Thursday, November 21, 2019

Basics for sonic control

There are many ways to describe how to play the flute, but there are some core principals which must be maintained in any description. Whenever I travel around the country giving master classes (as I have recently done) or begin working with prospective students in their auditions at UW (and it's definitely that season), I am reminded of how confused these basics can become in eager young students' minds. And so, for what it's worth, here are my simplest descriptions, meant to be varied and elaborated to suit each individual student's needs:

Resonant space: At all times, you can remain open and relaxed in these areas: chest, throat, jaw, tongue (down and relaxed when slurring, only raising the tip for articulation).

Air flow: Avoid holding tension in the abs or other areas of the torso and back so that you can "fill the container" completely upon inhalation. Imagine your entire torso and back and a large container with stretchy walls when you fill up, then hold those container walls firm (but not tense) as you evenly disperse air.

Embouchure: If air is flowing generously and your resonant space is open (see above), your only other job is to gently guide the air stream with the lips, or embouchure. Playing the flute should be like speaking--we do not hold a rigid, fixed position with the embouchure, but maintain flexible, movable lips for maximum efficiency of aim on the headjoint. 

The rest is air direction, and this can be practiced on the brilliant Pneumo-Pro, found here, or simply by blowing up and down on the hand in a straight line, from wrist to finger tips. When you are blowing towards the top of your hand, or trying to hit the top fan on the Pneumo-Pro, your bottom jaw pushes forward, which aims the lips forward and more across the hole. You can also think of the syllable "ooo". Conversely, as you work your way downward, to your wrist or the bottom fan on the Pneumo-Pro, your bottom jaw drops down and back, causing you to aim more air down into the headjoint. You can think of saying the syllable "aw".

By blowing higher ("ooo", or lips/jaw forward), you can accomplish the following:

  • playing higher notes in the range
  • playing quietly
  • raising pitch

By blowing lower ("aw", lips/jaw pointing down), you can accomplish the following:

  • playing lower notes in the range
  • playing loudly
  • lowering pitch
For some ideas on developing a well-rounded tone workout, read my previous blog posts, 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Find me in Tennessee and Kentucky in November!

I'm about to hit the road for some appearances in the Mid-South area, and I'd love to get a chance to meet some of you in the process!  Check out my schedule below or email me at nicole [dot] riner [at] gmail [dot] com for information on how to get there, scheduling a lesson or audition for the UWYO flute studio, or just to say hello!

Thursday, November 7: I'll be at Tennessee Technological University to teach a master class AND give my presentation, "Becoming a Practice Wizard" for all music students. Lessons are also being squeezed into the middle of the day, so drop me a line if you'd like to add yourself to the schedule.

Friday, November 8: Western Kentucky University is having me out to teach a master class at 11:30am.  Lesson spots are open in the afternoon.

Saturday, November 9: Yes, that is my enormous head on the poster for Morehead State University's Flute Day, where I'll be giving a recital (11am) and a master class (3pm) featuring performances by MSU students.  The whole day looks like loads of fun and a great way to spend a Saturday if you're in the area!

My mini-tour is generously sponsored by Altus Flutes and the Department of Music at University of Wyoming.