Have you ever experienced a frustrating, stifled, and uncomfortable practice session, followed by a free, effortless, and resonant experience only a few hours later?
Having the entire day off, I was excited to tackle some personal projects and spend time practicing. Early on, I found myself feeling frustrated and limited. My sound felt muffled and my airstream interrupted.
After spending the remainder of the afternoon away from my flute, I came back in the evening to work on etudes. Right away, I had an easier time due to reduced stress (from checking things off my to do list during the day), and my body feeling naturally warmed up from moving throughout the day.
Feeling a sense of clarity, I remembered two important cues that accelerated my progress and led to breakthroughs in sound and expression.
Balance the Head on the Spine
One of the first things I learned in my initial study of Body Mapping is that the head weighs as much as a bowling ball and balances on top of the spine at the atlanto-occipital joint. The base of the skull meets the top vertebrae of the spine at a central point internally. I re-invited the idea of balance at the A-O joint into my practice session by palpating the base of the skull and mapping the location of the top of the spine. Once I had a clearer picture of where the A-O joint lives, I turned my head left and right with ease. Turning the head to the left and bringing the flute to meet my face (versus compromising balance by bringing the head to the flute) led me to enjoy ease that was missing from my earlier practice session.
Aww, Not Eeee
I frequently remind myself and my students to maintain space in the mouth, allowing the soft palate to release and lift upward, especially when sound begins to feel stifled. While practicing, I reminded myself to maintain an "aww" shape in the mouth, inhibiting my habit of an "eee" vowel shape. Additionally, I noticed that I tend to change to the "eee" vowel shape on right hand notes in all octaves (D, E-flat, E), and on almost all notes in the high register. Allowing the "aww" shape consistently allowed an effortless resonance that turned my frustration into excitement!