flute

Flute Advent Calendar: Self-Care + Taffanel + Gaubert!

This season, I'm giving myself the gift of self-care and intentional improvements each day in December. What's a more festive way to do that than with a Flute Advent Calendar?!

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of D-I-YHOLY GRAIL.jpg

Here's the guide:

  • Each day is filled with one exercise from Taffanel and Gaubert or an exercise in self-care or inspiration.
  • If you're going away at some point during the holidays and not bringing an instrument with you, fill in those days with mental practice! Listening to or watching inspiring performances is important, it can fuel your excitement to return to your instrument, rather than fueling the guilt and dread. It's easy and only takes a few minutes!
  • If you're feeling "too busy to have a real practice session" on any of the days, here's permission to approach each task without warming up or fully completing it before your timer goes off. (You choose how many minutes!)

 

Put perfection aside: the goal is to set an intention, practice the task around the intention, and improve one small thing in a specific way each day.


^ (Click on the above image to download a PDF Version)




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Top Technique Tips for Flute [+ VIDEO]

As a part of my May Technique Workout, this video will break down my top technique tips for faster fingers, better sound, and easier double and triple tonguing!

Here are my Top Technique Tips:

1. Hand Position (0:30)

Should include ease beginning in the entire body and the entire arm. The hands and fingers can move freely as a result. 

2. Keep Fingers Close to the Keys (2:30)

Precision and speed are diminished when fingers need to travel a long distance to close the keys. In addition, the fingers require more effort to move. Fingers must move at exactly the same moment with exacting precision. Keeping them close to the keys allows them to be light and precise.

3. Airstream (3:00)

An airstream that encourages smoother fast playing is one that can remain constant and adequate. In a long run of notes that spans several octaves, play the highest note and the lowest note. Find an airstream that can accommodate both to use throughout: The high register needs a faster airstream, but the low register can accommodate this faster speed when the mouth and embouchure are positioned low and with openness. 

4. Singing & Playing or Flutter Tonguing (4:45)

To encourage the adequate airstream throughout your technique exercises, try singing and playing or adding a flutter tongue. This is especially useful when practicing double and triple tonguing, as the airstream typically wants to slow down when we begin tonguing. Transition from singing and playing into double tonguing and feel the speed of air traveling through the mouth. 

5. Flute Balance (5:35)

Utilize the repetitions in Taffanel & Gaubert Exercise No. 1 to determine if your flute balance becomes unstable during fingering exchanges that alternate between hands. Middle C to D is a good example of an exchange that may cause the flute to rock forward and back. Find a comfortable, balanced hand position that prevents rocking while still encouraging ease in the hands.

6. Use Good Habits in Slow Practice (8:19)

Put all your best habits into slow practice. When breaking down a difficult technical spot, think of it as a tone exercise. Use your best airstream, resonance, tone color, expression, and effortlessness in the body and fingers. Repeat several times with a heightened level of performance at a very slow tempo to ensure you're not ingraining mistakes through faster, but lower quality repetitions. 

May Technique Workout Plan Exercise Demonstrations (9:15)



MAY TECHNIQUE WORKOUT


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How I Upped My Mental Game For Auditions

The last time I took an audition, I prepared thoughtfully, recorded myself a lot, and learned about centering and mental focus. The day of, however, I under-performed.

This time around, I spent even more time working on my mental game. Here are a few of the key resources I turned to:

One crucial aspect of a strong mental performance that came up in all three was developing a Pre-Performance Routine, or a Pre-Shot Routine.

Pre-Performance Routines

A pre-performance routine is the idea of having a moment of simple, optimal mental programming that is consistent.

While I had specific ideas for how I wanted to approach each excerpt previously, I did not have a thought-out and consistent plan for my thoughts and actions. As a result, my mind ran wild with all the ideas I've collected from lessons, master classes and practice sessions over the years. Was this helpful? In the practice room, yes! On stage during an audition? Definitely not.

Instead, I followed the guidelines and advice from each of the three resources and came up with my own:

1. Breathe in for 6, Out for 8

2. "Feet, Peripheral Vision"

3. Hear it First

4. Move & Take the Leap!

In the moment, it became easy to sweep through these ideas, and I could efficiently clear my head and come to a place that felt grounded and confident.


Centering Breath

The Centering Breath was a part of my last audition preparation, but my mistake the first time around was way over-thinking it. I ended up adding tension as a result.

This time, I kept it simple and adapted the easy instructions from 10-Minute Toughness: A 15-second breath, counting 6 in, holding for 2, and out for 7. Focusing on counting alone means less room for mental chatter, and it prevented the issue of overthinking a "good" breath. According to 10-MT, a 15-second breath is also long enough to slow the heart rate.

Letting Go

While exhaling, I let go of tension in my abdomen and lower back. This was a far more simple "letting go" process than my previous one, where I tried to cram in a full body scan and get every muscle to be free and every bone perfectly positioned. While a full body scan is useful the day of an audition while laying on the floor, trying to do this in the moment before beginning each excerpt is far too overwhelming. The simpler answer is remembering to move as a whole. (See the last step!)

Reminder Statement

In 10-Minute Toughness, this concise, consistent statement is a key component of a pre-shot routine for athletes. For me, it was:

"Feet, Peripheral Vision"

That's it. I opened myself up to the room, remembered to feel my feet grounding me, and allowed myself to feel the confidence these ideas provide.

Hear It First

You're more likely to produce the sounds you hear mentally! Hear the most optimal, beautiful sounds, and the whole orchestral part in your head just before beginning to achieve the appropriate character and get your ideal sound concept.

Move & Take the Leap!

Taking the plunge to actually start the excerpt was the last part of the process I was overthinking before. I finally thought about the fact that if I simply take my flute of the case and begin wandering around the house playing Mozart or excerpts, it goes well because of the inhibition. I don't warm up, I don't stand in one spot and try to perfectly set myself up to play. I just go for it, move freely, and enjoy myself!

After going through my concise pre-performance routine this time, I knew I was ready to play, I felt calm and grounded, and I was able to take the leap of faith and just start. Allowing movement through the breath was the key to starting with ease and using the body as a whole. This ensured I would breathe naturally and freely, and tricked me out of overthinking my initial inhale, ultimately risking a tense breath.


Do You Have a Pre-Performance Routine?

Use a video camera and allow yourself only one chance to play through an excerpt or a piece you're going to perform. Identify the thought process you go through in preparing to play.

  • What do you instruct yourself to do?
  • What do you tell yourself not to do?
  • Does your process feel efficient in optimizing yourself for performance?
  • Is your process the same or different from how you approach a practice room mindset?

The Bulletproof Musician's Pressure Proof Hacks provide a guideline for developing your own pre-performance routine.

This is a commonly utilized concept, and there are many resources out there for both athletes and performing artists to check out!

In Conclusion

I can't begin to tell you how much this helped me. Doing it every time for every excerpt made an enormous difference when I went in front of a video camera for a mock audition, and again the day of the actual audition. Not having this mental plan the first time left far too much room for overthinking and trying too hard, and ultimately, I was inconsistent. 

I knew I could allow myself to take as much time as I needed before beginning each excerpt, but this time, I was able to use the time in the most efficient manner.

Keeping it simple and consistent is the key!


May Inspiration Calendar

This Month's Themes!

There are two main themes present in this month's calendar!

  • Improving Technique
  • Audition Preparation: Deep and Effective Practice + Mental Strength and Focus

Over the past few weeks, I have been digging in to as many resources as possible while preparing for a professional audition. There are so many layers to a thorough preparation when it comes to auditions, but deep practice and mental strength for consistent, uninhibited performances have been my main focus. I have included several resources that I find useful, in addition to practice intentions and activities that led me to several breakthroughs!

In addition, I have received many requests for technique tips and a technique calendar! I have put a lot of thought into the subject, and will be sharing a Technique Workout Tracker, Technique Prompt Sheet, and a video full of tips and exercises demonstrations that will be available during the first week of May!


Tips for Using Your Calendar

  • While this is not a practice calendar, there are several actions that are to be implemented directly into your practice session, such as the Practice Intention ideas.
  • There's no need to do every action in the order specified. If you're one to print out calendars like this one, then stop using them after one day if you haven't done everything as listed perfectly, here's permission to use it however you'd like
  • Half the days are intentionally left blank, and you're encouraged to fill them in with actions that are very specific to your own personal sources of inspiration or goals.
  • The first action involves reviewing your goals, and writing them specifically in the space at the top. 
  • Items with an asterisk (*) have corresponding links and explanations that are available below the calendar at the end of this post! 

Set Your New Goals

Take a moment to reflect and check-in on goals, experiences, and behaviors, ask the following questions:

  • Am I on track with my overall goals?
  • Are my behaviors reflective of what I wish to accomplish in the short and long-term?
  • What have I observed in myself that I wish to change?

Here you Go!

Click the image or click the button below to download your free PDF!


#practiceroomrevelations

I am SO EXCITED to see your calendars and the ways you're staying inspired throughout the month! Use the hashtag #practiceroomrevelations and tag @joleneflute to share!

March Inspiration Calendar

Welcome to March, friends! I am happy to share a new Inspiration Calendar for the new month! 

How to Use It

  • While this is not a practice calendar, there are several actions that are to be implemented directly into your practice session, such as the Practice Intention ideas.
  • There's no need to do every action in the order specified. If you're one to print out calendars like this one, then stop using them after one day if you haven't done everything as listed perfectly, here's permission to use it however you'd like
  • Half the days are intentionally left blank, and you're encouraged to fill them in with actions that are very specific to your own personal sources of inspiration or goals.
  • The first action involves reviewing your goals, and writing them specifically in the space at the top. Here are mine:

Set New Goals

Take a moment to reflect and check-in on goals, experiences, and behaviors, ask: "Am I on track with my overall goals? Are my behaviors reflective of what I wish to accomplish in the short and long-term? What have I observed in myself that I wish to change?

Last Month's Observations

My goals from February involved a re-establishment of optimal breathing and lots of Constructive Rest. (Read all about it on last month's post!) Awareness of rib movement has settled back in as a daily habit, and I'm able to take fuller, more comfortable breaths more often! I also utilized Constructive Rest to clear my mind and release tension before practicing and playing. It hasn't become a daily habit, but we're getting closer!

I realized that while focusing on specific parts, such as the ribs or the feet, I leave others out of the picture. I rarely consider the hip joints, and can even forget to notice the balance of my head on top of the spine.

In addition, I've been uncovering some connections between a lifted soft palate, support, and throat tension that I haven't been able to put into words yet.

Goals

  • Spend time on my body map, specifically re-evaluating my representation of my hip joints and the relationship of the spine and balance of the head.
  • Use video recordings to evaluate movements and habits in a more specific way to better understand how I'm moving as a whole.
  • Spend time experimenting with throat tension, and learn more about the relationship between the soft palate and support.

Calendar

Click the image or click the button below to download your free PDF!

CORRESPONDING LINKS

 

As always, I love seeing your calendars in action! Use the hashtag #practiceroomrevelations and tag @JoleneFlute so I can share in the excitement!

Top Picks: Online Video Resources For Musicians

In honor of last week's Inspiration Calendar activity of researching online video resources, I am rounding up some of my favorite videos and channels for flutists and musicians!

Best Channels To Follow For Master Classes:

1. Musaic - Curated by New World Sympyhony, America’s Orchestral Academy 

Also on YouTube!

2. Carnegie Hall Series Master Classes YouTube Channel

Flute Master Class Playlists

3. The Master Class Media Foundation YouTube Channel

Worth-The-Subscription:

Principal Chairs

I highly recommend the subscription to Principal Chairs if you are preparing for an audition or working in depth with excerpts! There are a wealth of quality, in-depth, full-length video masterclasses covering many excerpts. 

On Performance Anxiety

1. How to Stay Focused During Performance: Carnegie Hall Master Class with Emmanuel Pahud

2. Your body language shapes who you are | Amy Cuddy

3. TEDxBloomington -- Jeff Nelsen -- "Fearless Performance"

4. The Healthy Musician: Dealing with Nerves & Performance Anxiety by Annie Bosler

5. Pre-Audition Meditation for Dancers

The Alexander Technique and Constructive Rest

1. Posture awareness with the Alexander Technique by Carolyn Nicholls

2. Alexander Technique Lie Down by Pyeng Voice Coach

Favorite Channels for Flutists

1. Flutings with Paula By Paula Robison

2. Mimi's Flute Tips by Mimi Stillman

3. NinaFlute - Nina Perlove

4. BevaniFlute - Bevani

5. JustAnotherFlutist - JustanotherFlutist

Inspiring Performances

1. Amy Porter: Poem by Griffes

2. Jasmine Choi: Paganini Caprice No. 24

3. Karl-Heinz Schütz: Mendelssohn Concerto

4. Marianne Gedigian: Liebermann Concerto

5. Alain Marion: Boehm Grande Polonaise

 

What are your favorite videos? Check out my YouTube Channel for more playlists!

Free Download: February Inspiration Calendar

Happy February! I am excited to share a new resource to boost your inspiration in the new month! If you're looking to have more breakthroughs by changing up your practice behaviors, this is for you. The Monthly Inspiration Calendar for Musicians disperses ideas or actions towards inspiration throughout the 28 days of February, and I have personally utilized these actions to great success any time I have needed help getting out of a rut. (Consider these the "Small Jolts" mentioned in the post on Replacing Guilt with Inspiration.)

How to Use It

  • While this is not a practice calendar, there are several actions that are to be implemented directly into your practice session, such as the Practice Intention ideas.
  • There's no need to do every action in the order specified. If you're one to print out calendars like this one, then stop using them after one day if you haven't done everything as listed perfectly, here's permission to use it however you'd like
  • Half the days are intentionally left blank, and you're encouraged to fill them in with actions that are very specific to your own personal sources of inspiration or goals.
  • The first action involves reviewing your goals, and writing them specifically in the space at the top. See my example below!

Setting Your Monthly Goals

Take a moment to reflect and check-in on goals, experiences, and behaviors, ask: "Am I on track with my overall goals? Are my behaviors reflective of what I wish to accomplish in the short and long-term? What have I observed in myself that I wish to change?

Here are my own:

Observations

In the past month, I have had a positive experience with recording Altes etude #2. I am learning to stay focused, pacing myself while recording these etudes. I have thought about the balance between making an effort musically without falling apart before completing. 

Many times, I felt quite closed or without flexibility. I realize that I have not been breathing fully and efficiently, and the video camera (and long etude ahead) have me closing in and overthinking my movements. I also notice that my articulations are not always as clear as I'd like when listening back.

Changes to Make

In recording etudes, I feel that I can play more musically through making greater preparations and outlining intentions for each and every moment, avoiding questions and doubts creeping in that take me out of the moment. 

I have the resources to remember efficient breathing as I once did, and can spend more time moving and in constructive rest, noticing the involvement of the legs and balance in breathing.

Goals

  • Prepare Etude of the Week etudes carefully, including every breath mark and specific notes on dynamics and mood.
  • Implement a daily constructive rest habit to check in with the movements of breathing, translating them into my practice session.
  • Practice Intention: Allow the ribs to move upon inhalation, and maintain buoyancy upon exhalation. 

Calendar

Without further ado, here is your Inspiration Calendar! Click the image or click the button below to download your free PDF!

CORRESPONDING LINKS

 

I would love to see your calendars in action! Use the hashtag #practiceroomrevelations and tag @JoleneFlute so I can share in the excitement!

Happy Practicing!

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!