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.
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?
A heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who came to my Corrente workshop on Sunday! I'll admit it was ambitious planning to talk about the Bach Corrente in 30 minutes😅, but I'm really grateful for the interest from around the world, including participants from Asia tuning in at their wee hours. The Traverso Practice Net and I will be gathering people's feedback and we hope to see you again at a future event. Here's one of my messages from the workshop:
This is from one of my favorite sections in the CPE Bach's solo sonata:
In historical flute playing, we talk a lot about using varied articulation to create "light and shadow" in our sound. However, if the breath is not supporting that, if there's no "light and shadow" in your breath, then we are only half way there. Being able to shape and release the breath is the absolute basis and a top priority in the art of wind-playing.
Hear me live on this topic and get some hands-on playing at my upcoming workshop BEYOND THE ALLEMANDE on Feb. 5!
I see playing as an act of releasing air rather than putting out air. One actually needs to build up a certain inner strength to let go. This is especially critical for the upper 2nd to 3rd register, and most indispensable for playing piano in that range.
Try this small but significant difference in mindset the next time you play. Be patient and keep reminding yourself when you notice you're blowing rather than releasing. In the long run, you'll be able to play with much more efficient air management, build up stamina, and be able to have a whole variety in your expressive vocabulary.
To be able to work with the paradox of tension and release is the key! It's about internalizing, being conscious so that you no longer have to think about it anymore.
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.