Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spring 2013: Focus on Flute FUNdamentals!

Welcome Spring!!

And with it comes thoughts of spring cleaning.

And then my thoughts turn to the flute.  And, like it or not, I have some technical work to do in advance of a concert April 28.

Time to focus.  Flute Fundamentals here we come.

First: don't miss any more swim practices.  It is much warmer in the AM these days, so can't use that excuse.  Swimming is the very best activity for breath control.

Second: don't miss any more flute practices.

Hmmm..what if I structured my flute practice the way I structure a swim practice?

Now, that's fun!

Swim Practice structure:

Warm Up
Kick Set
Pull Set
Main Set
Warm Down

My swimming warm ups don't typically involve the clock, because at 6:00 AM I need to acclimate slowly. Stretch out in the water, get my breathing in gear, let the shock of the cold wear off. With the flute I do long tones at first. (Watch for the new Flute Pro Shop Long Tones of the month feature to refresh your routine!  They will launch April 1.)  Typically 20 minutes here will get me going for the rest of the practice.  I always start in the low register, and work up slowly, focusing on tone quality, resonance, vibrato and so on.

Kick Set in swimming as an adult involves fins: you smoothly glide through the water. For the flute: Scales!  Woot!  For these I use the metronome, and concentrate on lining things up perfectly, honing subdivisions, keeping things smooth, controlled, well matched and even.  I do chromatic, all diatonic, Taffanel-Gaubert No. 1 double tongued, and depending on the time available, additional Taffanel- Gaubert Exercises.

The pull set: paddles and buoys, oh boy!  These are longer distances, and often I layer in  "hypoxic" training, or limited breathing patterns.  With freestyle, I breathe every 3-5-7-5-3 each 50 yards of a 200 yard distance, and the rest for about 15 seconds and go on.  For flute practice, this section will involve going over all the "spots" in the music for the concert.  You know-those little places that need extra attention.  I enjoy playing games: can I do this 5 times in a row perfectly?  10?  Or I reverse the articulation, change octaves, play in smaller and smaller sections, and more. (Maybe I should write a blog on drill patterns?)

The Main Set:  this is the heavy workout segment in swim practice.  Often involving short intervals, negative splitting, and other activities.  Flutewise: I play the pieces all the way through, making notes of sections that will need attention in the pull set tomorrow.

My personal favorite section is, you guessed it, the warm down!  The hard work is done, you have that lovely post-practice feeling of having accomplished something, and can just stretch out in the water, glide, maybe do dolphins up and down the pool, bob, whatever strikes your fancy.  Flute warm down is often a long tone exercise from a piece on the program.

And so now you know how I spend my free time.  Wet or dry, I never lack for stuff to do!  Time to work with my Labradors-food for another blog.

Happy Spring!!

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