Thursday, January 17, 2008

Flutey thoughts...


I thought I would share a few of my flutey insights for future refferance, and of course, if anyone popping by happened to be a fellow flutist, maybe some small handful of information could be gleaned. I absolutely adore this instrument, and it is my joy to present what knowledge I have.


Buying, choosing wisely, and caring for your flute:

The number one most important thing to do when you are buying any instrument, is to consult an unbiased professional. (ie. they aren't trying to sell a particular brand themselves) This saves hours of worry and frustration, along with saving money too, in the long run. Whatever you do, don't buy a 'cheap' instrument! Thrift stores usually don't have a good line of flutes. :P

In my own personal experience, I would say that the best student flute brand is currently Yamaha. My student flute was (is, actually, I still have it) a Yamaha 221, closed hole, C-foot, and it served very well for several years. We bought it new for $600 about 7 years ago. :) You can find good quality used flutes too, though I would have it looked at by a technician before making the purchase final. Make sure it is in good repair, and that there are no leaky pads etc. :) I would stay away from brands like Armstrong and Gemeinhart, etc. I have personally played a few, and really, the sound, feel, and overall quality of everything is nothing compared to my Yamaha. However, Gemeinharts that are 30-40 years old seem to have held up amazingly well, as they have changed their standards tremendously over the years. Keep that in mind if you are looking at used flutes, do ask how old it is. :) Also, if looking at Yamaha flutes, stay away from North American-made ones. The Japanese models are far better. ;)

As far as intermediate flutes go, mine is an Azumi 3000RBO produced by Altus. Fantastic flute! I would recommend it tremendously. Solid silver, open hole (though I'm not sure I need it but for one F#...or is it F?), B-foot. Gorgeous tone, that is, when I do my best. :) There are, however, many other wonderful intermediate flutes that I have no idea about. :)

Whatever you do, don't let your flute get into bad repair! A broken/leaky flute is a sure way to get frustrated and feel like giving up. If your flute just isn't living up to your expectations, or the sound is fuzzy, have it looked at by a professionally recommended professional! It's worth it to have it checked out once a year, and to spend good money on it. It is better to spend a bit more on the flute to begin with, and not have to have it repaired constantly (many badly-made instruments do not stay in good repair very long), as well as make sure that you do get it checked by a professionally recommended professional technician around once a year. This saves money (and a WHOLE lot of frustration) in the long run, as you are much more likely to get a larger fraction of the money back when you sell it, too.

For more fantastic information in this regard, I'd recommend this article and chart: http://www.jennifercluff.com/longevity.pdf




Instruction

So, you have your good quality flute, and you are all ready to go! Almost. You need instruction! You see, really, you can't teach yourself a whole lot, even when following a book. You can subconciously learn very bad habits that can actually cause physical injury (yes!) to yourself, as well as not having all your questions answered, and therefore taking a much longer time to learn all the things you want to. One-on-one instruction will help you to make tremendous progress, and, if you have the right teacher, will be a lot of fun, and very encouraging.

When choosing a teacher (something I've unfortunately had to get very good at in years past), get recommendations from lots of people, and then go to visit multiple teachers. Meet them, chat with them about your personal goals and expectations for the instrument, and why you are playing. Don't forget that this isn't just a teacher standing at the front of the classroom pointing to a blackboard, this is someone who you will be working with one-on-one, alone, in a small space. You have to like them! Never choose a teacher based on price. If they cost more, but really work with your personality and all the cheap teachers don't fit, take the expensive one. This is not a time to skimp. Your teacher will probably be the reason you keep on with the instrument or quit. They truly shape you for life. :)

I have been truly blessed to have the teachers I have, and as I'll probably be taking some voice lessons in a few weeks, I'll be adding to the 'collection'. They are fabulous! Unfortunately, only one of them has a website, but as this is a flute post, that's perfect! Here she is, in all her Jen-ish hilarity: http://www.jennifercluff.com/

Do choose wisely, and if the teacher that truly fits you has 'no space left', simply bribe (or just look really cute) until they accept you. Your'e worth too much to let fantastic teachers slip by. :) I've had to do it (well...not really, but sort of!), and it's worth it.

Oh, and if you happen to live on Vancouver Island...check out this gal, and bribe her. Truly! It's worth it! Actually, if you don't have a teacher, and happen to live 'abroad', you can take some online 'lessons' with Jen, via, recordings of you and email. Check it out! (Scroll down to the section on 'Email tutoring')



Playing in General

Well, I've played flute off and on since I was 9 (solidly since I was 11 or 12), so I've had some experience. ;) (In fact, I just found out today that I've logged more than 140 hours of flute practice alone since September. Wow!!!) I'm not nearly professional, mind you, but I know a few things about playing the flute. :D SO! Here goes.

The single most important thing for me personally, is to have a gorgeous sound. When I practice tone, I usually do it wandering around the house! I am searching for the single most beautiful, ringing sound that note can give me. (Which can be hard to find, and I don't always succeed) Begin on the low register B (not the low, low, low B, for you B-foot people, but the one an octave up), as that is the easiest note to make beautiful on the flute, and wiggle your lips around until you find that perfect sound. If you were here in this room I'd show you better, but for now, you can read Jen's articles (and Videos: Here, and Here) because I actually have not figured out how best to word it in written form. Once you have found that sound (its okay if it takes you 10 minutes!), move down to B flat, not moving your embouchure, and if it's still 'pingy, ringy, and singy', continue. Do adjust your lips ever-so-slightly to keep that perfection as you go. Another hard thing to explain when written down. Once you get down to G, it will probably go all 'fuzzy', and you will have to 'lip up' (another awkward thing to describe in written form...this is my first attempt!). Continue until the whole low register is absolutely stupendously beautiful! Let it knock your socks off! Then continue starting at B again and working your way upward!

Once you have found your tone for the day, your pieces will sound like they dropped out of heaven. Almost. ;) At least you won't be struggling with the tone of the notes. Not that you shouldn't be completely conscious of it while practicing the rest, of course! So I guess the moral of the story is that tone is very important. :) Mind you, I do occasionally get lazy and just go straight into my pieces without properly getting my tone beautiful, but I always regret it, and within 20 minutes I find myself wandering around the house doing tone.

With that out of the way, focus on technical ability is always good, but if there's one thing I've learned from Jen (Uh...one thing???) it's that you should never bore yourself with technical studies. I didn't say you shouldn't do them, just don't bore yourself. Be creative, make up new ones, get books that have amazing and fantastic technical exercises that sound just like pieces!!! Fingers and lips make up the essence of your playing, so working on tone and technical 'stuff' is vital.

When playing pieces, have fun. Don't limit yourself to 'list' pieces, and ridiculously horrid studies! If your teacher is the kind that really doesn't know who you are, what your personality is, and what music interests you (not that you shouldn't play music that isn't your very favourite, there is always some of that involved), let them know. Tell them that this is your personality, and this is the music you need. :D Get online to the Flutenet yahoo group and start asking questions about what pieces they think are right for you! :) A piece of music that you play is something that stays with you for years. Don't ever let one get off on the wrong foot. I had one horrific year of piano several years ago, and any time I play a piece from that grade (and some of them were gorgeous too, but only because I requested them, she had no idea, and seemed to rather resent me playing them. She wanted me to play the pieces she wanted me to play!), I feel angry, hurt, and afraid, because I did then, and those emotions hang on. How I regret that! I now have to actually work on releasing those emotions, which is a much harder task than it sounds. Don't let that happen. Please!

The moral of the story is...

Enjoy your flute. Enjoy your music. Make good choices. Don't give up...ever!!! Things may get tough, but hang on, the ride may be bumpy, but when you get to your destination, it will be the most fulfilling thing you have ever experienced. And I think, that the trip after we reach the destination will be completely amazing compared to the trip there. SO! Let's get out our flutes, (and pianos, and violins, and...) and enjoy the beautiful sounds God has given us!
In Christ,
Sheila

4 comments:

Anna Naomi said...

Great post and pictures! I enjoyed reading about your flute experiences. I should probably practice more long tones - I got out of it once I stopped flute lessons in the summer.

Sadie said...

Even though I don't play flute, I enjoyed your post immensly. Keep it up!!!

Mariah said...

Loved reading your post(as always!=)
Love,
Mariah

Anna Joy said...

Great post! I love my flute! I got a lovely Yamaha flute for free (duh) from my sister in law who decided to quit after playing for twenty years! I am so blessed....:)