Warm-Up Series

How My Philosophy On Warming Up Has Changed (And How It Helped Me Learn To Love Long Tones!)

I just completed my first Instagram Live session which was All About Exercises! In preparing for the discussion, I began to sort out the what, why and how of each of the initial steps of my typical practice session.

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In doing this, I realized that I’ve come to value my warm-up, tone, and technique studies as independent tasks with specific goals of their own. Viewing them as separate tasks that build upon one another has helped me to find more freedom and enjoyment while practicing.

Let me tell you why...

Up until the past year, I never truly distinguished a difference between warming up and working on tone and technique exercises. I would jump in and start warming up with scales, long tones, harmonics… and by the time I had completed several exercises, I would feel "warmed up."

Some days I would love long tones, and sometimes I would dread them. It felt like the thing I was supposed to do first to warm-up *slash* work-on-tone, but it often felt frustrating to jump in and try to make my best sound right out of the gate. I was missing a step.

 

What Changed My Mind About Warming Up?

I finally realized the benefits of distinguishing my warm-up from my tone studies when I discovered Dr. Terri Sanchez's Epic Flute Warm Up! In doing this warm-up each day, I’ve come to realize that I have one primary goal for warming up:

 

It's All About Getting Air Moving.

 

We normally take shallow, automatic breaths during the day, but when it comes time to play, we need to begin to breathe deeper and with greater intention to make sound. Just like we need to stretch our arms and legs in the morning, we need to stretch the muscles surrounding the structures of breathing to prepare to play.

Think Of It Like This...

When we warm-up at the gym, we're preparing for our workout. The first 5 minutes on the treadmill are about loosening up and getting the heart ready (Warm-Up). Then we're ready to strength train (tone), and jump into more cardio (technique). When the basics are refined, we can use these tools to enhance our artistic choreography (repertoire).


Messy Sounds = Less Perfectionist's Tension

The first page of the Epic Warm-Up provides the perfect opportunity to begin breathing deeply and flowing through notes without forcing to transition from not playing into playing. I don’t analyze my sound or try to perfect anything.

I especially love the singing and playing and breath kicks, because opening up with messy sounds is a great way to start off a practice session - it’s freeing and fun! I add in even more “air movers” with jet whistles and beat-boxing syllables.

Dr. Sanchez strategically includes a warm-up for the lips, fingers, and tongue towards the end of the warm-up once you’ve had a chance to open up the sound with freer breathing.

Warming up in a fun way that addresses what the body needs to transition from not playing into creating a beautiful, resonant sound has been key for allowing me to enjoy long tones and subsequent tone studies!

 

I Can Achieve More When I've Prioritized Air First

My mind is ready and I’m no longer dreading how I’ll sound. I’ve invited more of my whole self into breathing, and from here, I can refine the focus, resonance, and projection of my sound, and translate this to all register with long tones. I can work more in depth on lip flexibility because I’ve prioritized air first. I can more easily practice phrasing with shapes, dynamics, and colors because I can support efficiently from the start of my tone practice.


In Conclusion

I was missing out on really digging in and refining all the good stuff when I was using my exercises as my warm-up! Now that I’ve made the distinction, I’m enjoying my warm-up, and I'm diving in to bigger and better goals and improving with intention each day!



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My Go-To Warm-Up Routine

Have you ever gone grocery shopping and stocked up on really good breakfast food that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?

I've always wanted to find a warm-up routine that does the same thing for me. I consider myself to be a morning person mentally, but physically, my body feels closed off and lacks full flute-playing mobility until I've been awake for a few hours. As a result, diving in with notes right away often feels uncomfortable and frustrating.

However, there are times when I need to be ready to play very early in the day, so the remedy is a 5-minute cardio warm-up that stretches the body and creates mobility for breathing to happen more easily!

Here's my favorite warm-up from Blogilates!

Cardio Warm-Up

Blogilates Quick Cardio Warm Up (5 Minutes)

After completing a whole-body warm-up, I can MOVE and therefore, I can BREATHE! After just five minutes, I'm ready to have a better time playing my first notes of the day.


This warm-up makes me excited to warm up in a way that I've never experienced with any other! I've done this warm-up almost daily for the past two or three months, and I'm already excited to warm-up again tomorrow. 

 

Why Is It So Good?

  • Dr. Sánchez has achieved a fun, satisfying 15-minute warm-up with lots of useful tips and reminders for good physical habits sprinkled in.

  • It's written in such a way that it feels good to play, and it's easy to focus and complete the entire thing without getting frustrated or distracted. 

  • There are plenty of harmonics and singing and playing which I can't warm-up without!

  • It is well-rounded and hits on all registers, articulations, dynamics, vibrato, and more.

 

I've enthusiastically ordered her new book The Aspiring Flutist's Practice Companion, and frequently utilize her other resources and enlightening blog posts!

Click below to visit The Self-Inspired Flutist's website and access a free download of the Epic Flute Warm-Up!


In Conclusion

These two resources simplify the process of warming up the body to breathe well and play well. I can easily and consistently follow along to completion, and when I do, I feel totally prepared to continue on with my practice session or feel ready to perform!

 

Do you have a holy grail warm-up routine?

Share in the comments below or tag me @joleneflute / #practiceroomrevelations on Instagram to share!

Why You Need A Custom Warm-Up Sheet

Most pieces have that one terrifying spot. Can you think of the most difficult spot in a piece you're working on? For me, the third measure of the Firebird excerpt comes to mind. Whenever I go back to practicing that excerpt, I spend a lot of time on that spot. There are many other examples of moments such as this that come up again and again. 

If having an entire piece on your stand makes it tempting to jump around too quickly, take just a few of the difficult bars and add them onto one sheet. 

All the hardest spots on one sheet.

Cut and paste or transcribe the most difficult bars from any number of pieces onto one sheet, and get creative during your warm-up! Approaching only the smallest and most difficult chunk each day will slow down the process of learning and refining them in a way that can turn them into second nature when they appear in context. Consider putting difficult excerpts transposed higher and lower on there, as well. (I'm looking at you, Classical Symphony!) Utilize a variety of extended techniques, altered rhythms, varied dynamics, tempi, and articulations... and so on! 

Here's an example:

Important Tip: Make sure to include the key signature!

Your warm-up sheet can change every week or month, or you may choose to create one using your audition or recital repertoire. Since orchestral excerpts never go away and it's impossible to practice all of them each day, a warm-up sheet (or maybe two or three to rotate between) containing the most difficult spots is a great way to keep those pesky runs or intervals under your fingers!

What's on your custom warm-up sheet? Use #practiceroomrevelations and tag @joleneflute to share!

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!