altus flutes

Instagram FAQ: Cameras, LefreQue, and Playing Fast!

One of my favorite things is connecting with other musicians via Instagram! In honor of hitting 10K followers this month, I decided to round up my most frequently asked questions and answer them all in one post!

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Equipment

 

  • What camera do you use for photos and videos, and how do you get your photos to look like that?
    • I use a Canon EOS M3 with a Rode microphone attached.
    • I recently had the honor of talking about creating images for the blog and Instagram in an interview with The Flute Examiner! Click here to read it!

 

  • What kind of flute and piccolo do you play on?
    • I play on an Altus 1507 with a David Williams-Gary Schocker Headjoint, and a Burkart Professional piccolo.

 

  • What are your thoughts on fill-in-the-blank-flute-brand?
    • I don't have a strong preference for or against any brand of flute, and I believe that choosing an instrument is highly personal because everyone is unique. My best advice if you're in the market for a new instrument is to take your time and try as many brands and models as possible - don't rule anything out until you've experienced it for yourself!

 

  • Where did you get your baroque flute?
    • I purchased my Simon Polak baroque flute from his booth at the National Flute Association Convention. You can find out about his instruments and see which conventions he'll be visiting at his website: www.earlyflute.com.

 

  • What is that thing on between the headjoint and body of your flute?
    • It's a LefreQue sound bridge! Find out all about what it is and how it works on www.LefreQue.com.

 

  • What are your thoughts on the LefreQue?
    • I took advantage of the free trial offered by many distributors, and tried a Silver, Yellow Gold Silver Plated, and Rose Gold Silver Plated in 41mm.
    • During the trial, I rotated through each option for two days. With the silver, I noticed no change at all. With both gold options, I noticed an added resonance to the sound, and also a subtle sense of "forgiveness" from cracking notes. I ultimately went with the Rose Gold option because it was a bit warmer than the Yellow Gold, which seemed a bit more harsh.
    • The difference is very subtle. If you're expecting a complete change in tone, note that it's an enhancement that's attached on the outside of the flute - it won't have the same impact as a new headjoint!
    • From my experience, it really varies from instrument to instrument, and the metal you choose can make the most difference, as well. (I had a friend try my LefreQue on her silver flute with a gold headjoint, and it seemed to stifle the resonance of her instrument.) I can't say if it will work for you, so I highly recommend taking advantage of a trial to test each of the metals and decide how well it works for your instrument. 

 

  • What app are you using when playing off an iPad?
    • I've actually never tried a music-reading app! I often pull pieces up right on IMSLP or flutetunes.com using Chrome or Safari. 

 

  • Why do you have a skeleton?
    • Because of Body Mapping! Learning to play and teach based on anatomical reality has transformed my approach to playing. Having a full-sized, three-dimensional skeleton as a reference is extremely helpful for observing and applying information about the body while practicing and teaching. www.bodymap.org

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Lessons

 

 

  • Do lessons via Skype really work?

    • The self-awareness techniques that guide my lessons are uniquely and perfectly suited for lessons via Skype! Lessons involve questioning, guided experimentation, and discussion to identify habitual barriers to uncover greater freedom. The verbal and visual feedback that occur during experimentation mean that breakthrough moments are more than possible via Skype! I have a great amount of experience listening and watching students carefully to detect and address subtleties in all areas playing.


See what current Skype students have to say!


Practice Tips

 

 

 

 


Thank you all for following along on Instagram, and for the opportunity to support you in your own journeys as much as you support me in mine!

 
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Is Your Practice Journal Working For You?

Does your practice journal need a makeover?

When looking through old practice journals, I see a change that has occurred over time. In older journals, I would write down each scale, exercise, and piece I worked on, and the exact number of minutes I spent on every step. My goal was to add up the amount of time I had spent and have it equal an impressive number of hours.

That was my goal. Hours.

BEFORE

It looked something like this:

  • 13 minute - Stretching
  • 10 minutes - Long Tones
  • 9 minutes - Harmonics
  • 15 minutes - TG 1
  • 23 minutes - TG 4
  • 5 minutes - TG 5
  • 26 minutes - Anderson Etude #5
  • Etc...

I don’t know who I was trying to impress with my exacting calculations, but I was a slave to my list and my timer. 

  • Did I have focused practice sessions where I learned things?
    • Absolutely! (Using a timer to stay focused on a particular goal is something I still do, and I find that I learn the most when using one!)
  • Did the desire to keep an impressive list of exercises and hours motivate me to complete a well-rounded, thorough practice session?
    • Definitely!

The point, however, is that the information I wrote down does nothing for me today. I've filled several notebooks with lists like this, and when I look back months and years later, what do they tell me that can help me today? Not very much.

After

More recent journals reflect the shift that has occurred in my practice goals and daily intentions. While I still strive to practice for a substantial length of time, my goals are now specific to learning and refining skills rather than the number of hours I spend doing it. My daily entries now contain several pages of actual sentences and paragraphs. I include questions, trials of experimentation, and observations, in addition to everything I've worked on and how long I spent doing it. (Like I said, I still love using a timer!) In three years when I open this book, I'll be reminded of that decrescendo-intonation breakthrough I made while practicing Moyse's De La Sonorite, and I'll have the specific instructions needed to reproduce the experience.

In Conclusion

In looking at your practice journal, consider whether or not you're including information that not only serves you during your practice session and throughout the week, but also over the course of several months and several years! Include sources of inspiration and detailed accounts of growth that will help your practice journals feel like hidden treasures when you re-open them years later!

Customize Your Warm-Up: Two Ways To Get More Out of Exercises

When I first learned about the four-part formula for a practice session (Tone, then Technique, then Etudes, then Repertoire), I committed to it completely. However, I found myself spending a lot of time on tone and technique exercises, often running out of time or energy before making it all the way through repertoire. In addition, my fundamental work was very often exactly the same each day. I implemented the same pretty good ideas over and over again each day, but rarely had a new a-ha moment from them. Does this sound familiar to you?

Here are two ways to freshen up your warm-up and fundamentals and make your warm-ups work for you and your repertoire.

Bring Context To Your Exercises

When you’re doing your exercises, warm-ups, scales, long tones, harmonics, etc., place whatever repertoire you’re working on in front of you. Choose a section and consider the mood, character, type of air stream needed, the articulation patterns, dynamics, phrase lengths and breath marks.

Now, apply some of these musical ideas to your exercises. For example, if you're working on Moyse's De La Sonorite, play what's on the page, but in the style of the opening to the Dutilleux Sonatine. Now try it like Jolivet, C.P.E. Bach, or the Firebird excerpt! Each one feels different, right? Bringing specific musical contexts to your every day exercises will bring a fresh perspective, and ensure that you're thinking musically while observing. The warm-up should prepare you to play, and you're now ensuring that your warm-up is specifically warming you up for the repertoire ahead. Playing a complete exercise in all keys in the specific styles needed for a piece will give you lots of opportunities to refine your set-up, too.

"Bringing specific musical contexts to your every day exercises will bring a fresh perspective, and ensure that you're thinking musically while observing."

FIND EXERCISES WITHIN REPERTOIRE

Okay, now let's try the opposite. Put the actual notes from your repertoire into your exercise. This can be very simple, such as choosing several notable intervals to sneak into your De La Sonorite. Or, add the broken chords from Mozart's G Major Concerto into your arpeggio exercises in Moyse's Gammes et Arpèges or Taffanel and Gaubert exercises. You can even take a note from Robert Dick's Tone Development Through Extended Techniques, and turn a Bach Sonata into a Throat Tuning exercise.

Altering repertoire to learn and improve is something that you're probably already doing! The difference, however, is that now we are borrowing the notes and applying them specifically to familiar exercises.

Here's My Breakthrough:

During a recent warm-up on long tones, I found myself working towards a set-up that was conducive to playing luscious high notes at a soft dynamic. I found myself playing notes from the Daphnis et Chloe excerpt, and realized I was playing them more freely than usual! Normally, I look at Daphnis and start panicking about rhythms, the opening run, changing colors, etc. Taking only key notes while I was in sound-exploration mode helped me understand what kind of mind-set and airsteam I'll need for that excerpt. Once I felt that I was producing those sounds naturally, I played the excerpt in full and had a very different experience.

WHY IS THIS HELPFUL? CHANGING CONTEXT CHANGES YOU

Where do you spend more time luxuriating and observing a small collection of notes? During warm-up / fundamental practice, or while practicing a piece? When I’m on actual exercises, I’m super focused on improving. When I'm at the repertoire stage of practice, more factors come into play. It can be easier to feel distracted and start jumping around too quickly before solving a problem. 

One of the greatest benefits, however, is injecting actual musical context into fundamentals. If you need a fresh idea for which character you'd like your Taffanel and Gaubert scales in, look no further than your repertoire!

What We Can Learn From The Beginner's Attitude

I recently pulled out some old repertoire and read through it for fun. Specifically, the Mercadante Concerto in e minor. The third movement is especially difficult, and as I approached the moment where the intense triple-tonguing begins, my thoughts were:

"I wonder if I can do it..."

To my amazement, I made it through with success! Of course, I went back to re-create the same outcome a second time, but noticed an immediate shift in my mindset: 

"I probably won't be able to do that again..."

Sure enough, I couldn't repeat the passage at the same level I had achieved the first time.

Experience and Pressure

This was not the first time I've had this experience, be it with the first read-through of a new piece, or re-visiting an old one, and it proves the power of our own thoughts.

What is the difference? Trial number one is free of pressure. I am genuinely curious about what will happen, watching myself through the passage. Immediately following this trial, pressure increases. Experience tells me that the passage is difficult, and I'm running through the list of things I need to do to make sure it happens - I'm overthinking. Curiosity is still present, but self-doubt has crept in, telling me that I was just lucky the first time. 

This article explains the similar phenomenon of beginners' luck, and the way an expert feels an increase in pressure, unlike the beginner, who is open to the possibilities of a new experience.

in the practice room

Adopting a beginners' attitude in the practice room is the key to ensuring we improve daily, remaining teachable in any situation. If we begin each day with a similar routine of tone exercises and scales, seeking to learn something new about ourselves each time, we can always grow. If we get bored or as though we've completed or exhausted an exercise, we close ourselves off from new possibilities. There is always room for more!

The attitude of a beginner isn't just for the process of experimentation while practicing, it is coupled with a mindset that should be carried into our approach to performance. Whenever my thoughts involve self-doubt, the result is less than desirable. When pressure is replaced with curiosity and joy, however, I remain free, and what seemed difficult becomes easy.

Notice your thoughts as you approach a difficult moment. Try actively choosing words that are affirming and free of judgement, and practice incorporating this mindset just as you'd practice the notes. The beginner's attitude is all about exploring and reveling in what is possible, approaching the process with joy and self-compassion.

Sorting Out Discomfort in the Practice Room

This week brought a high volume of YouTube master class viewings. (Did you know just how many wonderful flutists make their master class teachings available online?!) With this came new ideas to try out in the practice room.

@joleneflute

@joleneflute

Wasabi Point

Projection while playing at a soft dynamic is one of the most difficult things for me, and I'm sure I'm not alone! In the two examples below, Emmanuel Pahud notes the need for support and resonance to ensure the sound is alive and present. He notes that resonance should be felt at the "wasabi point," feeling openness in the place that burns when consuming too much wasabi! 

Watch here!

 

Practice Notes

I attempted the wasabi point concept on several soft passages, and had some moments where I really felt the resonance aiding my sound. But ultimately, I ended up leaving the practice room with a lot of discomfort. My body's interpretation and execution of this concept is not right if it hurts, and if there's one thing I've learned over and over, it is that trying to make sounds happen is not ideal.

I was especially clamped down in my left arm, my left bicep feeling sore, even. Neck tension also had me pulling away to stretch due to the discomfort.

So how can we approach new ideas with fluidity and ease? I started by pulling out my Anatomy Coloring Book, of course.

My Steps for Finding Ease

1. Balance and the Whole Body

I opened to a page that shows the relationship of the back muscles. The deep postural muscles run from the tailbone to the base of the skull - a crucial reminder of the length and support that balance in the legs can provide for the neck and arms. (What a relief!) With this image in mind, I remembered the points of balance. The tension I felt in my neck and jaw diminished once I realigned myself.

The photo to the left shows an exmple of what one may consider to be "the back" as the red line. Notice that the neck is left out. Considering the length (shown by the blue line) of the entire spine, including the cervical spine, alleviated the neck pain I was experiencing.

2. Long Sides and Dynamic Back

While playing, I chose to maintain the length of my sides, another helpful cue to avoid compromising balance. I also instructed myself to feel the release and "springiness" of the back while balancing the skull on top of the spine. The reminder for the back to feel "alive" and "dynamic" opened me up in all directions. (It was in this moment that I realized my self-awareness was far too small!) I also noticed greater resonance happening without trying in that "wasabi" spot! (Before, I was very focused on feeling openness in the sinuses of my face. Once I invited my back into my awareness, I found ease in what I was looking for.)

3. Movement!

The next day while warming up, I remembered that I can MOVE while practicing! I played long tones in a forward fold, squats, on my back, in the dugout position, and moving between poses while allowing the abdominal muscles to remain free and the back to feel dynamic. Think outside the box when your go-to sitting or standing practice position is accompanied by discomfort.

The Anatomy Coloring Book
By Wynn Kapit, Lawrence M. Elson

When discomfort sneaks up on you in the practice room, have a game plan for remembering ease. There is no reason to play with pain, and from my experience, the best sounds always occur when my body feels free. There are also many different ways for teachers to articulate their concepts to students, and their descriptions require a bit of experimentation and adaptation to fully understand and integrate. As a teacher, I'm reminded to be precise yet flexible in presenting my instructions. As a student, I'm inspired to experience and understand the teachings of renowned artists from a basis of body awareness and anatomical reality.

Life-Changing Performances: Never Apologize

Today's post from The Sensible Flutist, 'Enriching your artistry through life experience' inspired me to reflect on my most life-changing experience as a performer. When I consider my most thrilling experience on stage, this is the performance that I think of. It was the first time I truly connected to my own emotions while listening to the piece I was playing. Personal experience truly does enrich one's art.

Last summer, as a part of my Musicians' Wellness research, I attended Amy Porter's Anatomy of Sound workshop at the University of Michigan. The guest artist was Ian Clarke, and I was to play Sunstreams for one of the first classes: Clarke compositions with little or no extended techniques.
After I played it through once, Ian asked me what I thought I could improve upon. I really didn't know what to say, so I mentioned something about giving the piece more character. Then he asked the audience what they enjoyed about it. I was surprised when many participants offered kind, positive comments.

Mr. Clarke hadn't quite made his point yet, so he decided to show me what I needed to improve by taking away my music stand
   
He asked, "How do you feel now?" 
I responded with a very honest: "Horrified." 
Everyone laughed.
  
He told me to let go and play. "Just make it up if you have to." Listen to the piano and hear the music.
   
Panicked thoughts flooding my brain: 
"BUT I HAVEN'T MEMORIZED THIS. I ONLY STARTED LEARNING IT TWO WEEKS AGO. YOU WROTE THIS PIECE AND I'M ABOUT TO BUTCHER IT. AMY PORTER IS SITTING OVER THERE WATCHING ME. THAT GIRL STUDIES WITH (FILL-IN-THE-BLANK FAMOUS TEACHER) AND SHE'S GOING TO JUDGE ME. I DON'T KNOW HOW TO IMPROVISE."
   
Tim Carey began playing the opening bars. I felt confident in my ability to come in on my first E-natural at the beginning. The first phrase was a success and I started to relax.
I managed to play almost the entire piece from memory. Without having a music stand, I felt an incredible sense of fear and risk, but it was thrilling.
   
I have never felt more "in the moment."
I was looking out at my audience, and I felt personally connected with each person. Everyone was making eye contact with me, and it helped me to feel more alive than anything. I already knew they were on my side after their verbal comments. I could feel their support and encouragement.
  
I was hearing the music. I was completely aware of Tim Carey playing behind me. I watched Mr. Clarke run to the middle of the hall to egg me on, and I started to really play to the large recital hall.
   
I looked to the top seats at the back of the hall while I played, and I pictured an individual that stirred an emotional place in me. I poured my heart out. I vented, expressed anger, sadness, disappointment, asked questions... I said things that I had yet to express verbally. I experienced a feeling of strength and healing.
   
I filled the hall. I felt huge. I felt powerful. I embodied the "stand-and-deliver" ideal. I was in control and free. I have never felt so connected. To myself. To an audience. To a piece.
  
The audience demonstrated that I had moved them. Some were actually crying. For me. Because of me. They applauded excitedly when I finished, and Amy Porter let out a "WOOOHOOO!!" (I cried for 3 days after this.)
  
A recently certified Andover Educator was in attendance, and she offered me a wonderful observation: "After he removed the music stand, you moved more. It was really beautiful."
   
According to Mr. Clarke, before, during and after my initial performance, I gave the impression that I was apologizing for myself: "It looked like you were saying, 'I'm about to play Sunstreams, I'm really sorry. You don't have to like it. You don't even have to listen. I'm just going to hide until it's over.'"
  
The thing that I thought was giving me confidence (my music stand), was actually crippling me. Mr. Clarke taught me that I have nothing if I don't believe in myself.
   
Stop apologizing. You are capable. You have something to say. Be in control, and believe that you deserve to create something amazing.
  
Lesson: You have everything when you believe in yourself. Show them who you are and what you have to say, and never apologize.