Tuesday, July 23, 2019

2019 NFA preview

It's almost that time of year again, that heady mix of excitement, neurosis, and classmate reunion that is the National Flute Association convention. I know I've shared a lot of this advice before, but it still holds true, and I am particularly hoping my UW students will read it before we caravan out to Salt Lake City next week! Whether you're going this year or not, I encourage you to make it happen at least occasionally (I know it's expensive, but it truly is like nothing else in our profession). If you've never been, some words of wisdom:

  • Bring (healthy) snacks that can act as meal substitutes to save money and avoid missing out over the lunch hour. 
  • Dinner breaks are usually (sort of) built in to the schedule, and if you've never attended NFA, the Myrna Brown Dine-Around is a great orientation. You can learn more about it here
  • Bring layers. Sitting in a heavily air conditioned convention center all day for four days is painfully cold! 
  • Don't be shy.  Approach performers to congratulate them.  We like that, and we won't bite. 
  • Make new friends. Check out prospective teachers in performance and see if you can take a lesson. This is a great networking opportunity.
  • Maybe don't buy a new instrument there?  The exhibit hall is too chaotic to really get to know anything. But do try instruments and gather a list of what you'd like to try in the calm and quiet of your living room after you get home. (Students: play everything for your teacher before purchasing!!) 
  • It is most customary to arrive late and leave early for events because everything is always double- and triple-booked.  Anywhere else it's rude, but at NFA it's mandatory to breeze in and out for maximum exposure. Don't worry, we won't get mad. 
  • You cannot possibly see/hear everything, so don't stress about what you're missing out.  Just go to the things that compel you most. Try to buddy up with someone who wants to go to different events and share notes over dinner afterward. But do go to something every hour if possible!

I'll be doing some performing and some talking again this year, and here are the details:

August 1-4: National Flute Association Convention at Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City UT

August 1 @ 10:30am: Joseph Hallman's Four Pieces for flute and piano on "Fresh Voices"Check out this amazing piece, which won the the Flute New Music Consortium's Competition last fall! Each movement is dedicated to a different composer or artist: Jolivet, Nico Muhly, David Lynch, and Poulenc, respectively. I'll be performing with Katie Leung on piano. 

August 2 @ 1pm: "Using Social Media to Grow Your Studio"I'll be moderating this panel discussion featuring Jolene Madewell (Practice Room Revelations), Kallie Snyder (The Sound Musician), Jessica Banks (bachnbaseball on Instagram), and Brittany Trotter (brittanyflute on Instagram). 

As always, I will also be available for private lessons throughout the week; just email at nicole (dot) riner (at) gmail (dot) com. 

University of Wyoming students, alumni, and fans, we'll be gathering for a UW dinner together (Dutch treat) on Saturday, August 3 at 5:30pm. To join us, just meet us at the registration table. 

And if you're partial to the contemporary world of flute repertoire, come see me at Flute New Music Consortium's annual NFA dinner Friday, August 2 at 5:30pm. We'll meet at the registration table for this one, as well. 

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.