Effortless Projection: Wide Back, Soft Front, Free Sound

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This past week, I decided to pull out Fiona Wilkinson's book, The Physical Flute: Creative Techniques for the Development of Tone, Vibrato, and Pitch Control for some fresh perspectives during my warm-up.


Reading through the first page, I was committed to approaching my physical self before making any sounds.

Finding Spring-Like Poise from the Ground Up


The first part is called, The Body - Alive and Well.

She provides thoughtful descriptions for taking a look at the body from the ground up to find areas that can be un-stuck and better aligned for a rich sound:


Here are the specific words that jumped out while I slowly processed:



  • "Elastic Knee Joints" - Not Locked

  • "Feel the life in your legs."


  • "Lift your weight off your pelvis, elongate the sides of the torso."


  • "Draw your weight up from the floor creating a feeling of length and width in the back."

  • "Imagine as much space between the shoulder blades as you can while remaining relaxed."

Freeing the Torso for Effortless breathing


Whenever I digest thoughts like these on physical ease and balance, there's always a reminder in there that helps me re-discover ease in a new way each time. (And it never gets old!)


This time, it was the thought about lifting weight off the pelvis and life in the legs.


Freeing the hip joints:


Following the instructions from the ground up, I took a moment to balance at the knees, finding that place where the thigh muscles release their grip and the legs feel both free and stable, with the weight moving straight into the floor via the feet. 


I moved up towards the hips as she instructed, tilting the pelvis on top of the legs and observing.

I noticed just how connected the movements of my knees, hips, and back are:


  • When I tilt the pelvis to lift weight off of it, there's a resultant effort felt in my lower back and the core muscles - they begin to grip.
  • If I bend the knees first, I can find freedom in the lower back and abdomen. If I then bring the knees into balance while remaining free in the back and abs, I can then find movement at the hip joints without adding back/core tension.



The Result


As I began to play, I noticed that this felt different than normal:


From here, the torso was finally balanced on top of the pelvis and delivering weight through the legs effectively. 


I normally have more effort and holding in my torso when I'm not balancing the pelvis on the legs like this!


Enjoying the ease of the back, I could effectively let the shoulder blades remain wide and free, and I felt a wonderful ease and length for the arms as I continued to play. 


Breathing became easy and not forced, and I could feel that my abdominal muscles weren't engaging with the breath as they often do!


Free, wide back. soft front.

Connecting the Back to the Whole

    he latissimus dorsi connects at:

    • Spinous processes of T7 – L5 vertebrae.
    • Iliac crest of sacrum.
    • Inferior angle of the scapula.
    • Lower three or four ribs.

    The first 60 seconds of this video demonstrate an important connection between the back and the arms. He points out how large the latissimus dorsi is, and part of its functioning in moving the arms. Its connections to the spine and lower ribs mean it's involved in our breathing movements, too!


      The latissimus dorsi:

      • Adducts the arm at the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint.
      • Medially rotates the arm at the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint.
      • Extends the arm at the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint.

      Life in the Legs


      Finding Power via the Legs: Soft Front, Strong Back (of the legs)


      After all of this, I was playing with more awareness on my back than on the front of my body. I normally direct a lot of focus on the front of the body, always watching the abdominal muscles to see if they're gripping, because I know I want them to stay free to breathe and resonate well.

      With my awareness on the back, the front just remained natural without having to tell it to. (!!)


      I went back to the idea about "Life in the Legs."


      I know that effortless projection comes from ease and coordination of the whole self, depending on the ability to feel supported by space and the floor below.


      Having the knees and pelvis aligned well, I noticed a different presence for the back of my legs while playing. (Normally, I don't notice the back of my legs at all, especially if my knees aren't in balance - they're just not a part of my awareness while playing!)


      I imagined a sense of power and projection stemming from the support of my legs while playing.


      This instruction led me to a full, embodied sound that was projecting from below and behind me into space. I felt free and effortlessly powerful. No forcing anywhere. Front remained soft. (!!!)

      "Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart" -  Braving the Wilderness  by Brené Brown

      "Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart" - Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

      The Takeaway


      Awareness of the back led me to the feeling of being supported by the space behind me - I was no longer forcing or squeezing in the abdomen or shrinking into a smaller space. I was projecting with easy via soft front, wide back, supported legs.


      We don't project with ease by becoming smaller, we soften into space: Occupy all of your space!



      "Wide Back"

      "Weight off of pelvis"

      "Arms lighten and lengthen from the lower back"

      "Elastic knees, supported by the back of the legs"



      Get Body Smart: Attachments & Actions of the Latissimus Dorsi

      AnatomyZone: Back Muscles in a Nutshell


      Scale Game Tracker [Free Download]

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      I love the Scale Game.


      If you're unfamiliar with The Scale Game, it is a list of sixty articulation/rhythm/tempo variations to accompany Taffanel and Gaubert's Exercises Journaliers, No. 4 by Michel Debost. It can be found in his book, The Simple Flute.  


      The idea is to play all keys in T&G Number 4 each day, (including six 8va scales), rotating to ultimately play all keys in all styles at the end of a full 30 or 60-day rotation.

      via Flute Talk

      via Flute Talk

      There are a couple ways to do it.

      Rotating Keys

      To Begin:

      1. Play C Major in the style of No. 1
      2. Play C Major 8va in the style of No. 2
      3. Play A minor in the style of No. 3... and so on.
      • Once you've played the last scale in the left column (E minor) in the style of No. 30, begin with C Major again on style No. 31, going through 31-60 following the order on the left. (Stop at Style 30 if you're playing 30 scales per day, or go on and play all 60 in one day!)
      • After completing C Major through E Minor on Styles 1-30, and then again on 31-60, you'll re-start on the next day with C Major 8va (the second key on the left) in the style of No. 1, going down the list again.

      Rotating Styles

      Rather than playing the articulations in the same order and rotating through the keys as above, you can keep the keys in the same order and rotate the articulations. 

      • Follow the same steps as the above to begin.
      • Once you finish all sixty styles (playing all 30 keys 2x each), begin again on C Major the following day, beginning on Style. No. 2.
        • C Major 8va on Style 3
        • A minor on Style 4... and so on.

      Keeping Track + Staying Motivated

      One of my biggest issues with attempting to rotate through the full Scale Game over 60 days is keeping track of where I am. I have yet to successfully complete a full rotation, because at some point, despite writing down notes, I get lost and start over. 


      To remedy this, I've created a Scale Game Tracker to list out the full 60-Day rotation (following the Rotating Styles method), so I can simply check off each day without having to question where I'll need to start.


      Plus, it's motivating to keep track in one place, seeing a clear visual of my progress!

      Free Scale Game Tracker Download

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      Don't Forget About The Legs! 5 Awareness Exercises For Today's Practice Session

      Does your awareness have a tendency to narrow as time goes on while practicing? I often begin with good intentions of feeling my feet grounding my entire body, but at some point, I lose full-body awareness and become only aware of what feels uncomfortable in the upper body or the notes on the page. 

      Perhaps you've never considered the way your lower half influences the entire body while playing! Try the five exercises below while playing, and scan the body carefully for changes in tension and release, holding, or ease. 

      1. Shifting Weight Forward and Back

      • Are you habitually standing with more weight on the heels or the balls of the feet as you play?
      • Scan the body for changes as you slowly shift forward and back from the heels to the balls of the feet.
      • Do you feel a change in the legs, the back, the abdominal muscles? Does the sound change as you play?
      • Notice your breathing as you do this:
        • I recently realized I felt quite locked and without breath, so I rolled from my heels to the balls of my feet, and felt a tremendous difference in my ability to play with freedom once I rolled forward from my locked position on the heels!

      2. Shifting Between Left and Right Legs

      • Uncover which leg habitually receives more of your weight while playing.
      • By slowing shifting your weight side to side while you play, you may notice changes all the way up the body. 
        • Do you notice a release and increase in space in the opposite side body?
        • How do the ribs feel?
        • Does the opposite arm change in effort?
        • Does anything happen in the neck?

      3. Standing on One Leg

      • Take it one step further by standing on only one leg, lifting one leg behind and leaning forward to maintain balance. (Something like this image of a Modified Warrior 3 Pose.)
      • Do you notice a change in your sound? Breathing? 
        • This elicits a change in resonance for me, and naturally allows the abdominal muscles to release, making breathing easier!

      4. Walking in Place Along with the Tempo

      • Invite ankle movement by lifting the heels off the ground to the tempo. 
      • Embody the tempo beyond listening to the metronome or tapping one foot, while avoiding a locked-in-place stature. (Try this if you're prone to locked knees!)
        • What is it like to watch leg movement while you play?

      5. Bend the Knees

      • Take the knees from locked to generously bent.
      • Notice the relationship between the abdominal muscles and the muscles of the back. 
        • Going from the extreme of locked knees to bent knees, I notice just how much my torso and abdominal muscles release and allow easier breathing and resonance.


      Are you aware of your lower half and the relationship to the whole body while playing? Take the time to observe changes in the body while trying these 5 ideas during your practice session! 


      Leave a comment below to share your own discoveries, or use #practiceroomrevelations and tag @joleneflute on Instagram!