrical shapes and the loose employment of 12-tone rows, but the effect is nonetheless truly captivating.

The composer’s notes which precede this edition comprise a brief master class in the tonal form of the piece, which is interesting in itself--the intricate detail of this work is admirable.  But what is even more fascinating is how something that can be described in such mechanical terms can become something else entirely, as if each “breath” was improvised, growing organically from first note to last. The piece began as a set of three movements for treble recorder and was only completed last year with the addition of the second and fourth movements. The entire piece is inspired by the poem Mercy by Greek-Armenian poet Olga Broumas, which describes breaths of “sea smoke” rising from the waters of a harbor and compares this natural phenomenon to a more spiritual “breaths of souls”.

The first and fifth movements, both called “Pounamu”, serve as prologue and epilogue in this setting, and they are both constructed of identical pitch content. The first serves as a contemplative idea which develops slowly and incompletely, while the second (the last movement), has been drastically altered in rhythm to reflect the rhythmical development of the middle movements, ending in a more restless, but still incomplete thought. Movements two and four, “Waiata Aroha” and “Waiata Tangi”, are the newly added movements, and they are meant to explore themes of love and loss, respectively. “Aroha” (love) leaps and soars gracefully with a nimbleness expressed through rhythms that develop in density throughout.  A general sense of upward motion at the end of many phrases lends an optimism which is later crushed in the slow and meandering “Tangi” (loss).  “Moeraki (Jewel of the Sea)”, depicts transcendence in the form of the poet’s rising “sea smoke”.  It is organized in a simple A-B-A arch.  The A theme is a light 3+3+2 dance, interrupted in the middle of the movement by a B theme which suddenly slows, employing pitch bends and wiggling sixteenth notes meant to be played unevenly, with a sense of rising up into the atmosphere.

Breath of Souls: Five Waiata for Solo Flute in its current, fully developed incarnation is a set of meditations which build upon and inform each other; each one is pure magic. And while the composer suggests that these brief ideas may be performed individually, I would urge the performer to commit to this eight-and-a-half minute suite in its entirety, for a result that is pure sonic poetry and a refreshing new addition to our contemporary solo literature.

Nicole Riner ©2016

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Field Guide to Extended Techniques for Beginners

As we near the deadline for Flute New Music Consortium's Flute Artist Competition, I am thinking about all of you out there who are currently making friends with some new techniques for flute, as well as those of us who advocate strongly for new music and work to incorporate extended techniques into all of our teaching. I hope you'll all be won over in the end! 


Flutter Tongue: Rolling the ‘r’ to produce a fluttering, “frrrr” sound through notes.
A few occurrences in the literature*: Ulrich Gasser, Papierblüten (Paper Blossoms); André Jolivet, Cinq Incantations
Notes on practice: Even people who can roll their r’s (if you can’t, blame genetics!) sometimes prefer to switch to the uvula in the low register.  Use your uvula the same way you would gargle and bring that motion as far forward on the uvula as possible.  It can sustain a smoother sound by not interrupting the air as much as the tongue.  And of course, open up, blow down, and use plenty of air! Flutter tongue, by the way, is a great exercise for practicing moving fast air; just add it to slurred scales or long tones, then play without and notice a more resonant, open sound!

Harmonics: Producing multiple notes from one fingering, namely the tones from the harmonic series based off that note you are fingering. 
A few occurrences in the literature: Anne LaBerge, revamper; Elizabeth Brown, Trillium
Notes on practice: Practicing harmonics regularly also leads to more accurate control of sound production by improving accuracy on the head joint.  The exercises on the first page of Trevor Wye’s Tone book from his Practice Book for the Flute series provides a great guide to practicing harmonics for the sake of improving tone, and can be transposed to start on notes from B to F in the lowest register.

Jet Whistle: Covering the entire embouchure hole with your mouth and blowing very hard to produce a whistling sound. 
A few occurrences in the literature: Villa-Lobos Assobio a Jato (The Jet Whistle) for flute and cello: first occurrence; Ian Clarke, Zoom Tube; Robert Dick, Afterlight
Notes on practice: If you aim forward slightly and try to blow your air against the far side of the tube inside the head joint, you will get a sharper sound and create some resistance, thereby allowing you to go longer on the breath.

Key Clicks: Slapping one or more keys with or without blowing into the flute, creating a light percussive sound. Composers will sometimes ask for the note to be played while performing a key click; without this specification, the key click should not be accompanied by a tone.
A few occurrences in the literature: Phyllis Avidan Louke,  Extended Techniques - Double the Fun and Extended Techniques - Solos for Fun! ; Edgard Varèse, Density 21.5: first occurrence; Lowell Liebermann, Eight Pieces
Notes on practice: For more projection, experiment with leaving your mouth open slightly to act as a resonating chamber.  You can also produce the pitch a seventh below what is written by covering the embouchure hole completely with your mouth, which will be notated in a variety of ways by the composer.

Multiphonics: Playing two or more pitches at once; these tones will not sound as clean and pure as normal flute playing, but will tend to create a hollow, train whistle kind of effect. Most multiphonics require special fingerings which will be glossed either in the performer’s notes or within the context of the piece.
A few occurrences in the literature: Trevor Wye,  A Very Easy 20th Century Album; Michael Colqhoun, Charanga; Luciano Berio, Sequenza
Notes on practice: To practice finding them in a piece, isolate each individual pitch with the fingering given by the composer. Then find the place on the head joint where both will speak, aiming in between the two spots on the head joint for the individual pitches.  It may be necessary to favor one pitch over the other(s) if it is weaker in resonance or harder to maintain. Experiment with changing your air speed or vowel shape in the mouth to make it easier to get both to speak.

Pitch Bends: Smooth glissandos performed by either rolling the head joint in and out or sliding fingers off the keys of an open-hole flute (or both).
A few occurrences in the literature: Ian Clarke, Orange Dawn , Kazuo Fukushima, Mei; Robert Dick, Fish are Jumping
Notes on practice:  Experiment and let your ear be your guide--more stable notes (middle register D) will require some finger sliding, while very bendable notes like middle register C or C# can be done entirely by rolling in and out without completely losing the sound.  Besides rolling the flute, collapsing the embouchure and/ or slowing the air can help make a pitch go flatter, and pulling the corners of the embouchure (usually a mortal sin!) may help raise pitch.

Pizzicato: Short bursts of air across the embouchure hole combined with heavy (“spit”) articulation to create an airy, ghost-like staccato, played on any note fingering.  Do not blow directly into the flute like you would for a normal pitch; these should sound closer to key clicks than actual notes.
A few occurrences in the literature: Shulamit Ran, East Wind; Jason Barabba, A Sign in Space
Notes on practice: Blow further across the flute than you normally would to avoid playing  clean tone. Pizzicato notes can also be used in place of unpitched key clicks if you are playing in a very large and/or noisy room where you fear the key clicks will not be heard by the audience.

Sing + Play: Humming a pitch while playing a note on the flute. 
A few occurrences in the literature: Wil Offermans, Honami; Robert Dick, Lookout
Notes on practice: Sing and play is a great way to ensure that air flow is relaxed and open and that air speed is fast--practice doing it in unison, octaves, and polyphony in scales. It’s also a nice review of our aural  training! If you have difficulty starting both sounds right away, practice singing and then adding the note, and keep working to make the two gradually coincide.

Tongue Ram / Tongue Stop: Performed by hitting the embouchure hole with the tip of your tongue, like saying “hut” or “hoot” (a kind of reverse articulation).  The lips should totally encircle the embouchure hole.
A few occurrences in the literature: Victor Fontin, No Problem (Pub.: Doblinger), Jos Zwannenberg, Solo for Prepared Flute
Notes on practice: Be extremely forceful with the air and tighten the mouth for a good seal over the tone hole in order to efficiently produce audible sound on these.

Whistle Tones: Using slow but extremely focused air across the embouchure hole, you can produce notes that sound like you are whistling; multiple notes from the harmonic series can also be “whistled” off of low notes.  The lips should be further forward than normal playing when executing whistle tones.
A few occurrences in the literature: Wil Offermans, For the Younger Flutist - etudes, Toru Takemitsu, Itinerant
Notes on practice: Whistle tones are commonly used as an exercise to improve accuracy on the headjoint, much like harmonics. A simple exercise could involve finding the whistle tone of a note, then playing the regular note, and going back and forth to compare clarity of sound and pitch.  They are easier to produce in the high register, so start there (on or near high A) and gradually work your way down.  Strive to improve projection and steadiness of sound.

* Literature examples listed from easiest to most difficult


Workbooks/methods:
Artaud, Pierre-Yves. The Mutliphonic Flute and Present-Day Flutes (Pub.: Billaudot)
Dehnhard, Tilmann.  The New Flute - Workbook & DVD (Pub.: Universal)
Dick, Robert.  The Other Flute and Tone Development Through Extended Techniques (Pub.: Robert Dick)
Holland, Linda.  Easing Into Extended Techniques (5 volumes) (Pub.: Con Brio)
Koizumi, Hiroshi.  Technique for Contemporary Flute Music (Pub.: Schott)
Offermans, Wil.  For the Younger Flutist - etudes (Pub.: Zimmerman)

General definitions/demonstrations:
www.johnmcmurtery.com/index.php/extended-techniques
www.forthecontemporaryflutist.com
www.larrykrantz.com/et/et.htm

Detailed Repertoire lists:
www.palouke.com

Nicole Riner ©2017

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Keep track of your goals for better performances!

It's important all times of the year to continually reevaluate and remember what goals you are striving to accomplish; I am surprised by how often my students lose track of this precisely when they are getting close to performances.  As we pass the midterm mark here at University of Wyoming, I encourage my students to resist the temptation to put the blinders on and just obsessively perform their jury and recital pieces for the rest of the term. Remember every exercise that helps you make those pieces sound great, and maintain your workout routine in the face of chaos to feel completely in control.

This goes double for chamber groups, who can be slow to start and quick to fall into a slump as solo projects call. But if your required woodwind quintet has an end-of-semester performance, it's critical that you spend this time to build a strong sense of musical community and trust in each other.

Here are a two of simple hand-outs you can copy many times and add to your flute notebook to help.
Click on the icon for the .pdf.



Weekly Practice Sheets for all age levels:





Chamber Music rehearsal logs:



Thursday, October 5, 2017

Making recordings that showcase your best self

Every spring I am inundated with requests to help friends judge recorded rounds of competitions, and can I like to help out when I can.  And at the end of my judging stint, I always vow to jot down some helpful suggestions for the poor contestants I hear, whose flawed recordings are secretly jeopardizing their chances for advancement. Now is the time when those recordings get made, and I am really hoping I hear nothing but crystal clear, completely decipherable performances next May!  So, to all the future contestants out there...

Equipment.  I know, I know, we spend so much money.  But it's never been easier to find well-made equipment at an affordable price, or to comparison shop online for the deepest discounts.  Do yourselves the favor of investing in something good now, and you'll be able to use it for a long time to come.  I have loved my Zoom H4n stereo recorder for years, which records in both .mp3 and higher quality .wav formats, and it has been equally easy to use through computer changes and system upgrades. If you want to get fancy and use an external microphone, you can record up to four channels, but the built-in one has always worked for me. Likewise, Zoom's Q3HD will take both audio and video, together or separately, and you can control the quality level of both. I promise you, your phone/tablet/laptop is not doing you justice (unless you have a kick-ass external stereo mic and robust software).

Distance. Even good equipment sounds terrible when used poorly. Stand too close and there's a bunch of "junk" in the sound--juicy, airy extraneous noise from the air column splitting over the edge of the tone hole. Stand too far and you sound like you're playing from another room. Both are unflattering and make it hard to judge accurately what you sound like and what, specifically, you are playing. With a hand-held like the Zoom (above), start out standing about 5 feet from the machine, and place it slightly to your right if possible.  More of the "junk" in the sound comes out the left side of the embouchure hole. But all of this is hypothetical until you do a proper...

Sound Check. If you're impatient like me, or nervous like I was as a novice recorder in my student days, you just want to hurry up and get it over with. But you are unlikely to have your recording levels and spacing right on the first try. The level of the mic, your distance, the acoustics in the room, all make a difference in your recorded sound. So, play your extremes--something high and loud (most likely to overload the mic), something quiet and low (least likely to be picked up), and be sure you're also testing your dynamic range with a clear crescendo and decrescendo to make sure the mic isn't mitigating out volume for you (this often happens when it's set to "auto"). When you find the spot and settings where everything you are trying to do is accurately communicated in the recording, write down all the details so you can recreate that setting.  If you decide to come back and re-record things later, you won't have to reinvent the wheel.

Acoustics. Most competitions are strict about not editing tracks, and it's always good practice to avoid any questions about accuracy and truthfulness from the judges' panel. So, pick a room that sounds good--not too washy, but definitely not too dead, either.  I want to hear clarity of articulation and technical passages with all of the partials present in your sound.  Your bathtub may be too live, but your carpeted bedroom full of posters is most likely too dead (as are most practice rooms and teaching studios at U.S. colleges and conservatories).  Get creative--try using a rehearsal room or small auditorium at your school after hours if you can get in, or even a neighborhood church that isn't too live. If you teach lessons at a public school, there may be a nice space the band director will let you use. Oddly, my kitchen is the best room in the house, acoustically speaking. And again, sound check, sound check, sound check.

Dead time. A little time before and after each track is good, but if I am waiting more than 60 seconds for your first note, I'm going to get impatient and start jumping around in the track. The Zoom H4n comes with a remote control that helps you control this, or you can get a friend to push "record" and "stop" for you if it's taking too long to get from the machine to your stand.

Page turns and other extraneous noises. It may sound petty, but shockingly loud page turns are distracting (I giggled through an entire recording last spring because someone's pianist was taking out his frustrations on the score every time he turned). Clicking heels draw my attention towards your inability to stand still when you play. Creaking floors, loud furnaces, etc., all distract from your playing.  It's just human nature.  A little noise is fine (and proof you recorded live!), but anything that really pops out at you is a problem.

Listen before submitting. Seriously, this should be a no-brainer.  But when I hear tiny, far away flute, violent page turns, and a two minute lead (yes, really) before the start of a piece, I wonder if everyone is doing this. I get it--deadlines are surprisingly early, and it's tempting to wait until the last minute in the hopes that your dreaded trouble spot will be smoothed over. But don't rush yourself. You're spending hours and hours (and if you have to hire a pianist, dollars and dollars) to prepare this music to the best of your ability. You are competing to win, whether it's for a cash prize or a tenure-track job. So, it makes no sense to then take short cuts in the final step, which is the recording.Take the time to submit your best work, and make sure the listener can focus solely on your lovely playing, not how many times the air conditioning unit cycled during the Burton. Be a perfectionist.  It's worth it.

Good luck to everyone this audition/competition/job application season, and have fun!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Wyoming All-State Band auditions, 2017

It's All-State time here in Wyoming, and I just put together an instructional video for all of you brave auditioning souls out there. Here it is, and the notes that follow are a review of what I'm demonstrating in the video:

You can download all three excerpts (two for flute, one for piccolo) and scales here. Scroll to the end for the optional piccolo excerpt. Some tips and resources, which I also touch upon in the video:


Etude #1: The accents create a sense of a march style here, and clean technique is clearly on display.


  • The spaces between the notes must be even, and all fingers must move as a rhythmical team to avoid "flams" or accidental grace notes.  Practice rhythms can help: turn each triplet into 





                           and 





to force the fingers to get to different notes cleanly and quickly.  Always practice with a metronome, and insist on 10 perfect repetitions in a row before moving on to the next tempo.

  • When slurring from E to F#, you can use the alternate F# fingering (RH 2 instead of RH3). This fingering is flat, so only use it in fast technical passages like you have in measure 13.
  • Each phrase has a clearly marked dynamic, and they must all sound different.  Map out your dynamic range on a single stable pitch: piano is the quietest sound you can make with a focused sound and excellent pitch, mezzo piano is one obvious notch louder, mezzo forte another step louder, etc. Fortissimo should still be in tune. To get louder, you drop your jaw (it should naturally go down and back at the same time) in increments for each louder dynamic. Conversely, to get quieter, your jaw will come up and forward slightly, like saying "oooo".
  • Accents should be produced with a firm tip of the tongue right where the back of your front teeth meet the roof of your mouth (where most people say "two"), and plenty of fast air behind the sound. If you find that you are cracking on these accents, drop your jaw a little bit and aim your air slightly lower into the headjoint.


Etude #2: This lovely, mournful ballad measures your ability to sustain a phrase and play expressively.  Good breathing capacity along with efficient air use, clear tone, and flexible vibrato are your goals.

  • Practice breathing out-of-time: with the metronome on, play a phrase in time, then give yourself two full beats to breathing, completely filling up from the bottom to the top, then play the next phrase in time, etc. After doing this for a week, limit yourself to one beat of breath, then finally, breathe in time. Continue to mimic the sense of fullness you had when you were taking two luxurious beats to breathe. 
  • If q=60 is too slow for you to play beautifully, start by practicing at the slowest comfortable tempo you can do, then gradually slow it down in increments. You haven't perfected a tempo until you can play in tune, with clear tone and dynamics ten times in a row. 
  • Be sure your vibrato depth/speed matches your volume--shallow and slow for piano, deep and fast for forte. Practice whole notes crescendo from piano to forte, then decrescendo back to piano ("diamonds") and experiment with your vibrato to fill up, but not go beyond the borders of, your sound at every volume. 
  • As with etude #1, map out your dynamics
  • It should go without saying, but...PRACTICE YOUR E-flat MINOR SCALE!
Piccolo Etude: You will be judged on beauty and continuity of sound, clean fingers (of course), and control of pitch. The fingers should be easier than flute etude # (use the 10x rule for all woodshedding), but sound can be more challenging on piccolo. Some thoughts:
  • Play the piccolo like you play the flute: keep your throat open, tongue relaxed, and some space between your back teeth like when you say "ah". Use fast spinning air like you do for flute.  This will ensure that all of your notes speak evenly and have depth.  Beauty of sound can be practiced like you practice it on flute, with long tones, "diamonds", and octave slurs. 
  • Your piccolo is not as acoustically "correct" as your flute, so you'll have to do more to control pitch.  Learn your tendencies with a simple "Pitch Tendency" sheet.  Turn on your metronome, and once you've tuned to an A, play and hold every single individual pitch, from low D to high F. Write down your specific tendency on that note (like "+20" or "-10"). Then take notes on what you have to do to get it in tune.  You should not need to roll in and out drastically, which hurts sound quality. Instead, drop your jaw to get flatter, or pucker to get sharper. In the context of this etude, you will know where to blow each note so that they are all in tune. 
Scales: Visit my blog post, "Tips for Creative Practice" to keep things fresh (and accurate).

Good luck, and enjoy the process!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tips for band directors

I always encourage band directors to keep in touch and ask questions whenever they are struggling with their flute sections; I think that we, as flutists, can offer a crucial lifeline to our colleagues in the public schools and advocate for the best practices on our instrument.  I cannot imagine the pressure of standing in front of a band and having to make everyone sound great on all of their various instruments all by myself; no one person can be the expert on everything. That's where a cadre of instrumental experts helps everyone involved.

These are some materials I have shared with my colleagues in Wyoming and NoCo over the years and I hope it is helpful in some way; feel free to share this information with your own colleagues, wherever you happen to be as you read this.  And band directors, remember: we want to help you help your students to love the flute (and piccolo) the way we do.  We're all on the same team, so call us when we can help!

Equipment

Move to an open-hole flute as early as possible (if hands are large enough, it is possible to start on one).  Off-set G is preferred over inline for the health of the left hand.  Pitch is generally better on a B-foot, rather than a C-foot, flute.   Flute prices range wildly, but in general, you get what you pay for.  The following brands are recommended because they are built on good scales, construction is sturdy, and they tend to hold a repair for a long time.

Recommended Brands, in order of preference--flutes:
            1. Altus/ Azumi (Azumi is made by Altus)
            2. Muramatsu
            3. Trevor James
            4. Yamaha

Recommended Brands, in order of preference--concert piccolos
            1. Resona by Burkhart
            2. Pearl PFP105-E
            3. Yamaha YPC-62

Embouchure practice aid: Pneumo Pro Wind Director, www.blockiflute.com

Resources

Online:
Accurate fingering charts: www.wfg.woodwind.org
Breathing exercises: Breathing Gym Playlist on YouTube
Purchasing flute music, instruments, and accessories: www.fluteworld.com 
Flute repertoire guides, practice tips, and history: thepedagogyproject.pbworks.com
Information on summer festivals, competitions, and conferences: www.nfaonline.org
Overcoming performance anxiety, general inspiration: www.bulletproffmusician.com
UW Flute Studio, including information on Wyoming Flute Day and a Wyoming state flute teacher directory: sites.google.com/site/wyoflutes/home
Dr. Riner’s home page: www.nicoleriner.info

Highly Recommended Exercise Books:
Trevor Wye, Practice Book for Flute, Omnibus Edition (Published by Novello)
            °Includes sections on tone, technique, breathing, articulation, scales, and more

Tips for Great Flute Playing
A hand-out for high school flutists by Dr. Nicole Riner
Visiting Assistant Professor of Flute, University of Wyoming

1.  Try to stand whenever you practice the flute, and face your feet, hips, and knees 45º to the right.  Then swing the upper half of your body to face the music stand.  This prevents arm fatigue and makes it easier to fill up with air. 

2. To fill up with air, deliberately sense the temperature of the air in the back of the throat.  This triggers the lower half of the lungs and makes the lungs expand from the bottom first, where they are larger and more pear-shaped.  Notice that the three lowest ribs are “floating” and not attached in the front like the rest of the ribs.  Let the floating ribs go outward in a 360º circle. 

3.  When tonguing say “tu” or “du”, not “whoo” or “pu”.  The tip of the tongue should hit just behind your front top teeth to lightly interrupt a fast, constant stream of air.  After each “tu” the tongue tip should rest lightly behind the bottom teeth, ready to strike again.  Keep the mouth cavity open and relaxed with the tongue resting on the floor of the mouth when not in use. 

4. To sustain the tone with a rich, full sound, use the “belt trick”.  Fill up with air and pretend you have a belt around your middle that is WAY too big for you. Make the imaginary belt taut by pushing out all around in a circle, and keep the imaginary belt taught the whole time you exhale into the flute.  This engages extra abdominal muscles that help control the exhalation. 

5. Move the lip corners forward as you go higher on the flute so that the center of the lips moves gradually closer to the far side of the blowing edge.  To go lower, open your mouth by putting more space between your back teeth and pointing the air down into the hole, which will be les covered.  Keep your corners loose and relaxed at all times.  Don’t roll the flute inwards or outwards to achieve different octaves or pitches, but make your lips do it instead. 

6.  To tune, push the headjoint in to make the pitch higher (sharper), pull the headjoint out to make the pitch lower (flatter).  When you are in a good place and the majority of your notes are in tune, remember that spot and put your headjoint there every time you put it together.  Remember that cold flutes will always be flat until they warm up; you can speed up the process by blowing some hot air into the headjoint before checking your tuning. 

If you find that you go flat when playing softly or sharp when playing loudly, use your embouchure:
For forte: Put more space between your back teeth, pull the upper lip downward, and aim the air down into the flute.
For piano: Bring your lips forward into a pucker and blow more across the hole, still using fast air speed. 

7.  Always line up your headjoint so that when you play your flute, the tops of the keys face the ceiling.  The first key should be lined up with the embouchure hole in the headjoint. Your pinky keys should be easily reachable—adjust where you put your footjoint to fit your hand.  Your right hand thumb should act as a shelf to hold that side of the flute, while the left side is held in place by your chin (with only gentle pressure, no pushing!) and the lower part of your index finger of your left hand. 

8.  When assembling or disassembling your flute, don’t place your hands on the keys, rods, or levers.  Place your hands on the sturdy and smooth parts of the tube only.  It’s very easy to bend the thin keys and rods, which will keep your flute from working smoothly and accurately. 

9.  Always swab the flute out with a handkerchief or silk swab after playing. This dries the pads and protects them from wear.  Always gently wipe fingerprints off the body to preserve the finish of your flute; you can use a handkerchief or microfiber cloth.

10.  Practice things that are challenging, like octave slurs and fast, clean scales, every day!  Stay curious and seek good role models in professional flute players and recordings.  Take lessons from a reputable flute teacher in your area if possible, or email me for in-person or SKYPE lessons. 


Nicole Riner ©2016



Thursday, September 7, 2017

Announcing my Flutist's Expression Workbook!

...just in time to combat the back-to-school obsession over All-State auditions and marching band shows! This book has been a two-year labor of love and I will continue to update and improve it with your feedback. I've just released A Flutist’s Expression Workbook, appropriate for junior high through adult students. The Workbook utilizes exercises from 19th Century vocal method books as a vehicle for developing beautiful, flexible tone and more creative expression in playing. Vocalises are presented with two sets of expression markings followed by text meant to lead the student through the musical effect of the markings as well as specific instruction on how to perform those markings effectively. There is also an unadorned copy of each vocalise for students to mark for themselves as they explore their own musical creativity. Supplementary material includes four duets, arranged from their original operatic settings, for flutes and piano, and piano accompaniment to all vocalises. It's available in print edition (spiral-bound) or digital download, which also includes .mp3 files of select accompaniments to play along with and extra "blanks" of each vocalise for your musical marking pleasure!

You can read more about it, view sample pages, and order at this link. I'll be updating that page with supplementary videos of me teaching some of the vocalises throughout the fall. Please feel free to share this information with colleagues and students, and thanks for helping spreading the word!


Thursday, August 24, 2017

So You Want to Be a Freelance Musician

It's that time of year, when everyone who's not heading back to school is starting to look around and wonder, "what next?" I wrote this article back in 2014 and it has been published in a couple of places, but I don't think anything much has changed.  For further reading, however, the landscape is looking brighter all the time. Shout-out to Brandon Upshaw's Startup Musician blog and his downloadable book, This is How We Do It.


So You Want to Be a Freelance Musician

Nicole Riner

The musical community is becoming a more creative, dynamic place.  Never before have there been so many opportunities to develop your own path as a music entrepreneur.  You may decide this is the path you choose to take after school, rather than pursuing the more traditional graduate school-to-professorship trajectory or devoting yourself to orchestral auditions. This will often mean moving to a more urban environment with an arts scene after college. Moving to a new city is challenging if you do not have personal or musical connections there.  You will start out in the back of the line behind local professors and their graduate students, recent graduates who stayed in town, important people’s spouses, and those who have been a part of the local scene since you were a toddler!  But don’t lose heart--you will eventually be recognized for your reliability, talent, pleasant social skills, and humble, hard-working attitude as long as you consistently display those qualities whenever you have the opportunity.  Some tips:

Be ready to self-promote.  Get your one-page resume looking as good as it can, and make it easily available.  You can carry paper copies with you wherever you go, but paper is becoming a thing of the past.  It’s better to also have all the information you want to convey on a website (resume, bio, performance calendar, teaching philosophy, sound clips, etc.) and get some great-looking business cards made to share your information quickly and easily.   Study other websites from people in your field and copy the best.  Do some shopping for hosts--new companies are constantly forming to offer affordable package deals on the domain name alongside some pretty professional-looking design help. 

PS--a website filled with bravado and not much else is rather annoying (and ubiquitous, unfortunately); create a website that celebrates your victories while also allowing people to get to know you as a musician.  This is why I think a well-written teaching philosophy is so important: it allows potential students and their parents to make a connection to you and feel comfortable choosing you as their teacher. Share your particular interests, whether it’s classical-jazz crossover music or Latin American folk music.  Your website helps you get past the awkward stranger phase. 

Stay in shape.  The imposed down-time of having no gigs in a new place allows you to be in the best shape of your life.  Design an efficient regular practice routine so that you are always ready at a moment’s notice to fill in at a gig--these will most likely be your first calls.  Scales, long tones, orchestral excerpts, and sight reading practice should all be prioritized, as well as familiarizing yourself with any common chamber music literature you haven’t yet learned (woodwind quintets, flute trios, etc.). Your goal is to be able to say yes to anything that comes along and to play so well that you get called again.  No excuses.

When I was new to a previous city where I worked, I received a call at 8am asking me if I could step in for a sick piccolo player for a days’ worth of recording demonstration CDs for band programs.  The gig started at 9:30am, and with traffic, I had to leave my apartment as soon as I hung up.  While I don’t normally consider myself a piccolo player, I had been practicing it hoping it would increase my chances of getting called, and so I was ready to pound through Hal Leonard arrangements for four hours.  My paycheck that day was the largest I had received up to that point, I met several movers and shakers in the local gig scene who remembered me for future work, and I got credit with contractors for being willing to drop everything and save the day. 

Make calls.  Contact local band directors about coming in to teach pull-out or after-school lessons.  Call the personnel managers of local part-time orchestras and ask if you can audition for the sub list.  If there is a good college or full-time orchestra in your area, contact the flute professor/ principal player and take a lesson, expressing your interest in subbing and other side work if you hit it off (be prepared to pay a premium for these lessons, though).  Learn who the contractors in your area are and email them your press packet of headshot, resume, bio, and links to pertinent information on your website.  In short, make sure people know where to find you. 

Look for a faculty to join.  Any faculty, whether it’s a tiny private college or a community music school whose clientele are mostly fresh out of diapers, is a great place to meet other active freelancers.  By making friends with the other adjuncts, you can learn about gigs, create chamber music groups, and generally learn the lay of the land. Teach flute, music appreciation, aural skills—in short, teach whatever you responsibly can.

Create performance opportunities.  Give a recital at a local church, theater, or chamber music venue if it exists.  And be sure to promote that recital aggressively--contact local newspapers, classical radio stations, and arts bloggers to announce the program and offer yourself for an interview or review of the show.  If it goes well and you are meeting like-minded musicians at your part-time teaching job (see above), consider creating a chamber music series in your town. 

Say yes to everything.  Any work even marginally related to performing could lead to more performing.  Just do anything you feel capable of doing that will allow you to work with other musicians and let them see you shine.  Entry-level arts administration work, becoming a sub-contractor for gigs, or just teaching or playing in situations you didn’t imagine for yourself are all fair game.  I don’t spend a lot of time with small children, but I have played my well-worn Peter and the Wolf excerpts and Harry Potter themes for them a number of times in their elementary schools, and I am always playing with great musicians, some of whom have great gigs.  And eventually they mention my name to their contractors.  

Consider working for free.  It’s a painful concept after so many years of playing for free as a student, but I think you go back to square one whenever you move to a new place. You have decide if the situation is right for you.  If the unpaid gig will ingratiate you with a busy, overworked contractor or allow you to play for influential musicians in the area, you can consider it an extended audition.  However, if it’s playing for some out-of-towner’s outdoor wedding in January, skip it. 

What to do once you get a gig:  by the time you start getting calls, you will have gone through periods of frustration, mild depression, and panic at the thought of having wasted your college years practicing your instrument instead of doing something marketable.  Don’t let it show.  Whether you are playing beside brilliant musicians or people who seem ready to retire, address everyone as a respected colleague.  That means patting your thigh in appreciation after orchestra solos in rehearsal (good or bad) and thanking the regulars in the ensemble for letting you play with them.   And it most certainly includes good social skills in general: make direct eye contact, smile, offer your hand and introduce yourself.  Act happy to be there, even if it has been a difficult week filled with rejections.  There are far more good musicians than there are jobs, so no one has to suffer your inflated ego for the privilege of hearing you play.  They can just call someone else. 

And whatever you do, treat every rehearsal, no matter how mundane the music, as if it is the most important performance of your life.  You are being judged every time you make a sound as people decide where to put you on the sub list. 

It takes time to establish yourself, and that calendar can vary.  Every musical community is a small one, and every action and statement you make will follow you.  If you consistently--even when you think no one is looking--present yourself as willing to work, hold yourself to a high standard, and act generously and with kindness in the face of others’ struggles, people will want to work with you.  And the longer you remain that excellent colleague, the higher your name rises on the sub list.                                                                                                                          

Nicole Riner ©2016

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Creative Careers for Flutists

NFA is next week, and I hope to see many of you there! I am very excited to be participating in Flute New Music Consortium's round table discussion about commissioning new music, called "Keeping Score", Saturday at noon. And for anyone interested in learning more about FNMC or advocating for new music in general, you can join us Friday at 6pm for our annual meet-and-greet; just look for me at the registration table. Otherwise, I will be keeping a pretty low-key schedule this year, so there's plenty of time to visit and/or schedule lessons for any of you interested in either of those things...just message me here.

I am reminded of another inspiring and informative panel I participated in a few years back at the Las Vegas convention, and I think the information is just as timely today.  Here are the notes from that original hand-out (mine are a bit out of date, but it's funny to go back and read them now!), which I hope can be of supplementary use to you this season as you carve out your own niches.

NFA 2012: Creative Careers for Flutists
Panel contact information
Jan Boland: Red Cedar Chamber Music in Eastern Iowa
My career has been shaped by chamber music. What does a career in chamber music require? Persistence, relationship-building, persistence, creative solutions to obstacles, and persistence. Get on the “chamber music bus” and no matter where it goes, “don’t get off the bus.” For the first part of my career, I followed the typical independent artist path – balancing 5 part-time jobs in performance and teaching, determined that at the end of the year they would amount to a full-time income. About 15 years ago, I co founded Red Cedar Chamber Music – a not-for-profit arts organization designed to serve Eastern Iowa with quality chamber music while, at the same time, providing a living wage for its core ensemble (my guitar partner and myself). I serve as flutist and Executive Director – and play 80-100 concerts each season. Our venues are the concert hall, libraries, rural communities, schools and senior residential facilities. The beautiful part of this model is that I (with my guitarist partner) design the programs (3 annually) – the repertoire, the schedule, the composers we commission, and the artists with whom we work are our choices. The down side is, it is a lot of hard work. Non-musical skills required include fundraising, marketing, bookkeeping, database management, artist management, music arranging, board development, web-design, lots of people skills, and more – some I enjoy a great deal, and other parts, not so much. At the end of the day, I like what I am doing – playing lots of concerts, making an artistic impact on the people in my region and beyond. I’m happy to talk to you.
Check out Red Cedar Chamber Music online at www.redcedar.org
On Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RedCedarMusic


Stephanie Pedretti: freelance teacher/performer in Chicago, IL
Currently the main component of my career is teaching, although I am also active as a performer.
As I was going through undergraduate and graduate school, I thought of myself more as a
performer than a teacher - my major was “flute performance” after all! In spite of that, I was
lucky enough to have had some teaching opportunities, and after graduating, somehow ended up
with more students of all ages and levels than I knew what to do with. I became intrigued with
the art of teaching and discovered that it was something I really enjoyed. It helped me to analyze
my own playing and learn at the same time as I was teaching others. As I sought for creative
ways to engage the youngest students in my studio, I discovered the Suzuki method and began
taking teacher training courses. When I decided that I wanted to live in Chicago and see what
kind of musical life I could build for myself there, it was this combination of teaching experience
and Suzuki training that opened doors for me. The first step was casting a wide net -- I sent out
letters and resumes to every community music school and college in the Chicago area that I
could find. Out of approximately 40-50 letters, I received six responses -- one very positive letter
from a college that had no current opening, and five offers for interview/auditions at community
music schools. I started off in Chicago that fall teaching at three community music schools.
Over time I became involved in the Chicago Flute Club (a great way to meet other flutists),
and reached out to colleagues of different instruments to create opportunities to perform - the
beauty of this has been choosing our own repertoire and the challenging part is seeking out the
venues to perform in. I’ve found a good balance and enjoy the musical life that I’m still in the
process of developing. Please feel free to contact me:


Chris Potter: low flutes specialist in Boulder, CO
My love of the sound of low flutes started with the first Atlanta convention – 1976 I think it was. I had played a straight tube alto as an undergraduate, but the twist of the right wrist was too uncomfortable. When I discovered they could be made with a curved head as well, I started saving my pennies. In 1983 I was able to purchase an alto, and now almost 30 years later, there is an NFA Low Flutes Committee of which I am chair. I have performed at many NFA conventions and all over the U.S. and in England and France as an alto and bass flute soloist. I have commissioned and premiered many wonderful pieces and met many interesting people. Along the way, I have had several books published and been the guest artist with many flute associations, including the British Flute Society. I started an Alto and Bass Flute Retreat that just completed its 8th year. People contact me from all over the world for advice about altos and basses. If you would like some advice regarding low flutes, please contact me at
cpotter@altoflute.net

Nicole Riner: national freelance teacher/performer
I followed a very typical educational path, going all the way through to my doctorate, all degrees in flute performance, without ever taking a moment to stop and think about my goals.  As I neared completion of my doctorate, my husband, also a musician, won “The Golden Job” (full-time, tenure-track) at a small school in the Rocky Mountains.  There was not much freelance teaching to be had in our new town, and despite doing everything I had done in the Midwest to develop a studio, I had very few, irregular flute students coming to my house.   I finished my doctorate while remodeling our old Bungalow; I started to get occasional sub work with local part-time orchestras, but it wasn’t very fulfilling work, nor did it fill up my days.  I taught adjunct at a local college and did not feel like I fit in; I cared about playing and teaching, but not about the politics or the committee meetings that seemed to fill the full-timers’ schedules.   I was fortunate enough to win a new adjunct position at University of Wyoming, 90 miles northwest of my house in Colorado, where I have spent six blissful years doing nothing but making chamber music with great colleagues and teaching motivated students, but it is still only part-time work, and the weeks are long. 
So, in my early 30s, I finally figured out what it was I wanted to do: I wanted to perform in addition to teaching advanced students, and I also wanted to resume my love of writing, which I had shelved in college in order to be the best flutist I could be.  I did not feel like this is quite what I was groomed to do in graduate school, so I began to work piecemeal to create opportunities to practice my crafts.  I began to seek performances elsewhere, calling old contacts scattered across the Midwest and Pacific Northwest to see if someone would have me out for a recital.  To my great surprise, people often said yes, sometimes with offers of money to cover my travel expenses and beyond.  Slowly, I have built very satisfying relationships with other college flute teachers and freelance performers from across the country and have pieced together whole tours in which I actually get paid to give recitals and master classes.  In 2010 I released a CD with a colleague from UW which has further fueled invitations to perform.  Contact with contemporary composers through my school’s new music festival has led to commissions and world premieres, and I am currently in the throes of my first commission with one such composer from our festival.  I am a teacher and performer, but I am also a business manager, a talent agent, grant-writer, and a well-seasoned traveler who can cite most major airlines’ baggage fees.  I have also reached out of my isolated area to create a national network of flutists with a collaborative website called The Pedagogy Project.  On the side, I have published a book about my travels and maintain a blog.  By never winning that tenure-track job, I spend the time my colleagues are in meetings and sitting on committees doing things I care about: teaching, playing, writing, and dreaming of the Next Big Project. 
www.nicoleriner.info


Ruth Ann Ritchie: Astraios in Dallas area, Texas
After I finished grad school in Australia and moved back to the States, I started the usual round of orchestra auditions.  I was teaching a studio of about 55 students, but I wanted to play.  I made finals in my third audition, but knew that I wasn’t cut out to practice Daphnis for the rest of my life.  The teaching was a good income, but I needed a better artistic outlet. My friends from school were facing the same questions—they were finished with grad school, but the economy was shaky and orchestras everywhere were facing cuts.
As a teenager, I’d given many informal concerts where people would ask questions and want to look at my music, or touch the buttons on my flute. Now in my 20s, I began to realize that there was a huge need for this kind of concert.  There are many people out there who think classical music is something on a pedestal that can’t be reached without a secretive induction ceremony, and that asking questions is unacceptable.  So in 2007, I founded Astraios, a network of chamber musicians working to remove barriers between audiences and performers.  We provide various forms of interaction for the audiences in our concerts—clapping exercises to understand the rhythmic drive, voting for which instrument sounds better with a melody line, even dramatic readings of poems. We always provide lots of time to meet the musicians and ask all the questions you’d like.  We also run a monthly blog profiling our different musicians and giving updates on our rehearsal progress.  We hold our performances to the highest level, but we want to show that classical music is not terrifying. I know that classical music is worth saving, and this is what we’re doing to help.
Astraios now runs a summer chamber concert series in Colorado and is a frequent performer on Colorado Public Radio.  We also just received the go-ahead to start a fall-spring concert series in Dallas, Texas; are working with local directors to help gather interest in the school band and orchestra programs; and are raising money for our first commissioning project.  Please contact me if you’d like to know more!
https://www.facebook.com/AstraiosMusic
www.astraiosmusic.org


Nicole Riner ©2016

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Album review: The chamber music of Nino Rota


Still listening to this for fun, and this album just totally sounds like summer to me...

Rota: Chamber Music for Flute
with Mario Carbotta, flute
Dynamic©2012

Composer Nino Rota was born in Milan in 1911, studied in Milan under Gioseffo Zarlino and in Rome under Alfred Casella, all preceding World War II.  He was best known as a film composer, including many collaborations with Fellini until his death in 1979.  Despite this background, his harmonic language, at least on this album, is quite conservative  and traditional, favoring simple stepwise melodies and neo-Romantic chord progressions.  The repertoire included on this CD was all written between 1935 and 1972, and any sense of musical tension or strife in these works is quickly glossed over and replaced by pastoral scenes and light, French-influenced melodies. 

Three Duets for flute and oboe (1972) employs simple, clean lines with an equal interchange of ideas.  The flute stays mostly in the middle and beginning of the high register and the oboe is generally in the same range, creating a sparkling, playful sound.  Rhythmical integrity is key in the fast outer movements, when the flute and oboe rapidly exchange fragments and finish each others’ sentences.

Five Pieces for flute and piano (1972) is clearly influenced by Satie’s simplicity and diatonic language with perhaps a touch of Debussy’s sense of ambling, uneven phrases and cool, aloof chord structure.  Likewise, the Sonata for flute and harp (1937) evokes Ravel in its elegant simplicity.  The Quintet for flute, oboe, viola, cello, and harp (1935) also fits into this category, marked by gentle, undulating melodies.  The choice of instruments in this piece works very well, and voicing is well-written to highlight each instrument’s strengths. 

The Trio for flute, violin, and piano (1958) is a rousing, technical fanfare right out of the gate.  The playful exchange between voices reminds one of similar chamber works by Bohuslav Martinu, and there is a great energy present in all three parts.  The harmonic language is still very accessible, but it does wander a bit more into atonal territory than the aforementioned pieces, adding some welcome variety to the program and allowing listeners to enjoy flutist Mario Cabotta‘s excellent technique. 

The performance quality on this album is stellar; each musician plays incredibly well as individuals and as chamber musicians.  Ensemble is solid on each track.  Mario Carbotta plays beautifully in a rich, sonorous lyrical style.

Sound quality is just fine on the majority of the CD: the atmosphere is warm and intimate without sacrificing clarity of sound.  The Trio for flute, violin, and piano is an exception; the violin and piano often overbalance the flute, which suddenly sounds far away, unlike any of the other tracks. 

Nino Rota’s repertoire highlights the flute’s lyricism and clean simplicity of sound, and it is beautifully wrought by all of the musicians on this album.

Nicole Riner ©2016


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Help writing that all-important first email to a prospective teacher

If you're going into your senior year of high school in the fall (or starting to consider graduate programs!), summer is a popular time for visiting universities and scheduling lessons with prospective flute teachers. [Read my advice for picking the right college program here.] I know this because I am inundated with emails from prospective students every June through early August.  I greatly appreciate hearing from students this early and being given the opportunity to get to know them ahead of an all-too-rushed audition in February, but students should know that our acquaintance begins with the very first email. I often receive lovely, well-spoken,thoughtful emails, which always impresses me.  But when I receive an email that is casual to the point of sounding rude and vague enough to convince me the writer didn't spend any time at all researching me or my school, I feel like my time is being wasted.  I answer all the same, but those students have already raised a little red flag with me regarding maturity and interest in my program. And that's probably not even a fair assumption, but it's all I have to go on. So, to help you avoid inadvertently misrepresent yourselves, some tips from the past decade of reading prospectives' emails at University of Wyoming:

Email is the new snail-mail.  Texts are supposed to be abbreviated and to-the-point, but they're for someone you already know, and should never be used as a first contact with a teacher. "Business" emails of this nature should include a formal salutation and closing, and the body of your text should employ proper spelling and grammar. Use formal language like you (hopefully) plan to use when you see me in person at your audition. And please, no Facebook Messenger.  Oh, how I wish no one would mistake that for business use (colleagues included)!

Do your research.  Please don't ask me to recite policies that are clearly stated on the music department's website or tell you what the band director's email address is.  It's all online.  Scour over the school's website, the music department's site in particular, and my website/You Tube videos/ blog (ahem) etc. and see how much of your curiosity is satisfied there.  Then, and only then, should you ask questions (see below) that you don't get answered online.

Formulate clear questions. Ask about the size of the studio, what financial aid is available to you, who you'd study with (all of my students study with me, but at some schools, freshmen all study with a graduate assistant, for instance), and other pertinent information about the program that will greatly impact your decision. Anything you can't find an answer to online (see above) is fair game. When you ask in general what the studio "feels" like, I don't know what you mean and therefore may or may not answer the question you really want to ask.

Customize your letter.  I don't expect a student to write a completely original letter for each prospective teacher--that would be wasting your time. Just include some personalize references, like naming my school (not someone else's!) and typing my name correctly so that I know you really meant to send the email to me. That little show of effort goes a long way.

Here is an example of a well-written email from a prospective student:

"Dear Dr. Riner:

I am writing to request information about the University of Wyoming's undergraduate program in flute performance. I am currently in high school at XXXXXX, and will graduate in 2017. My flute teacher is currently XXXXX. I have also studied with XXXXXX and XXXXXX. 

I have looked online and was able to find information about applications, auditions, and a schedule of courses. I’d also appreciate any information you can provide about:

·       Opportunities I would have as an undergrad
·       Grants and scholarships you offer for flute performance majors
·       Requirements you have for students entering your program

If there is anything else that would help me to better prepare myself for your program please let me know.
Would it be possible for me to schedule an introductory lesson so that I can learn more about your program and see if it's a good fit for me?

Thank you for your assistance. I look forward to receiving this information.

Sincerely, 
A flute student with excellent communication skills"

And here's one that could use a little work:

"Hey Nicole, I am interested in getting information about your school's music program. I will graduate in 2016 and I really want to be a band director could you please tell me where to find: application, audition requirements, band director's email, and anything else you can think of I should know. I was in XXXX Allstate Band last year and have played in solo and ensemble contest for four years. I'd like to know what the feel of your flute studio is, too." 



Don't be intimidated by the task--if you are contacting a teacher you are truly interested in and have done some minimal research on the school before typing your email, it's going to be great!  Reaching out to a prospective teacher ahead of time allows you both to see if you might be a good "fit" for each other, which is crucial to your success. Just keep in mind that you are formally introducing yourself in that first email and give it some real thought before hitting "send".  Good luck, and happy hunting!

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Summer 2017 Articulation Challenge!

Coming off of an incredibly fun week of teaching at the Wyoming Summer Flute Intensive and then UW's Summer Music Camp, I couldn't help but notice how many eager, hard-working students lack guidance in the area of articulation.  We're all guilty of letting that ball drop at times when we think we've gotten it all figured out, but attention can be paid every day to either strengthening and varying your articulations or, if you truly are a master of them all (what's your secret?!), maintaining what you have already developed. And summer is such a great time to dig in to a project like this. So, this week begins the Wyoming Summer Articulation Challenge; to participate, join our private Facebook group here, and you can send me one video per week for individual comments and suggestions.  You'll have to join to see all of the videos, but here's the first one to give you an idea:


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Introducing the Wyoming Flute Sessions!

I am very fortunate to teach at a school with a beautiful, and incredibly flattering, recital hall. So, I thought I'd take advantage of it by recording run-throughs of some new pieces I've been learning. It's great fun to play at University of Wyoming, and I find these little-known works by emergent composers so good, and I hope you will, too!

Toys by Jean Ahn: I was introduced to this charming piece when I judged a new music competition last fall.  It didn't win, but I was so intrigued by the colors Jean got by combining flute and piano with wind-up toy, and when I asked, she was generous enough to gift me a copy of the parts. As she says in the score,

"Toys that sing, toys that sing like your mommy...Not the electronically synthesized sound, but a sound that is only tailored for you.  Breathe, laugh, cry, cuddle, and hug...That is the imaginary toy that we as musical moms want to leave when we can't be there with our babies. This piece explores eight nursery songs, from 'Farmer in the Dell' to 'ABC' song, sometimes explicitly and sometimes ambiguously."

The pianist in this recording, Theresa Bogard, and I gave the Wyoming premiere of this back in March in Rock Springs, and played it again in April at UW for a faculty recital.





Gocce by Emanuela Ballio: Italian for "drops", this solo work was a finalist in the Flute New Music Consortium composition contest last summer. It is great fun to play. and Emanuela has been such a kind and supportive cheerleader!  I gave the world premiere of this piece in April at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and plan to program it many more times.




Look for more installments throughout the summer; I next plan to explore the sound board with some electro-acoustic pieces by Nico Muhly, Kay He, and who knows?....

: )

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Exploring the whole musical package at the Rhode Island Flute Extravaganza

I am super excited to see a new (to me) state as an Altus Handmade Flutes-sponsored guest artist of the Rhode Island Flute Extravaganza June 3, joining Andrea Fischer (Fluter Scooter) and Katy Dorrien in a day of workshops and performances in Cumberland. I've been charged with the duty of talking for one tiny hour about tone, breathing, and expression, which seemed an impossible task at first! But when you think about the linear development of any piece of music, from the basics of sound production to the final musical product, it makes sense.  Here's what I'll be presenting, and if you're local, I hope to see you there! (PS--you're always welcome to use and adapt the materials I share here for your own purposes, and I appreciate your crediting me on any original material you reproduce of mine.)

Spoiler alert: there is a book coming. As soon as I can rub two minutes together to get something more accomplished on it!

Breathing, Tone, and Musicality: Developing the Whole Package!
Dr. Nicole Riner
Visiting Assistant Professor of Flute, University of Wyoming
Altus Performing Artist
www.nicoleriner.info

1. Breathing: You should fill up from the bottom, all the way up until you can’t find any more space to store air. Utilize those little pockets of space in your sides and back, too. Practice isolating different zones to ensure you are completely filling up. Online exercises: search “Breathing Gym” on You Tube.

2. Tone: Move the center of the lips forward as you go higher on the flute or to get quieter, while forming the syllable “ooooo” in your mouth. To go lower and/or get louder, open your mouth by putting more space between your back teeth and pointing the air, with the center of the lips, down into the hole, forming an “oh” or “ah” syllable in the mouth. Keep your corners flexible at all times. Don’t roll the flute inwards or outwards to achieve different octaves or pitches, but make your lips do it instead. Practice octave slurs, “diamonds”, and harmonics every day for maximum flexibility in addition to chromatic long tones.

3. Expression: A clear idea of where each phrase begins and ends, with one goal note per phrase in mind, is a good starting point. Then, let your dynamics, tone color, depth/speed of vibrato, etc. communicate that phrase shape. For example, by itself, this is a pretty boring passage:


But with some help from you, it can become quite meaningful:


Notice how the crescendos give a sense of climbing to these ascending arpeggios. Put a (*) over one goal note per phrase, indicated by a complete set of < >. Make sure that note is your sonic peak, in color, dynamic, and depth of vibrato. And what about?...


Accented phrases have a muscular feel, while staccato (and later slurred) phrases create a more playful counterpart, as if the soloist is alternating between a march and a light waltz. Be very thoughtful to consistently perform the dynamic and articulation that’s written.
Now it’s your turn: go back up to the first example and pencil in some of your own original markings. How will you clearly communicate them to your audience?

The following material is excerpted from my forthcoming Book, The Flutist’s Expression Workbook. Please contact me at nicole [dot] riner [at] gmail [dot] com to purchase a copy. All material on this hand-out is ©2017, Nicole Riner.