mindfulness

The Secret to Nailing Difficult Runs [Video]

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I recently received a message from a flutist on Instagram. She is preparing for an audition and having a hard time nailing particular runs in her piece, despite having spent a lot of time practicing slowly.

 

In addition to just practicing slowly to learn the notes and ingrain muscle memory, there are a few extra dimensions to slow practice that I find crucial when it comes to effortless technique.

 

Watch the video below to find out the Secret to Nailing Difficult Runs!

 


(Samples played from Karg-Elert's Sonata Appassionata, Op.140 for Solo Flute)

 

1. Mental and Physical Influence (0:38)

2. Replacing Doubt with Positive Alternatives (0:58)

3. 3 Ways to Practice to Observe the Startle Response in the Body (1:33)

4. The Whole Picture Surrounds a Musical Intention (4:53)



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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?!

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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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Fall Favorites: 5 Inspiring Posts for Musicians 

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1. Hilary Hahn Commits to Practicing for 100 Days in a Row—with Unexpected Results

I took on the #100DaysofPractice challenge after seeing Hilary Hahn's inspirational posts, and I especially resonate with her following statement:

“It’s really hard to practice by yourself in a room every day on the same piece and know if you’re making progress or know if the process is working,” Hahn says. “Doing the project kind of created the bond for me where I realized that everyone is thinking about the same things and working toward these things and people do feel isolated at times.”


2. Lessons by Marcel Moyse: The Private Lesson Journals of September Payne, D.M.A

Dr. Payne shares insights into her lessons with Marcel Moyse, including wonderful quotes from lessons on De La Sonorite, Andersen etudes, and more!

"The goal of this article is to illuminate more of his precious teaching and to offer a unique glimpse into the intimate master class setting of lessons that were held at the home of Marcel Moyse in Brattleboro, Vermont."


3. 9 Things Singers Need to Know About Their Bodies - Total Vocal Freedom

Clear, useful advice that applies directly to flutists, too!

"Allow the head to move subtly up off the spine which lets the vocal mechanism hang freely and the breathing and support muscles of the torso work effortlessly." 


4.#FluteFridays: Breathing and Warmups by Mary Hales

Wonderful advice for the crucial components of warming up before your instrument is out of the case!

"...there’s a mindfulness aspect to the way I do my breathing exercises that really helps me get into the zone to practice."


5. Totally bored of playing long tones? Not working out for you? Here’s 15 things to consider tweaking first by Dr. Jessica M. Quiñones

Approaching tone study with mindfulness and a curious attitude, with 15 specific self-observation questions for problem-solving.

"...a physical check-in to see how you are using your body when playing."


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Notes From My Practice Journal: Uncovering Finger Precision

I recently shared The Cycle: Awareness of Ease, a video by violinist and Alexander Technique teacher Jennifer Roig-Francoli, on the July Inspiration Calendar.

If you haven't watched the video, the basic idea is to notice places of ease in the body in a rhythm that prevents over-thinking.

After watching this video and following along with The Cycle, I went ahead with my warm-up as usual, but with a heightened awareness of ease and effort.

I specifically found myself noticing the hands and arms in a way that I typically do not. 


Practice Notes

Here are a few of the statements from my practice journal that I noted during my warm-up:

  • If I observe and perceive the length of the whole arm, my arms and fingers gain a sense of ease and connection that I didn't even realize I was missing before.
  • I hadn't realized that I perceived my arm only in separate parts until surrendering to ease and noticing the connection of the whole.
    • Specifically, my biceps and hands are easily perceived, and I barely perceived the forearms at all!
  • I also noticed the left arm more so than the right. In fact, the right hand was barely in my awareness at all. 

A Simple Change For Greater Clarity

I began by only bringing the flute up with the right arm (letting the left arm relax by my side) so I could focus on really feeling the right arm as a whole first. I aimed to notice the entire length, from the collar bone to the tip of the pinky.

Then, I kept the right arm in my peripheral vision while lifting the left arm, and while playing, I actively kept my awareness open to the full length and connection of both arms.

In making this shift, I was able to feel ease and length of the arms, and more importantly, the hands and all ten fingers felt free and light.

I especially gained a new perception of both pinky fingers which really helped me to navigate the footjoint notes with precision!


powerful finger awareness

A heightened awareness in the hands and fingers brought up a new question:

"Do I perceive the keys beneath the fingers?"
  • Does this question elicit a different feeling than the statement: "Keep the fingers close to the keys?"
  • While the fingers hover over the keys, can you perceive the amount of space below the fingers and above the keys?
  • Can you perceive whether they're directly above the key or slightly off-center?
  • Are some fingers higher or further off-center than others?
  • Do you perceive some fingers with greater clarity than others?

Pausing to observe my perception of the fingers in relation to the keys has provided powerful insight into issues of coordination and excess effort. 

Having a greater awareness of the whereabouts of each finger has immensely improved my ability to problem-solve technical difficulties, including low note issues, trills, and awkward finger exchanges.

 

What is it like to invite each individual finger into your awareness? 


Share your own comments and discoveries below or on social media!

#PracticeRoomRevelations / @joleneflute


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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! 

#PracticeRoomRevelations

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

One Way to Reduce Throat Tension

While practicing recently, I noticed that I was feeling very tense - pulling upwards, and leaning into and over my music stand. Upon investigation, I realized how much my shoulders, face and throat were tensing.

Forcing Vs. Allowing

When instructed to open your throat, be aware that this can occur by either forcing openness or allowing openness. 

I was forcing. 

When I let go of my "smile" and allowed the face to drop, (not just the jaw, but the cheeks, forehead, ears, eyes, tongue, and corners of the mouth), my throat tension went away, and everything felt easier. This was especially useful in the low register. Releasing from a smile embouchure and allowing the corners to come forward toward the lip plate led to much more flexibility and consistency! 

Do you experience throat tension?

Do you find that it occurs when there is more general tension all over the body, especially the head?

Tell me in the comments below!

How 2 Words Instantly Took Me From Frustration to Freedom

After refining my Fundamentals Workout Plan over the past week, I found myself pulling out all the old exercises I could find. I opened a folder and pulled out a treasure.

It was sheet of scale exercises I received from Vanessa Breault Mulvey during my summer studying Body Mapping with her. She had written two magic words at the top:

Peripheral Vision.

Inclusive Awareness

Body Mapping introduced me to Inclusive Awareness, or the idea of introducing a wider scope of awareness that includes the body as a whole, all the senses, and the space surrounding you in all directions.

Frustration

While practicing orchestral excerpts this week, I did not realize how small my scope of awareness had become until I invited peripheral vision back into my playing. My desire to perfectly play the first few notes of the excerpt led me to focus intensely on the page, and ultimately, I was inconsistent in executing exactly as I wanted to. Frustrating.

Freedom

Releasing my vision to include the whole page, the whole stand, and the whole room immediately filled me with the comfort of clarity, and the freedom to play as a whole. 

"Peripheral Vision" is now displayed right where I can see it while practicing!

"Peripheral Vision" is now displayed right where I can see it while practicing!

Letting go and allowing my eyes to be soft, seeing the ceiling, the floor, and my fingers moving, I was able to trust and produce the desired sound with ease. I was overwhelmed with a sense of confidence during the silence before beginning each excerpt because I was taking in the whole picture, rather than trying to make each part fall into place.

The benefits of peripheral awareness don't end in the practice room. On stage, opening your visual awareness to include the entire space allows you to fully connect with the audience and project with ease. 

Are you aware of your scope of vision as you play?

Can you see your fingers moving while you play?

Are your eyes soft or working hard to focus?

Experiment with peripheral vision and tell me about it in the comments below! 

#practiceroomrevelations

As always, I love seeing your own Practice Room Revelations and what's inspiring you throughout the month! Use #practiceroomrevelations and tag me @joleneflute to share!

Fundamentals Workout Plan [Free Download]

One of the things I love most is organizing information into one location and adding color. Another thing I love is having a well-thought out plan for fundamentals!

When I was an undergrad, I would create a workout sheet listing all the fundamental exercises I wanted to work on daily to feel the most well-rounded leading up to an important event. It would include my favorite staple exercises (such as long tones and scales), in addition to some newer ones I'd picked up from master classes, colleagues, or new books.

I would name it the Fill-in-the-Blank-Audition/Competition/Etc. Workout, and seeing it every day really motivated me to have a highly focused and thorough practice session dedicated to improving a range of specific skills. (And for some reason, calling it a workout made it even more enticing!)

See my example below, in addition to a blank template! A free PDF is available for download for both.


TIPS

  • I highly recommend including your goal at the top, naming your fundamentals workout after the school or festival you want to attend, the job you want, or the recital you have coming up. The reminder that working on these skills is directly related to achieving your goal is powerfully motivating! 
  • Be sure to be specific about which exercises or page numbers you'd like to focus on most, in addition to metronome markings. The idea is to include a realistic plan that is thorough but not too overwhelming to put into action.
  • Many of the items listed in the example are there to give you some ideas! Only include the things you feel are the most important to your growth.
  • I've listed Vibrato under the Tone Color category to break up the general Tone category. You can include any exercises that relate to special coloring you'd use in the context of a piece here.


#PracticeRoomRevelations

I LOVE seeing all your inspiration and goal-getting! Share your photos on Instagram using #practiceroomrevelations and tag @joleneflute!

Multiphonics Tutorial + 5 Daily Exercises [Video]

Hello, friends! Here is my first in-depth extended techniques tutorial on Multiphonics! I've included 5 ways to practice them as a part of your daily warm-up! These really open your awareness to your airstream, embouchure, and ability to resonate with space in the mouth, making them great additions to your tone study!


Fingerings Mentioned:

  • Fingering for High D / Sounds High D + Middle C
  • Fingering for E Natural without L1 + TR1 / Sounds Middle E + Middle C#
  • Fingering for Middle F + Both Trill Keys / Sounds Middle F + Middle D

Additional fingerings can be found online via Flutecolors' Multiphonics Finder and the publications by Robert Dick listed below.




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