How can we practice tuning? I'd first like to introduce the concept of how tuning is more than just a number, or where the needle is showing on the device. It is about being in accord with yourself and/or with others. Tuning is beyond an absolute value, but it's how something fits in relation to others - whether it's other notes, other instruments, other voices. Things like color, articulation, phrasing, your intention with the note - these can all influence intonation in the sense of how the note or phrase fits in with everything that's happening around it.
Everything in flute playing begins with the breath. The first and foremost reason for practicing scales and arpeggios is learning where each note lies inside you. How does it feel to play that note and where do you feel the note is coming from inside you? Scales and arpeggios are ways how we can internalize our musical alphabet if you would, very much like a singer or a string player who knows all the positions of the notes on the fingerboard. Without this basis, our fundamental building blocks will be weak and we won't be able to achieve freedom in expression.
While warming up with scales and arpeggios in a practice session, I like to have a tuner set on generating either the tonic or the dominant note of the key. I then play against that drone and try to listen and obtain pure intervals. This way, one is learning and acquiring the notes internally while at the same time having a sense of direction and structure. This will also lead to flexibility in tone production which is then necessary when playing with others, as we'll have to adapt to what is actually happening in the given situation, with those variables mentioned previously.
For the same reason, I've also intentionally left out the subject of different tuning systems, because again, I believe practicing tuning is about acquiring a foundation in sound which is solid and flexible at the same time. That we have command over what we do and know how to handle the intrinsic issues of historical flute-playing.
Listen, feel, notice - be in the moment.
Studying the French air de cour, or courtly songs of the 17th-18th centuries gives insightful knowledge on how to interpret flute music of the French Baroque. Listen here and happy practice!
Here's a Facebook post from last week, where I did a special series on how I relate early music to the night sky during International Dark Sky Week:
We are in International Dark Sky Week! This is a week to be aware of our night sky, which is a natural AND a cultural heritage for every one of us.
One of the most amazing experiences under the night sky is that you begin to appreciate the subtle differences between light and dark. Every bit of light, every fine shading or shadow is noticed and not taken for granted, which is completely different compared to our normally light-flooded conditions. Applying that to music, Johann Joachim Quantz and many others refer to a nuanced playing which "maintains LIGHT AND SHADOW" and is varied. We can apply the concept of light and shadow towards all aspects of flute-playing, whether dynamics, articulation, sound color and so on. This will make a performance unique, memorable, and moving - all what a musician hopes for!
In each of the above images, you see a whole palette of light and dark tones which we cannot experience during daytime. The night sky teaches me to not forget to bring that same fascination and wonder into our music-making.
Well, how can we protect the night? We are all dependent on nature's day and night rhythm to structure our life's rhythm. We need darkness to have true sleep so that our body can perform certain vital functions that are only possible in that state. Protection of the night doesn't mean eliminating light, but SMART use of light. Check out the International Dark-Sky Association website for their recommendations in light fixtures and consider transforming your home to more dark sky friendly. Imagine if you could see the Milky Way right from your backyard!
These are photos straight from my phone. Clouds are great examples of how we can play with a 3-dimensional sound. Sound, just like clouds, is not a solid object but yet it can convey depth, height, texture....
To do so, I believe we need to start with being deeply conscious of your breath. Also in the moments when we're not flute-playing.
What are your ways to make your sound 3-dimensional?
As Easter's coming up, here's a tip which I'd like to offer to fellow flutists when working on the aria "Ich folge Dir gleichfalls" from J.S. Bach's St. John Passion:
ABOUT THE BLOG:
I got inspired to document my own observations in flute-playing and music-making. Also, I thought it's important to pass on the teachings of the great Wilbert Hazelzet, as well as many other mentors who have influenced my artistic visions one way or the other. Enjoy this potpourri of tips, inspirations, and musings.
I'm specialized in coaching historical and modern flutists. CONTACT ME directly to set up a session, in person or online.