practicing

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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Improve Your Double Tonguing: Tips + Exercises [Video]

1. Air Stream and Support (0:20)

Without the instrument, get to know the feeling of support in the body. Use air sounds through the teeth to listen, and feel the natural response and engagement in the body.

2. Add Syllables to Your Air Sounds (1:09)

We often spend time practicing the double tonguing syllables away from the flute, however, using the through-the-teeth airstream exercise, we can multi-task. Airstream and double tonguing syllables should go hand-in-hand! 

Try the exercise of going from closed teeth and air sounds to a relaxed jaw and increased space in the mouth, and consciously keep the air speed fast. (1:24)

3. Breath Accents (2:12)

Improve single tongue articulations by prioritizing air speed and quality with breath accents. Once the attack feels clean and consistent, add in the T and the K syllables on top. This especially helps us understand the feeling of air when using the more difficult back-of-the-tongue syllables.

4. Double Tonguing Syllables: T-K vs. D-G (4:16)

Rather than sticking with just one or the other, I find it useful to understand the difference between both T-K-T-K and D-G-D-G, and practice them both. T-K tends to be more staccato and pointed, while D-G tends to be more smooth and legato. Having both under your belt gives you greater options in the context of a piece!

5. High Maintenance Notes: Low and Middle Register (5:07)

The low register and right hand middle notes tend to be the most prone to cracking if space in the mouth is not abundant. When we play a resonant long tone without articulating, we may be thinking of an "aww" shape in the mouth. Utilize that same "aww" feeling while double tonguing ("daww-gaww") to help these high maintenance notes!

6. Practicing For Longer, Faster Lines (5:58)

In the exercise linked above, use a single note to build up from breath accents to a long, fast line of double-tonguing. Holding the first note (as we did in the initial breath support exercise using only air), reminds us to get the speed going, and keep it the moment the tongue first moves.

7. 3-Stage Chromatic Scale Exercise (Beginning to Add Finger Movement) (7:03)

Use the notes of the chromatic scale to begin translating the single note exercises up the range. With each repetition, begin decreasing the number of articulations per note as you begin coordinating finger movement with tongue movement.

8. Coordinating Finger and Tongue Movement (7:53)

Try saying or whispering the syllables while moving the fingers slowly and precisely to encourage better coordination. This provides a chance to isolate the tongue and fingers without producing a flute sound, so we can really focus and uncover difficulties. Even if you're relatively coordinated, I always find this exercise enhances the connection between movements!

9. The First Note Influences The Rest! (8:31)

Use an expressive tenuto to translate the resonance of the first note of a run into the double-tongued notes that follow. Begin with a held note, and practice making the first note shorter and shorter without losing the sound quality.

10. 2-Octave Major Scales: Slur and Double-Tongue Back-to-Back (9:00)

Break up your 2 octave scales into one octave at a time, first slurred with a singing quality, then translating the feeling to double-tonguing. Try 2 articulations per note, and think of a smooth, legato sound that resembles your singing slurred sound.

11. Singing and Playing (10:56)

Using the first notes of Exercise No. 1 from Taffanel and Gaubert's Daily Exercises, sing and play, slur, and double-tongue in one breath to reap the benefits of a relaxed throat and naturally supported airstream!



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How A Video Revealed a Surprising Fact About Expressive Movements

I recently made a side-by-side duet video of the Flower Duet from Lakme. I noticed something really interesting while watching it back-- my movements were synchronized without even thinking about it. 

Take a Look:

The parts follow the same shape in most of the duet, and my body follows similar shapes as well! When the parts differentiate towards the middle, my movements separate, but when they come back to the opening theme, my movements align once again.

What does this reveal? 

I did not do this on purpose. I wasn't even thinking about it! Our patterns of movement are so deeply ingrained, that when we produce the same piece over and over, we are likely moving our bodies in very similar patterns every time!

I took it a step further and made a side-by-side comparison from my Ibert Piece practice session to see if my movements would line up.

And sure enough, they do! While it is more subtle, and there are slight differences in tempo between the two takes, I noticed several key things:

  • I pull up and back the same way both times in the opening, then bring my face back down slightly.
  • I pull my right arm up and back at the same spot, and release it back down while taking a breath.
  • In the second clip, I bow down and rapidly pull back up both times.

How Can I Use This Information?

These patterns are information that you can use to break yourself out of movements that might be holding back expression or ease in certain moments!

For example, in my second clip, pulling my arm up and back just before the breath led to a more dramatic movement while taking the breath, which may prevent ease and efficiency. I can now try allowing my arms to release at that moment in preparation for the breath.

Choosing an alternative movement from the one your body naturally creates gives you the chance to experience a new feeling while playing a piece!

Become aware of your habits and unlock the possibilities!