Sunday, August 27, 2017

Lorna McGhee teaching Prokofiev & Beethoven

Dear Flute Lovers,

One of my all time favourite flutists is teaching orchestral excerpts on "Principal Chairs".
Lorna McGhee.  I have learned SO SO much watching her teach!

Lorna McGhee on 'Principal Chairs'


Viewing the full films costs about $10, and you need to use a credit card to buy one month's access to all their flute teaching films (remember to cancel your one month subscription of you're on a tight budget) at Principal Chairs (FAQ).
Imagine that! This is a very cheap price to fly to a series of expert masterclasses.
Plus you can press "pause", and re-watch segments, and really absorb absorb absorb.

And, I'm guessing, in that short time (a 30 day subscription), if you're a flute-maniac,  you can watch all the films (many principal flute players teaching many excerpts) and make notes and try out techniques. Super fascinating even if you're just watching to see body-language.

See all the available flute excerpt teaching films.

This is a fabulous resource (and I'm not related at all to this company, I just really love learning).

Also of interest: Lorna McGhee recommends this book:


Best, Jen

Free - Read interviews with principal flutists/great teachers:

My previous post on Michael Cox's teaching films at Principal Chairs is here.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Who is playing with too much tension?

(click on photos to enlarge).
Lea Pearson Webinar
Subject: Body Awareness for Tense Flutists
Webinar - Free video online

Dear Flute-lovers,

Lea Pearson, Author of "Body Mapping for Flutists" is a great workshop leader too.
She deals with flute aches and pains, posture, breathing and freedom from pain through understanding the body's freedom while we practice flute.

Lea has just now put up a free online workshop that you can still view (June 24th, 2017).
Highly recommended! So knowledgable!

Link: Video

Enjoy your newfound freedoms!
Update Sept. 17th, 2017

NEW Lea Pearson webinar for Flute Teachers!

Set your Students up for Success: More Gain, Less Pain  35 minutes long


This is great to see and hear!
Best, Jen

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Kobe International Flute competition

Dear Flute Lovers,

Have you seen the streaming films of the Kobe International Flute Competition?
It's on youtube for your review. Results are in; winner announced.

Kobe International Flute competition
See all films:

Round ONE: May 26th, 2017:
Round TWO: May 29th, 2017:
Round THREE: June 1st, 2017:
FINALS: June 3rd, 2017:

My personal favourite from the very first time I heard her is the contestant at minute 38:00 at this
First Round film:
She is no. 44.  Boulegue H. -  3rd performer of the three.

Second Round
My 2nd round favourite:
7.  Boulegue H. -  1st performer of three

Third Round
My third round favourite still the amazing Hélène Boulègue!
She is the second performer in the third round here:

Totally far-out third selection; wowza!

She has one youtube up, herself, which is a trio rehearsal video:

 FINALS; June 3rd, 2017: Boulègue and Zolnacz

Yes, I still vote for Hélène Boulègue in every single round!!


Watch the Finals:


1. Helene Boulegue, of France, has been 2nd flute of Luxemburg Phil. since 2010. She placed 2nd in the last Prague Competition.

tied with

1. Yu Yuan of China, born in 2001, is also a student at Int. Music Academy of Lichtenstein.

no second place awarded

3 (i). Marianna Zolnacz of Poland is 18, trained primarily in Poland, with additional studies at the Galway Academy. She is currently a scholarship student at the Music Academy of Lichtenstein.

3(ii).  Yeo Jin Han of Korea was the youngest candidate, at 13, to ever compete at the last Nielsen Competition.  Now 17, she's a Powell artist.

 3(iii). Mayuko Akimoto of Japan is an alumna of Boston Flute Academy, and is completing her studies at Hochschule für Musik Luzern.…/…/mayuko-akimoto/

4. Anna Kondrashina of the Russian Fed. was 3rd place winner in the last Nicolet Competition. Not much info on her.
Thanks to Dianne Winsor for this information.

See Repertoire list for Finals.
More info about Kobe:

Names of contestents:


Repertoire for entire contest (check it out):

So exciting. :>D
Best, Jen

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Free Sequences from Paul Edmund-Davies

Free Sequences from Paul Edmund-Davies
Hello flute lovers,

Once again Paul Edmund-Davies is offering free interesting flute practice materials.
View introductory video here:

Paul Edmund-Davies - Free Sequences

 From Monday 15th May 2017 and for every following Monday for 8 weeks (making a total of 9), Simply Flute will be posting a free video and sheet music of a sequence. Each one will cover an aspect of flute playing that is useful to focus on.
 In our daily practice routines, we have scales and arpeggios, studies and pieces to work on and they all appear to contain very different disciplines. A sequence, not only acts as a form of ‘bridge’ between each of these groups, but also gives us a chance to work on different aspects of technique and in a musical manner. We can focus on our sound, the way in which we use our fingers, our breathing, the shape of a phrase etc. Through playing these sequences in all keys, both flat and sharp, we become increasingly familiar with those keys we love to hate!
 As I am getting longer in the tooth, contrary to my youthful expectations, I now appear to have significantly less of my day to devote to practice. Hence, on days when I find myself snowed under with paperwork, a short session on a sequence or two is a highly constructive way of toning everything up and in a fairly economical way.
On Monday, you will be able to download Sequence 1, which is really a very gentle scale ‘noodle’.
Of course, on paper, it looks comparatively simple. After all, we are encouraged to embrace scales from an early age. However, underneath this innocent looking surface, danger is lurking!
 Whilst we should focus on generating a beautiful tone in Sequence 1, we also need to realise that playing in a truly ‘legato’ manner is another major side to this sequence (and is an essential part of communication in so much of the repertoire that we are interpreting). Exactly how we operate our fingers is also to be considered. If you use your fingers in an abrupt on/off manner, the legato that you are searching for will fade away and turn to lumps and bumps!
 In Sequence 1, you should try to ‘feel’ your way around the flute (once you have the exercise from memory, it could be beneficial to take a look at how your fingers are operating by looking in a mirror). The more fluid your fingers, the greater the likelihood of a true legato. After all, the flute is firstly a musical instrument and secondly a piece of machinery!
 I love spending time on sequences. I hope that you will too!
 Best wishes,  Paul.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Anchor Tonguing on Flute

Dear Flutelovers,

I've had some questions from student flutists lately about "what is anchor tonguing?".

So I drew some quick sketches. The truth is that no one can see inside your mouth, so you are the head scientist when it comes to discovering where the tip of your tongue is. So let's start with what I can show you.

Anchor tonguing is when you anchor your tongue tip and never move it again but literally brace it against a surface inside your mouth. This type of anchoring has also been called "Na" tonguing, because the flutist can't use the tip anymore (because it is braced with pressure against the inside of their mouth) and so they say "Na" whenever they tongue a note, by humping up the middle of their tongue and using it against the center roof of their mouth. Here is a picture of the tip of the tongue anchored behind the lower teeth.

Anchor Tonguing

Another kind of anchor tonguing is when the tip of the tongue is anchored in front of the lower teeth, and supports the lower lip.
Tongue Supported Lower Lip
When the tip of the tongue is pushing the lower lip forward, acting as a cushion that pushes the lower lip outward, then the student might be even more frustrated when they finally remove the tongue tip from supporting the lower lip from behind, because the lower lip has always had the tongue's support, and doesn't know where to put itself to play the flute without the tongue's help. In this case it can take one to five weeks for the tone quality to come back, once the student learns how to form the lip embouchure without the help of the tongue's pushing the lip from behind.
The reason you need to un-anchor the tip is because you cannot double tongue at fast speeds, if you cannot say Du-Gu-Du-Gu or Tu-Ku-Tu-Ku really fast, due to having anchored the tip of the tongue.
Correct Tongue Placement for Flute
Correct Position for Tongue when at Rest
The tongue of course, really needs to lie flat in the mouth like a carpet. If that feels too heavy, imagine a lightweight, fluffy pillow lying on a floor. This resting position is used when you're either resting the tongue, or when opening the inside of your mouth cavity to play with a large resonant sound. You don't want to force the tongue flat, and add any tension, but it should be well out of the way so your mouth cavity can be like a cathedral with a huge space for the flute's sound to echo into.
Other placements of the tongue are also useful to know. They follow the vowels of singing: Ah, Eh, Aye, and Eee (and even "ooh" for very soft forward playing). They are all done with the tongue rising vertically (like an elevator going straight up) as when you say the syllable "Eh" (as in elevator) or "Eee".
With "Eh" the tongue is curved, with the sides of the tongue able to feel the inside face of your upper molars. This is good for mezzo forte fast tongue passage work.

When you are saying Eee, your jaw has closed more, your mouth cavity is smaller, and the sides of the tongue may be touching the insides of your back upper molars even higher. For rapid tonguing in the high register, this can be a helpful position.

However, remember that the syllables for flute are Ah, Eh, Aye, and Eee. You don't use "eee" for everything you play, just like you don't use "Ah" for everything. (See Wilkinson's Vowel Dynamics).

And of course, you'll find this all out in your flute lessons. No rush; it is all taught in stages to make it easy.

But do take a look at the tongue's tip in these drawings.
The tip should not be pushed against anything, but should be free to move and easy and light in its very small motions up to the roof of the mouth, and then flick straight down again to its starting position. Whichever movements of the tongue you make they must be very much like singing or speaking. They are very simple movements, you just have to know where in the mouth the tip of the tongue is.
To feel this: you can sensitize the tip of your tongue by biting the tip just lightly until you can feel your tongue-tip nerve endings. 
Next:  allow your tongue to lightly touch the backs of the bottom front teeth. This is where the tongue is every time you are simply playing a long note. Look at the above picture and notice there is no pressure where the tongue is lightly resting against the inside of the lower teeth.
Correct Position for Tongue when saying Du or Tu

When you say Du or Tu (both are used in flute) the tongue tip rises up to the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth, says the D or T very lightly, and then returns to the first position, where it is lying down relaxed on the floor of the mouth, the tip still lightly touching the back of the front bottom teeth.

Get help from your private teacher in learning this correct way of tonguing, and don't get worried if it takes a few weeks to master. You may have to get rid of a lot of tension to have a loose, light and relaxed tongue that is no longer working so hard, but has found a simple, ergonomic motion.

Hope this helps for those who are confused about "what is anchor tonguing". It may have arisen because:

- the flutist is speeding up their air-speed by using "tongue-assisted embouchure" where they are saying "ewe" or "euu" or "eee" with their tongue, crowding the front of their mouth-space, and thus speeding up the air as it runs through a narrow passage (the Venturi principle). Their forward bunching tongue is so far forward that it is spilling into the lips from behind (and so they can feel the inside of their lips with the tongue's front half.)

- the flutist is pushing the flute too hard into their lower lip or too high on the lower lip, and needs the tongue as a cushion to temper this arm-pressure and lip-crushing pressure. The answer of course is to learn to play without pushing the flute into the chin so hard, and to lower the pressure of the lip plate (covered in Roger Mather's books, vol. 2).

- the flutist is blocking the air from escaping by bracing the tongue to let the pressure build up behind it (you'll hear this as explosive tonguing). Rather than playing with fast and supported airstream, they've taught themselves to pressurize their tongue and mouth and explode on every note. This needs a teacher's help to develop good air speed instead of pressure-valve-explosion air-speed.

- the flutist simply didn't know where their tongue was, and didn't realize there was a problem until they had more tonguing demands put upon them (they improved to the point of needing double tonguing.)

But I did want to clear up what is and is not "anchor tonguing" because when you google it, you get everyone wondering the same thing, and no one quite clearly understanding what it looks like because none of us has mouth-cameras. :>)

While I'm here blathering, I also want to comment on other disruptive things the tongue can do, so called "French Tonguing" which I've mentioned before. So far there is no proof that any flutist uses "between the lips tonguing." even though there's always someone who extolls its virtues, I've never seen a single bit of proof that it's ever used under normal circumstances. I call it "Lip Disruptive Tonguing".
Here is a picture of that. Avoid it; not useful in real music.

Lip Disruptive Tonguing

Paul Edmund-Davies mentions "tonguing between the lips" and demonstrates it for a single note just as an experiment in his videos (linked to earlier blog post). But I would say, don't bother learning how to tongue between the lips unless it is only the first stage in your getting rid of anchoring your tongue tip.

Letting your tongue tip learn where everything is on the inside of your mouth is an easy and quick exploration any of us can do. Touch the tip to every surface and move a tiny amount and find the next surface.

Explore all the places your tongue tip can be in your mouth.

However when it comes to flute articulation, use the easiest possible method: Say Tu-Tu-Tu-Tu or Du-Du-Du-Du, or even Hoo-doo-hoo-doo-hoo-doo to see just how easy it is to speak the articulations using words. If you can say it, you can do it on the flute. You just have to discover your own tongue's way of moving freely.

For non-anchor tonguers, remember too that easy, clean tonguing on flute with great tone requires fast fast air with lots of lung involvement. It doesn't require any change in your lips. In fact changing your lips when you tongue is another whole problem that people don't realize they're doing.
So... Lots of articulation advice here.
Comments welcome.
Best, Jen

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Clarinetist told me to roll my flutey wrists

Clarinetist says: "Roll your wrists; you're out of tune!"
Dear Jen,
In my concert band rehearsal I was playing along happily when a nearby clarinetist said: “You're out of tune! Roll your wrists!” What does this mean? Why is he telling me that?

“Roll your wrists” derives from a beginner band method which allows the flutist to discover, by holding a long note, and then by deliberately changing the angle of their flute on their chin by very very slowly moving their wrists, whether that long held note they are playing is flat or sharp to a comparison note.

As they slowly, infinitesimally roll their wrists they will hear the flute change pitch and can do some comparison listening as it becomes either more in tune with a comparison pitch, or less so.

As they roll in their flute will go gradually flatter in pitch, and sound more and more "covered" with dark tone.
As they roll out their flute will go sharper in pitch, and sound more and more "airy" with a bright tone.

However “roll your wrists” does not work for anything else except the playing of one long comparison experiment on one long note very very slowly. You cannot roll your wrists while playing the flute in band, and here's my explanation why:

Rolling the flute in and out on your chin changes the tone quality from “too dark and covered" (too rolled in), to "too sharp and airy" (too rolled out.)
At their extremes both of are unattractive flute tone qualities. When we play, we seek the exact middle of the tone spectrum; a balanced sound quality.

 We seek to make the flute mellow and ringing with equal tone quality throughout three octaves. We seek to play in the middle of the pitch; right in tune. We also need to be flexible at the center of the lips, and flexible with our air-speed so we can rise to the right pitch during complex and demanding music. All this takes time and daily practice.

 And I might mention, ha ha, that rolling the wrists while actually playing a phrase of music would be impossible for a clarinet, I imagine. Might affect the old reed embouchure, wot?

On flute:

a) Changing your wrists makes the arms and hands uncomfortable, and the flute feel unstable in the hands. Every finger and every angle is affected. Holding the flute "funny" makes everything feel unstable in the hands. As a result, fingerings may be missed. :>)

b)Wrist rolling disturbs the entire embouchure. The chin plate becomes less and less stable, and you gradually lose all contact with your normal way of forming your lips. Such a sensation is too bizarre to play normally with. So it's not useful when actually playing a phrase.

So it's unlikely an adult flute player is going to roll their flute around and lose all control of it just to find out whether they are individually flat or sharp; it throws everything off about their playing.

Perhaps the person who said “roll your wrists” is not fully knowledgable about the flute but knows just a tiny bit about band-teacher instructions, but not enough to employ the true solution.
Maybe here's what you should do instead:

Solutions: When someone says that you're out of tune:

1. Check your headjoint draw. The amount that it is pulled out is very important and needs to be consistent as you develop. Look at the draw of your headjoint into the barrel of the flute; is the headjoint pulled out the correct amount for your normal tuning?
It should not be pushed all the way in.
A headjoint that is normally pulled out 1/8th to 1/4 of an inch from the barrel is more typical.

 You can find out exactly how much to pull out your headjoint by working with the Tuning CD* over several weeks, and then mark a line, in indelible ink on the flute's tenon where the flute is in tune with the Tuning CD tracks. More in the booklet and links below.

You may find that as you develop, and eventually play with a fuller more professional sound quality that you may eventually pull your headjoint a few millimeters more than you do now, over time.

2. During the rehearsal, if you hear an out of tune portion (or someone mentions it to you) write down the rehearsal number or bar numbers, or put a star or invent a symbol on the music in pencil to show where the "tuning problem" occurred at rehearsal, so that you can remember where it is for when you play the piece again at home. Correct it at home using the Tuning CD.

Then at home:

i) Use the Tuning CD (links below)* to practice the marked passage (bar number or symbol on the music). Match the pitch of every note to the chosen pitch track of the Tuning CD.

After several months work, when you are consistently playing in tune with your normal embouchure and tone, if you haven't already, take a 'shiny-surfaces' permanent black magic marker and draw a line on your flute's headjoint to show where the correct "in tune" position that is set for the current way you play your flute. This mark will wear off, but you can re draw it any time. A mark that shows the correct placement of the headjoint can be used anywhere anytime as a visual reference.

ii) Think about why you might be out of tune. Here are some common reasons:

- If the tone quality is fuzzy or diffuse, the pitch can seem both high and low or indeterminate all at the same time, due to having no “core” to the sound. So improve the centered tone quality of your sound by specifically practicing "Tone" with your teacher's help.

- The flute's top register is always sharp and we must correct it. If you've never corrected sharp high notes before using the upper lip, get help in your flute lessons. We need to blow more deeply downward with the upper lip and open the jaw.

- The flute's lowest register is often flat. Get help in lessons to develop the power, pitch, strength and core-of-sound in your lowest register. Often the low register is confused with playing softly. Tone development starts with learning to play forte all the way down to low C. This is important fundamental stuff and gets rid of "I always play flat when I play low". See Low Longtone Warmups.

- Dynamics can be causing the problem. Without correction on flute:

 Loud equals sharp and soft equals flat.

Eeek. We can't allow it.

To fix:  Reduce your dynamic range to the middle. Play mezzo forte. Play all your music in tune, listening carefully, and slowly at your most fullsome mezzo forte. Concentrate on creating a good centered tone quality. Do this for a week or two before adding dynamics again.
When you add dynamics, do it with the Tuning CD going.

 Listen carefully to be sure you don't go sharp on crescendos or fortissimos. (or flat on soft notes, or last notes when you're running out of air.) Practice dynamics with Tuning CD* at home all the time for reference to just where to place those pianissimos and fortissimos with your air speed and embouchure angle.

Other things you can do at home:

A better way to prepare:

1. Listen to an actual recording of the actual band piece. Lots are on youtube (although not always the best, some are good)  and listen closely. You can use the pause button to clearly distinguish what exactly is going on in the music during the area of the piece where YOUR tuning problem is.

2. If the recording is A-440 (and your band plays at A-440) then you can stand by the computer speakers with your music stand and just play along in tune with the recording. Again, just use pause button to play small sections and if you're into it,  use a software called "slow-downer" if tempo too fast. Make your own in-depth practice tracks using truly great recording Bands!

3. Or better yet: Record your actual own concert band rehearsal and listen to it carefully at home; figure out where the tuning problem is and what it is, by following along with your sheetmusic. This is what I would do. I'm so surprised that we don't all record all our rehearsals for self-correcting and tempos and orchestration etc. But that's just me.

Things you can do during band rehearsal:

 After preparing the marked passage at home with recordings and Tuning CD*, play it in the band rehearsal just as you prepared it. Listen to hear if the tuning problem is still there or not. It may not be you; it could be another instrument, or the clarinet may change from rehearsal to rehearsal.

 If the tuning is still wrong at that part of the piece, ask for clarification (sharp or flat?) and then ask for a quick session of checking tuning with the instrument(s) in question (during break).

Time permitting (perhaps in the break or early before the next rehearsal) play the passage with the person who asked you to change your pitch, and humour the pitch in the direction they are asking for until you blend well with them. Mark this change on your music using up or down arrows (Up = sharper, Down = flatter.)

 If you are consistently sharp in the high register or consistently flat when playing softly with not enough air, (most common in band flutists) then consult your flute teacher for help with those areas specifically.

For high register sharpness the correction is to move your upper lip out and over, to direct the air in a downward angle into the flute. You don't want to roll your wrists, and you don't want to feel as if the flute is in an unnatural position on your chin because you need to move just your upper lip downward, while leaving everything else stable.  Using the upper lip to aim downward is the easiest method to correct sharpness as it can use just the very center of the lips and be non-disruptive to the embouchure.

For flat players, the problem is that they are not moving enough air.
There are lots of ways to coach yourself to learn to move more air. See articles here.

All this may take a year or two to develop fully if you've never worked on it before. Ask your teacher for help so you can get right on it. It's fun work.

Things to remember about flute-clarinet phenomena:

Unless corrected for, just when flutes go sharp, clarinets go flat.
This is a well known phenomenon that is overcome through practice and knowledge.

Examples in Bands if uncorrected:

In a soft dynamic: Clarinet goes sharp. Flute goes flat.

At a loud dynamic: Clarinet goes flat. Flute goes sharp.

So as you can see, the two instruments can easily get into pitch conflicts for understandable reasons.

Flute pitch in general:

Flutes tend to go flat on:

Low notes (correction: use faster air speed, aim at a higher angle)

Soft notes (correction: use faster air speed, aim at a higher angle)

Right hand notes (E and F in the middle and low register; correction as above)

Notes where the thumb is lifted and the flute rolls inward on the chin (high G, middle register C and C#) (Correction: Consult your teacher on how to stabilize the flute when your thumb is off.)

Flutes tend to go sharp on:

High notes (Correction: Aim downward in angle with upper lip over;drop the jaw; drop embouchure tension).

Loud notes (Correction: Ask your teacher how to play forte but stay in tune)

Notes that are naturally sharp on the flute: high G#, high F#, high E etc. (Correction: As above, but also use alternative fingerings where appropriate.)

Other typical problems are:

Flabby Leaps:

 Leaping to a quiet high note from a low note can make you underestimate the air-speed and hit the high note with overly slow air, starting that note flat in pitch. You freak out at the awfulness of the flat high note, and sag further. This is fear of leaping. Very common.  Get help with this from your teacher. You will learn to speed up your air-speed before you leap.

Ran Out of Air:

 Playing when out of breath can make your pitch go flat. Be sure and practice your breathing so you are taking HUGE big breaths where they are needed, and normal breaths everywhere else. Mark the HUGE breaths with a special extra breathing symbol, so you don't get caught short. Write "Save Air" over parts where you expend air too quickly and unnecessarily. Your teacher will help you plan all your breaths.

In general; and believe me I'm not related to this product in any way....
I recommend working with the Tuning CD everyday for warmups, improvisations, slow melodies, high longtones, slowed down sections of pieces and etudes etc. After several months you will absorb the whole of the "Tuning" situation from constantly working with and hearing the pitch and matching it.
And you will have more fun practicing; it's so nice to play in tune with SOMETHING!

*The Tuning CD: LINKS*

Note: you only need the first 12 tracks for the chromatic scale. (the rest of the tracks on this CD are chords you don't need.)

The Tuning CD booklet

More flute tuning articles here.

Wrist rolling ha! Tres middle school-esque, eh? ;>)
Best, Jen

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Free Köhler Study Guide - Doll's Waltz

Click on pictures to enlarge them.
 This is the painter Chagall working on a fantastical doll-like figure.
Dear Flute Lovers,
Paul Edmund-Davies is offering a free video series as a guide to learning one of the Opus 66 studies by Köhler. Click on the link for the video & pdf etude and exercises:

Link- Six Videos (Performance plus five exercises) & pdf sheetmusic; plus five exercises:

Notes from Paul Edmund-Davies:

Köhler was a prolific writer of studies and 25 Études Romantiques, Opus 66 is another book, full of gems. I have taken the charming Valse de la Poupée, or Doll’s Waltz and given it the complete Köhler Study Programme treatment.

Completely FREE of charge, you will be able to access all of the sections: video performance and instruction, teaching notes and exercises, exactly as laid out in all of the other Köhler Studies in the Programme.

This will hopefully give you all a very clear idea as to precisely what is on offer and I very much hope that this will in turn spur you on to take a closer look at some of the other Köhler Studies and exercises available.   - Paul Edmund-Davies

Notes from Jen:

There are six videos but they do not play automatically one after another. Once you've watched the first video with full performance of the etude, you'll want to scroll down to click on the Five Exercise Videos, to continue watching the exercises, and downloading the pdfs for each exercise.

Therefore, go to:

Scroll down to see:

Exercises split into parts (video and sheetmusic for  each of five exercises):



3. 3a:



Example of what you'll see if you remember to scroll down: