With the Great Global Lockdown due to continue for a while yet it’s probably time for a shake-up to our practice routine. Self-isolation is a very strange situation for a musician to be in as all our activity is based around social connections. Movitation could dip at any time so it’s important to have a variety of resources available for every eventuality. This current madness will end eventually however, and when it does we want to be fit and ready. Here are a few ideas that might help all of us through this funny old time.
For those “I need to sort out my sound but Moyse ‘de la Sonorité’ is a little too demanding” days
We’ve all had those days! Working on sound is difficult at the best of times so perhaps we could be kind to ourselves and change things up with some tunes.
Bordogni arranged Larry Clark: Melodious Exercises for the Flute
This is a great book. There are 54 pieces in all, ranging from a simple C major melody to those in more complex keys with more notes, and all are written to encourage the development of a strong melodic line. You can make of them what you will of course, as that is the very nature of a Vocalise and they are just a joy to play.
Various Composers: Con espressione – 30 expressive etudes from the 19th and 20th Centuries
There is nothing faster than an Andante in this collection of lovely studies, which is just as well considering how black all the pages are! Not for the faint-hearted, but you will just love making them sound beautiful.
Damase: 50 Easy and Progressive Studies for Flute Volume 1
These Damase studies are quirky but lovely. The keys are straightforward and the note range is moderate too, leaving you free to concentrate on the job in hand. This is a great book that is just a little different and really quite refreshing.
For those “Surely not scales again” days
We’ve all had those too! Sometimes it just needs all the same notes in a different order to spice things up a bit. Time to turn to some unusual studies:
Igudesman: Magic Spells – 10 Magical Pieces for Solo Flute
These ten short pieces are really quite difficult and they are certainly different. There are some that require good tonal inflection, such as ‘Open Sesame!’; others like’ Izzy wizzy, let’s get busy!’ need good fingers and ‘Aji Maji la Taraji’ is an articulation workout. This is the way to increase technical skill whilst playing interesting music. Magic!
Amy Rice-Young: OOPS (Out of Practice Studies) for Flute
Designed to give a potted account of all the many study books that fill all our shelves and that we might not always have to time to consult, this great little book runs to only 17 pages, covering all the main aspects of flute technique. Tone, harmonics, scales, and intervals are all included, together with some studies and melodies Right now it could be the answer to everything.
Gary Schocker: Extreme Sports – 11 Virtuoso Studies for Solo Flute
These eleven studies present an array of technical challenges in a completely different way. There is no escape from the usual suspects with finger technique. evenness of tone, breathing, tonguing and trills all covered, and they are certainly difficult. So when the likes of Andersen and Soussmann start to pall and your appetite for technical mastery diminishes, this book could be just the answer.
For those “I really need inspiration” days
This is a personal choice for everyone but here are some of my own favourites.
Trevor Wye and Patricia Morris: The Orchestral Flute Practice Book 1
My instinct in any difficult situation is always to turn to the flute parts of Haydn’s symphonies. For me they provide the complete workout of sound, fingers and articulation coupled with that purity of classical writing that looks simple but is really challenging to achieve. This book also contains enough other orchestral repertoire to keep you occupied for hours – priceless.
Leclair: Sonata in G major from Three Sonatas for Flute and Basso Continuo
This is such a happy piece. A gentle Andante opens the Sonata, followed by a tricky Allegro, a Gavotte that is really quite jazzy before a bustling dance brings the work to sparkling conclusion. The other thing to make you really happy is the price – this really is a bargain.
Takemitsu: Air for Solo Flute
This is such a wonderful piece of flute music. It has a most haunting quality which is very moving. Although it’s not technically difficult, the control needed to bring out the detail in the dynamics takes considerable skill. The only drawback is that there is no getting round the need for a B footjoint. If you have one this piece is a must.
Amanda Fox: Destiny for Flute and Piano
It’s always uplifting to play a good tune and you need to look no further than this stunner from Amanda Jane Fox. This is easy listening at its best – a glorious melody and flowing accompaniment which wows audiences instantly. It’s not too difficult either so a winner on every level. A perfect piece to lift the spirits.
For those “I need to be shaken up” days
On good days it could be time to try something completely different. Here are two really good ways to make you think and have a bit of fun!
Ali Ryerson’s Jazz Flute Practice Method.
Here is a jazz method that actually works for all types of players and it is so thorough that even Taffanel and Gaubert would be impressed. The opening chapter on Intervals starts with chromatic intervals, scales using the tonic as a pedal point, whole tone scales and augmented arpeggios before exploring thirds, fourths, tritones etc up to sevenths. Even if you don’t actually master all the techniques included from memory in all keys in a jazz style, the exercises will inevitably increase your flute playing skills in a different way.
The New Flute by Tilmann Dehnhard
In this adventurous book, Tilmann Dehnhard takes a comprehensive trip around all the contemporary techniques you will need to play today’s exciting new music. The added bonus is the DVD which is excellent. Denhnhard demonstrates each chapter clearly, with some seriously accomplished playing, using bass and contrabass flute as well as C flute. Beatboxing? Bring it on!
And finally for those “I’m not sure I want to play” days.
That’s absolutely fine too – just think of it as an investment in your future sanity!
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