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



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