Sunday, August 07, 2016

Masterclasses worth seeing and hearing

Dear Flute-lovers,

'Playing from the Heart' and 'Letting the Audience Enter the Dreamstate'.
These are fantastic masterclasses.

Julie Landsman Horn Masterclass (video)

Barbara Butler Trumpet Masterclass (video)

Needless to say, all of the topics discussed and shown completely relate to flute playing.
Totally inspired.
Jen :>)
ps. Thanks to my flute prof. friend who recommended. :>)
Comments welcome.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Website hiccup fixed

Dear Flute-lovers,

If anyone has had trouble contacting me by email, or had trouble visiting my website, the problems have  been fixed now. There was a domain name problem that lasted from June 25th to July 1st 2016. Thanks for your patience. If your emails bounced back to you, just resend. Happy to help. :>)

Victor Morosco Masterclass Video

Dear Flute-lovers,

I watched this entire three part Morosco masterclass and WOW!
Lots to talk about. I hope you comment below.
So incredibly interesting; worth taking notes!
And does anyone know the date of this video-taped master class?
 I'm thinking early 1980s but could be earlier....interesting to know.
(new: someone who knows Victor just wrote and says it may be prior to 1970s!)

Also: There are some links to William Kincaid and Julius Baker recordings below as well.
Best, Jen

Victor Morosco - Teaching a flute masterclass, three parts:

Part 1 - Fundamentals (video)

Part 2 - Articulation (Handel) - Breathing (Handel) - Fingers (Bach E Maj) (video)

Flute exercises for tonguing:

Part 3 - articulation - high register in tuneness - concentration while feeling defensiveness (video)

Additional material:

Julius Baker's Sound:

Julius Baker plays Bach Brandenberg 5:  (video)

Julius Baker Plays Vivaldi "Goldfinch" (video stills with audio)

William Kincaid's Sound:

William Kincaid Plays the Flute - Album in two parts.

Vol 1 from old LP:(45 min audio with stills)

Vol 2 from old LP: (47 min. audio with stills)


If anyone has additional photos of Kincaid's lower lip, or if you have ideas to share, please use the comment button. I'd love input.
Best, Jen

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Free Flute Gigging Sheetmusic

Dear Jen,
I've been asked to play "something classical" for either solo flute, or intermediate/advanced flute with very simple piano.
This is a paying gig, and it's at a church; they want music for as the ceremony ends.
Can you suggest some titles, and hopefully some links to free sheetmusic, that would be suitable?
Thanks so much.
Your old student (but still young enough. :>)

Dear student,

Here you go: thrilling for you, and easy for piano.
Most of these standards are at the IMSLP free music library:

[Note: below I've added two links in case you get caught in the 15 second wait for non-members at IMSLP.]

Best Flute Alone for Church-type-gigs

1. CPE Bach A minor unaccomp.
2. Telemann Fantasias

3. Marais "Les Folies D'Espagne" theme and choice of variations

4. Kulau Fantasias

My fave: No. 3

No. 2
5. Ferroud - I Bergere Captive (first mvmt. of three mvmts.)

6.   Quantz: 8 Caprices,_Giedde_I.17_(Quantz,_Johann_Joachim)

Pahud plays Quantz caprice as encore (video)

One you try these out, you'll think of more from past years that you can look up.

Flute with easy-ish Piano
1. Quantz Sonatas:

Telemann Sonatas at IMSLP  and other free sheetmusic sites like .
Obviously some elderly editions are not of use if they're too funky looking script-wise and have no fully realized piano parts. So check both sites.

2. Lists of free pdfs at Flutetunes:

See list intermediate works:

Examples from above that have easy piano:

Gymnopedie by Satie

Pavane by Ravel

Arioso by Bach
Happy gigging,
best Jen

Friday, June 17, 2016

Beginner Questions - Bent C#, difficult high notes

Two questions from beginner/novices today. The first was about low notes not speaking on the footjoint (is crushing your pinky down to get low B normal?) and the second from a dad wondering about "off-key" and shrieky sounding high notes coming from his loved ones. See below for 1. & 2.

Bent C# on Footjoint
Yellow arrow points to C# key about to be bent by accident.
Click on picture to enlarge.

1. Question:
Dear Jen,
I can't find an answer to this issue on your website. (I'm sorry if you've already answered this and I just couldn't find it; you have a massive website.) I have a refurbished Gemeinhardt step up flute. I know it's not a good flute, but I think it should play and it should play all the notes, right?

I can play down to low C fine, but for the low B to come out at all I must flatted my finger uncomfortably against the keys. If I don't do this the low C# key opens as I close the low B and C key.

I took the flute in to check for leaks and it all checked out fine. The guy said there was a leak in a different key further up but that I was closing it fine. They had me play on another model flute they had on hand, and it was a bit better but I still have the problem even on a new flute, so the tech suggested I take lessons. I got into lessons, but the teacher is not a flute a player and he has no idea what the problem is.

It's as if the end of my pinky is too small, it can't hold down all the keys at the same time with sufficient pressure, the only way to do it is to make it come down flatter, to lay the finger down more against the key, longwise. I can't actually take my fingers flat and lay them on the keys that way because they're the wrong lengths. I have to bend them, and then I get this problem. 

The only position that closes all of the keys at once is with my pinky bent backward in the middle which is uncomfortable, not something I can get in and out of fast, and not something I want to do. When I do that I can play the low B very loudly.

What should I do? T.


Dear T.
During flute assembly, when the footjoint is put on to or taken off the flute's middle section, a lot of people unknowingly BEND the keys and rods, by clasping their fist around all the keys and rods, and twisting the footjoint onto the body. See photo at the start of this blog post. Even some "how to play the flute" websites unwittingly show gripping hands bending footjoints (!)

This is a common error, and thousands of band flutists in every school in the world do it. I bet you up to half of the band flutes of grade 8 world-wide have a gapping C# pad when you look closely at the footjoint.

As a result of bending the moving parts of the footjoint, the very first thing happens is the C# key is bent upward.  This makes it hard to close the C and the B without smushing your pinky finger down flat and forcing them all to close using flat fingerered downward pressure.
This of course sounds very familiar to what you're describing.

So the mystery questions are:

1. Why did the repair technician not notice the C# key was bent upward, and would not close all the way without extra flat-fingered pinky pressure? Is he/she not a very good flute technician? Or did they not test the flute with a light for leaks in the footjoint?

Answer I'm thinking: Take it to a different technician for a second opinion, preferably the TOP flute repair person; the one the flute teachers go to in your town.  Maybe the first person you took it to really only works on brass instruments and knows very little about flute footjoints and how to test for simple, common leaks.

2. Have you been clasping the footjoint by wrapping your hand around the moving parts during assembly and disassembly? If so, stop doing that and let someone show you how to put the flute together without bending the metal.

Answer that I'm thinking: Once it is repaired by a good flute technician, don't ever bend it again.

3. Is it normal to have to smush down keys to get low notes?

Answer: No. When you play low C, you should be able to touch only the tip of your curved pinky to the C-roller and NO OTHER KEY, and both C# and C should close, instantly, without downward pressure, and without touching the C# lever.

If you cannot play low C with just the C roller, then look closely at the footjoint with your eyes. Take it off the flute and watch the keys close.
Touch the C-roller and watch whether C and C# keys close identically and fully like Siamese twins; totally must close at the exact instant, with no gaps.

If you see the C# is bent upward slightly and gaps, then this is indeed what's happened here.

Maybe you've unknowingly bent it more since you saw the repair person who didn't notice it was a little bent even back then. Let me know what you find out.

See diagrams below for all the above pointers explained with graphics.

How should you line up your footjoint for reach, during assembly? Start with the silver ball in the center of the D key. You can rotate inward from there a few millimeters if necessary depending on finger-length.

How should you finger the footjoint keys, and what position should the RH pinky be in?

Click on above jpg to enlarge.
Once your flute is all fixed up, here are articles about right pinky and footjoint information:
Jen's pdf showing footjoint alignment choices with photos:

Right hand pinky problems on footjoint?

Right pinky is reliant on right thumb:
Good luck and let me know what you find out.
High Notes Fairly Shrieky
2. Question:
Dear Jen
My daughter has trouble with a 40 year old Armstrong model 90 given to her by a family friend, and I`ve been reading your website for clues as to why she has trouble at times with high notes going astray(off key and noisy), any advice? M.
 Dear M,
High notes being off-key and noisy (shrieky, loud, ear-splitting, uncontrolled) is normal in a novice or beginner flutist. Especially at first, and especially without lessons to help learn the embouchure.

High register notes are difficult to control without forming a special forward embouchure where the lips are pursed, forward slightly off the teeth. (see articles links below.)
Here are the most useful articles from my website about getting good tone in the flute's high register. It is a skill that comes in the third year of private lessons, usually. It takes about a year to fully develop and there are exercises and tricks and hints. A lot of self-taught students first have to "un-do" problems they've created (blowing too hard, too shallowly, without moving the lips into a new position, etc.).
That's why it's best to get good advice in one-to-one lessons; saves time and frustration.
See articles:
Good Tone in the High Register:
Another flute teacher's overview: (if you're self-teaching/without lessons)
High Register Fingerings:
Are you using the correct high register fingerings? They differ from middle register:
Jen's high register Articles:
Mouth shape:

Using the longest parts of the lip centers:

Trouble with your high register? (for intermediates):

Best Advice:

Warm up first, in order to relax into high register: (just blowing harder may cause shrieking).

Problems you may not have noticed:
Is it the flute or is it me?

Flute lined up right? If not stable on your chin, it could make every note more difficult.

Jaw jutting too much? Jaw open and back is best:

Flute moving on your chin? Didn't notice?

Mirror used to see embouchure? Are you hitting the right spot with your lips?

Sudden loss of tone? (you sounded GREAT, and then boom, it sounded awful; repair problem? Perception of greatness dimmed by better listening? Which?)

So, be sure to have the flute checked out by a flutist/teacher:

If the flute functions well when a professional flutist plays it, then it's the skill of "how to get great high notes" (takes several years, but quick progress made with focused practice) that needs to be shared in lessons that's likely needed.
If it were leaking pads (see below) or other repair problems  it would greatly affect the low notes. So it's best to check the low notes first with the help of a good embouchure/good player to find out whether there are any repair problems.
Basic Repair Problems in Older Flutes
Old flutes may have many problems:
1. Cork in the headjoint has shrunk from wet-dry cycle and needs to be replaced: $10 at repair shop. Takes five minutes; well worth doing first as can improve overall response.

2. Pads (under the keys) may be ripped, dirty, shrunken, and have multiple tiny leaks as they've aged and hardened. Each new pad is about $30 work/parts.

3. Mechanical wear and tear, or bending of moving parts may cause pads to not fully close.
The flute should be disassembled and oiled every year. If this has rarely or never been done, the moving parts wear dry-metal to dry-metal over the years, and can score or damage the inside of the long rods, so that the metal parts shift and shimmy instead of staying in place.
A "Clean Oil and Adjust" is anywhere from $50 to $150 depending on the repair shop.
If there are any pad problems "COA" plus "pad replacement and shimming" can be anywhere from $75 to $250 depending on how bad the leak problems are.
Prices given here are approximate; if flute is badly out-of-repair, the prices would be higher.

4. Damage around the blowing area: If there are dents or depressions from mishandling in and around the blowing edge, the sound can suffer. Sometimes the solder can be deteriorating where it seals the lip plate to the tube. Although many times more rare than a simple $10 cork problem, if you can see light seeping in where the solder should be around the chimney in the headjoint, then re-soldering can cost up to $100.

5. Lack of maintenance in general; all flutes need to go to repair every 6-12 months if they are being played two hours a day.
The pads are not robust; they shrink and dry through daily use, regardless of how careful the player is, and leaks appear every few months. Repair visits for minor "tweaks" to leaking pads are normal. Flutes are not like trumpets. They are not self-repairable nor simple. Every new flute student is surprised by the repair frequency of flutes. Perhaps the general public assumes that repairs are only if the flute is dropped or hit; but no, they are ongoing due to the wet-dry cycle of the cotton, leather, cork, paper and glue that actually work to make the flute fleet and accurate.
All materials used in padding and keys are subject to humidity and shifts over time.

A: Has your daughter been playing long?
B: Has your daughter's flute been checked over by a teacher for playability?
C: Have you taken the flute for regular repairs at a quality flute repair shop?

If your daughter is playing in band, with no private teacher, and the flute has never gone for proper repair, then it's best to find the highest quality flute repair person in your area, and have them repair the flute to full functionality prior to the student suffering from the malfunctioning that is so common in older flutes.
M. writes:
Thanks, Jen, yes.
The Flute teacher, who is a flautist, played the flute and it`s fine ,still more practice needed, and progress is being achieved!
Jen respond: Good oh. Glad to help.
Comments welcome.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Scherzo from Midsummer Night's Dream

Question: Dear Jen, I realize that at some point as an adult intermediate flutist, that I should try and tackle the Mendelssohn Midsummer Night's Dream Scherzo from the Incidental Music. I have the Baxtresser book*. What's the deal with the non-existant breathing? I hardly see any breath marks, and it's a bit diabolical at first glance. Do you have suggestions? M.
*(note: Baxtresser book/cd of orchestral excerpts.)

Jen replies:
Dear M,
Look deeply into the eyes of young Mendelssohn. Is he saying "are you a manly dude or a wee mouse?"

click on pictures to enlarge them

I think I'm both myself, ha ha. But I am going to reply: "I am a renegade, sir. Like you."
(See below for renegade suggestions and pdf.)

The fact is that the solo from the Midsummer Night's Dream is on audition lists because it shows these qualities: lightness, clear tone during continuous double tonguing, motion and phrasing, and......incredible super-human control-breathing.

Some details:

1. Mendelssohn is to be played light and fairy-like. So the style must be "classic Mendelssohn". Listen to other works of his played by quality orchestras, in order to hear this lightness and sense of play and magic. Bring this light, otherworldly and dainty quality to all your Mendelssohn.

2. The flutist must play staccato, but at this speed "Allegro Vivace" the staccatos must ring with good tone quality and not be too dry or too short. Many of us practice the piece all slurred for a good deal of time, before tonguing the notes. That way the tone is centered and the tone quality is assured. You can then switch back and forth between tonguing and slurring to assure that the tone quality and fingers remain even. Playing two bars slurred, and then the next two tongued, is one clever way of doing it. (or one slurred bar followed by one tongued bar.) Toggling back and forth between tonguing and slurring is the best all around way to learn this well.

3. There are a few marked dynamics that are very subtle, that can give more motion and phrasing. If you start to learn the dynamics, tone and phrasing BEFORE you tackle the breathing problems, it will be much easier in the longrun. You'll already be light, ringing and clear in tone, with good phrasing before the famous asphyxia sets in. :>)

4. The double tonguing that you would eventually use for this at tempo, is also something that is more easily worked without breathing requirements; it's listening and testing, and even-ing, and Gu-ing and Du-ing. I'm sure your teacher will walk you through all that when the time comes for a faster tempo than can be single-tongued.

5. The Breathing:

This excerpt is famous for the non-existent breath-marks. I've marked two Baxtresser breaths in red in this sample, and one in brackets where you may drop a note for your first few (YEARS!) of working on this excerpt. See below.

click on pictures to enlarge them

How to work the breathing:

One note per bar
If you were to play the entire solo with just one main note per bar, then you could clearly learn the breathing demands without the tonguing and fingering to tangle with at the same time.

 Try it out and see if you can make a good quality mezzo piano tone and just play one note per bar;
  3   1   2  3   1  2  3    1   2   3    1   2   3

All you do is take the first note of each bar, and then hold the first note of each bar all the way through the three beats with a great centered tone at mezzo forte. Then repeat it at mezzo piano. Then put the dynamics in. Don't add the other notes all at once; just add a scale here, and a bar there. Fill in the outline that you've created.
One note per bar can rock: it tells you what air speed you'll need overall, and how much air you'll have to save, or hold back, so that you can make it last until the next breathing point. Played this way the solo is a delight. You still may need to add more breath marks at first. See below too for how to switch it up further and to make a duet out of it.

The above may of playing one note per bar, or every other bar,  even takes a few months work, because it's a huge challenge not to waste air while playing so long on one breath. I recall working on this in third year University (and not much before that) and it took me three months, as an advanced player, to learn to meter out the air so that I didn't run out. One of the tricks is to get good projection for quiet playing, but there are so many things to learn; not just the breathing (the staccato, the phrasing, the double tonguing so that fingering and tonguing are completely reliable etc.)

So for an intermediate student, all that might just be asking a bit much; so be sure your teacher really thinks you need this. After all countless players have listed this solo by Mendelssohn as one of the worst breathing problem-creations of all time. (the other one is Afternoon of a Faun, which is slightly less demanding for sure).

But now for something completely different. Are you ready for renegade?

My renegade thinking:

I think that we should all pay attention to this little fact. It is now about two full centuries since this breathing crisis was created by young Felix (brn. 1809). And yet, take a look at the screen shot of the Midsummer Night's Dream score here:

click on pictures to enlarge them
Do you notice what the second flute is doing when the first flute begins their circular breathing nightmare of a fairy dance?
Click on the picture to look at the empty bars for second flute.
Sad isn't it?
The second flute is just sitting there doing nothing when they could HELP!
For the sake of flute players everywhere, why don't they just HELP? 
 :>D (hahahhaa!)
So, joe-renegade here, I have re-written the Solo from the Scherzo in a pdf.
In the two page pdf I have done two things.
On page 1, there is the solo written as it originally appears, and below it, flute 2 has a simplified version that works to vary the different ways of practicing it. As mentioned above, one note per bar, or slurring before tonguing, all these are easier when the breathing problems disappear. Try it to hear.
On page 2 of the pdf, there is the solo written divided (HELP has ARRIVED!) for two flutes.
The soloist can begin and end the solo, and the 2nd flute dove-tails in and out in order to make it easy and do-able.
Why don't we all play it like this?
All the time?
It would no longer be required on auditions because we were all so helpful to eachother. :>)
Can't wait to hear your comments.
See the Mendelssohn Scherzo flute re-write and practice sheet here:
Free. :>)
Enjoy exploring it.
New July 2016:
Check out this video; could the two players be any more different?
Demarre McGill and Kaori Fujii:
Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream - Mendelssohn (video)

Best, Jen

Thursday, April 21, 2016

18 steps: the "how to" video of classical music

How to be a Classical Musician (humour video)

Mildly funny, until you start sobbing without realizing it. :>)


NEW June 2016:

 Hilarious: True; Flute Stories

The Embouchure Change Crisis: (video)

Understanding Your Teacher: (video)



Wednesday, March 09, 2016

What do articulation markings mean?

Amateur flutists coming for lessons for the first time often have questions such as these:

What do slurs plus staccatos mean over the notes?

What do the different accents mean?

How short are staccatos?

And if you go to the online music theory pages, you could end up reading all the historical arguments for all the symbols of music. (and there are lots of finer points to consider, as the articulation symbols changed over the centuries, borrowing from violin symbols etc.)

So for easy reading, I've created a one-page, printable pdf that gives the basic articulations for flute:

What do flute articulation markings mean? (pdf)

Amateur or band-only flutist who needs quick information might want these one-page explanations to put in their folder for quick and handy reference:

1. Articulations on the Flute - What is written and how to play it (pdf)
2. Trill chart for band flutists (pdf of Mark Thomas's trill chart)
3. Grace Notes page from Rubank (thank you Hymie Voxman!) (pdf)

And for a big read one rainy day:
4. Ornaments (trills, grupetto, grace notes etc.) at online theory pages. (webpage)

The above one-page wonders should help get a novice or intermediate band flutist started.

And for those who tend to play with a puff of air on every note, instead of continuous sound, here's a quick graphic showing that also. Unless it's staccato, you need continuous air to sound continuous sound.

click on graphic to enlarge

And here is a video of Paul Edmund- Davies teaching legato articulation on flute (excellent video).

And if you want to boggle your mind with research, here's the answer to the very first question of this blog post:

What do slurs plus staccatos mean over the notes?

 Louré and/or Portato; but the flute doesn't air-pulse or "lean in" as much as a string-player does.(see video of bowing technique)

 Feature that.

The "Dududu" of delicate tonguing separation has to be lighter on flute than Portato would be on violin, so that it does not sound too accented, too sea-sick, or too "pulse-ey" :>) That's why I prefer the term Louré, but there are many opinions.

One of the loveliest descriptions of the heavier Portato is given in vol. IV of Karen Smithson's method called:  Playing the Flute! Smithson says:
Portato (Bell Tones)
Notes written with both a staccato dot and a slur are to be played tongued and semi-detached, as though a tiny diminuendo were written on each note. This has an effect similar to a bell being rung several times in a row. The moment the bell is struck the sound begins to fade until the bell is struck again. This method of articulation allows us to make a sound midway between a legato (completely connected) and staccato (completely detached).

Here are some visual examples; play them and see what they sound like. You'll soon find the delicate balance. And Dududu to you too. Comments welcome. :>)

Opening of Faure's Fantaisie: just say DuuDuuDuu; if your tone is beautiful, then you will be bell-like:

click on image to enlarge
Drouet's 72 Etudes; too fast for anything but Dududu, me thinks:

click on image to enlarge

Bach's 24 Concert Etudes from the Violin/Cello works (heavily edited in 1800s):

click on images to enlarge each one

And here is the true Portato, as shown by Tchaikovsky's gorgeous violin concerto second movement.
This one you can Bell-tone (lean) yourself into gloriousness!

Hope this helps,
Best, Jen