Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Further along the Left Handed Flute Adventure!

February 12, 2013
Further adventures on the left handed flute…
For two weeks now, I have been doing long tones and scales on the LH flute, and even playing duets with my students, often prompting hilarious outbursts of laughter.  

I have learned many things from this process, which has “reformed” my flute playing.
At first, I would play the LH flute for 10 minutes, and then go back to the computer to work.  Oops.  Nothing came out right-I was typing things backwards and all sorts of ways.  This has resolved itself as I spend more time on the LH flute.  Dialing phone numbers resulted in lots of wrong numbers, reversed groups of 4 numerals.  Texting was also challenging.

The following is from an email from the manufacturer:
“As you mentioned, it has positive effects on the brain balance. We discovered a funny effect: When you play left for some minutes, then go to your keyboard and write an e-mail. The characters on the screen are all mixed up, you can’t read anything. It’s because the brain still changes left and right. Only when you look at each character on the keyboard and write slowly, then you hit the right characters. This effect becomes shorter and shorter, until it disappears completely. After some time of training your brain will switch immediately.
Another interesting effect was shown to us by an English physiotherapist during an exhibition in Manchester. A girl (right hander) was playing for the first time with the left flute and as usual, the first few minutes were the most difficult. This guy then asked the girl to take of her shoes, and step on 2 pieces of wood, which were lying on some kind of rubber (it is used to train the balance of people). Suddenly the girl played much better and more freely. That is because her brain now was focused on her feet, busy with keeping the balance of her body, and could not control the playing anymore. The flute is then controlled by her subconscious, which made her play more easily.”

Initially, for me, every note had to be thought through on the most basic technical level.  Not only are the hands reversed, but the placement of the air column is vastly different.  Octaves were a real challenge for my asymmetrical embouchure.  Controlling pitch came slowly.  Certain fingerings were/are difficult: D in the middle register: I still lift the left index finger for it on the LH flute.  Or, I also forget and leave down LH 4, creating Eb.  High A: which finger goes down in the left hand?? 
Through this process, I am learning the connections between such fingerings as F, F#, Bb and B natural.  Learning how to slide my right thumb between thumb keys and finding the C# and C keys with my left hand has been a real adventure.

I can’t take anything at all for granted with this LH flute.  All of my instincts are being challenged.  I have to check my ego at the door before I pick it up.  Not even my sound is professional caliber.
And yet, the improvement in my RH flute playing is immediate and audible to those who know my playing.  The ease of it is a real joy.  I have a deeper appreciation of the inner value of what I have accomplished as a musician.  I can depend on the instincts created by decades of training and practice.

I am a better, more patient teacher.  I sympathize when students fear the flute will roll out of their hands.  I empathize when a fingering change does not register for several minutes, or when a fingering is done incorrectly.

I recommend this process for anyone for who feels their flute playing has become stale and jaded.  Anyone who needs to re-think technique, work things out in a different way, who enjoy challenging something that has long been a part of them.  Then come on over and play duets! 

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