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flute advice sought

GUEST,leeneia 11 Aug 11 - 09:33 AM
JohnInKansas 11 Aug 11 - 08:09 PM
Crowhugger 11 Aug 11 - 08:14 PM
GUEST,leeneia 12 Aug 11 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,leeneia 12 Aug 11 - 10:56 AM
Bernard 12 Aug 11 - 11:09 AM
Jack Campin 12 Aug 11 - 01:16 PM
SteveMansfield 12 Aug 11 - 01:46 PM
Bernard 12 Aug 11 - 01:58 PM
GUEST,leeneia 12 Aug 11 - 01:58 PM
Bernard 12 Aug 11 - 02:01 PM
Bernard 12 Aug 11 - 02:02 PM
GUEST,leeneia 12 Aug 11 - 05:00 PM
JohnInKansas 12 Aug 11 - 11:04 PM
Helen 13 Aug 11 - 01:32 AM
Jack Campin 13 Aug 11 - 04:32 AM
GloriaJ 13 Aug 11 - 04:58 AM
JohnInKansas 13 Aug 11 - 05:00 AM
Jack Campin 13 Aug 11 - 07:31 AM
JohnInKansas 13 Aug 11 - 08:58 AM
GUEST,leeneia 13 Aug 11 - 09:01 AM
SteveMansfield 13 Aug 11 - 09:12 AM
SteveMansfield 13 Aug 11 - 01:42 PM
GUEST,leeneia 13 Aug 11 - 05:06 PM
Bernard 14 Aug 11 - 01:31 AM
Tootler 14 Aug 11 - 05:51 PM
Tootler 14 Aug 11 - 06:10 PM
GUEST,leeneia 17 Aug 11 - 10:25 PM
SteveMansfield 18 Aug 11 - 08:41 AM
GUEST,leeneia 18 Aug 11 - 09:38 AM
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Subject: flute advice sought
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 09:33 AM

I've been taking lessons and practicing, but I just can't seem to get the high notes (E and above) on my wooden flute in D. It's not the flute it's me, because others can play the instrument just fine.

Do any flute players have any tips, techniques or metaphors that might help me get those high notes without sqeaks and without low undertones?

All I want to do is to be able to play up to high B, the usual high note in a jig or reel.

Thanks


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 08:09 PM

In most similar instruments, the squeaks usually are caused by a tiny bit of leakage at one of the keys/pads/fingerholes. On some "padded" instruments pressing too hard may produce unexpected leaks on some keypads, but it's usually from letting off the finger pressure on one or another key while you're concentrationg on another problem. On unpadded holes, "squeezing down" when you concentrate on something sometimes may cause you to "roll the finger pad" a little off the hole.

Poor tone and inability to produce some notes is likely to be due to a mismatch between the "mouth tuning" and the instrument tuning. Ideally, the "backing cavity resonant pitch" of your mouth and throat needs to be close to the resonance of the instrument at the pitch you have fingered. A "mismatch" causes the "node" at the entry to the sounding part of the instrument to "wobble in and out" of the hole (or the reed cavity on other instruments), affecting both the stability and the tonal quality of the note sounded.

A good practice excercise is to blow - without the flute - so that the pitch you "think" is present in the air stream. It doesn't have to "whistle" but even a free flow will have a "pitch" that's discernable if you're producing a "clean flow." Practice "running up and down scales" to try to feel how you're adjusting your headbones (mostly tongue for most people and for high notes, but throat "tension" changes can affect lower pitches) as you change the pitch.

When you have a "sense" of how to "make the pitch in your mouth" applying the same tuning with correct embouchure and "into the flute" may give you a better control and tone.

For the higher notes on a flute, you may have to squeeze down the mouth volume to fairly tiny sizes. where stability of the flow can be more difficult to control, but for most people the notes in the flute range are achievable with a little (always a little more)practice.

I have met a couple who confessed that they just had "too big a mouth" to be successful with certain instruments, but that's probably not your problem(???) ;>) (?). (And the ones who made that claim probably were just too busy yapping all the time about how hard it was to really practice seriously.)

The usual advice to "blow harder" to get the high notes is technically incorrect, but works sometimes because when you try to blow harder you instinctively "tighten up" the mouth so that you may accidentally "tune up" to the note. It does, on many instruments, require a slightly higher air velocity for stable high notes than for low notes (which may need more air volume), but you have more control over the velocity by "making a smaller hole to blow through," sometimes with a very little more pressure, than by concentrating on cranking up the pressure and blowing the top of your head off.

Many people who play quite well do a lot of things "right" by accident. For some that seems to be the only way they can learn(?). No need to argue with what works; but "being in tune with the instrument" is probably the most basic thing that really helps with most wind instruments, and that's really hard to learn through anything other than lots of practice.

John


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: Crowhugger
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 08:14 PM

What has your teacher suggested so far that hasn't worked for you?


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 09:56 AM

Thanks for all the insights John. That was great. You brought up factors I hadn't even considered.

Crowhugger - I've tried playing the head joint by itself, playing more gently (I was working too hard), rolling the flute in or out, and just plain practicing.

What about tonguing? Will changing from 'too' to 'tee' help?


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 10:56 AM

and tongueing. [however you spell that] I just don't get it.

If I actually say 'too,' there is a harsh, adenoidal break in the music. When I play, I make new notes with a subtle movement of my tongue, or with my breath. Is that permissable?

My teacher said that I should tongue without actually breaking the airstream. In my book, it is impossible to say 'too' without interrupting the airstream.

JOhn, your phrase 'throat tension' seems helpful. I am practicing and thinking about keeping my throat relaxed. I believe the muscles in my throat were pushing hard and overpowering my mouth and lips.


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: Bernard
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 11:09 AM

You may find you need to use 'cross-fingerings' - try high 'E' without both index fingers, for example.

Your high 'D' should only be your left hand middle and ring fingers, no index finger and no right hand...

See how that goes, and we'll try more!


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 01:16 PM

For tonguing, other consonants produce a softer attack than "t" - try d, l, or r. Further back in the mouth you can try k or g. It's a good idea to practice all of them so you can vary the attack.


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 01:46 PM

You may find you need to use 'cross-fingerings' - try high 'E' without both index fingers, for example.

Your high 'D' should only be your left hand middle and ring fingers, no index finger and no right hand...

See how that goes, and we'll try more!


Bernard I may be wrong,in which case I apologise, but I think we're talking problems in the 2nd octave here, not the dizzy heights of the 3rd octave!


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: Bernard
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 01:58 PM

Oops!!


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 01:58 PM

Right, Steve. The highest I plan to go is the B above the staff.

I'll still experiment with some cross-fingerings, so thanks, Bernard.

I have a silver flute, but I'm afraid of it. Hard to explain.


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: Bernard
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 02:01 PM

In which case, tightening the lips with more blowing accuracy should do the job! The air stream needs to be directed at the opposite edge of the blow 'ole... a silly grin helps, too!


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: Bernard
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 02:02 PM

Don't be afraid of the silver flute - it's actually easier!


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 05:00 PM

I'll bear that in mind, thanks.

I tried lifting the index finger on the E and produced a shriek which hurt my ear and caused the cat to yelp in protest. Clearly a wooden flute can't do all the things a silver flute can do.


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 12 Aug 11 - 11:04 PM

Most people do find the metal flutes easier, especially for learning. The "hole" on the metal ones can be formed with great precision, so they're all the same, while there inevitably is some variation in wood flutes. As long as you're mostly playing a single instrument I wouldn't expect much differenc in which you use. With experience you'll probably be able to accomodate any small variations "unconsciously" and won't even realize you've done it.

People (including teachers) give the same tonguing instructions for saxophones and clarinets, where you can actually touch the reed with the tongue to stop the air flow. With a flute there isn't a "flute place" to put your tongue, so you'll probably "poke your tongue in the hole" or use the gums just above the teeth. The preference seems to be for "not slobbering in the hole" so some place a little within the mouth is the default. The idea is to put your tongue "somewhere" so that even though everything else is just as if you're blowing - there's no air flow. When you pull your tongue off your "stop point" the air flow starts abruptly. The motion of the tongue is approximately the same as if you were saying "too" (or some say "tu") but you're not trying to say anything. The only thing that matters is that the air flow starts as abruptly as possible. If it were possible to "start" without stopping first, nobody would talk about the stopping part of it, but it seems necessary to do a preparatory stop before there's a possibilty for you to "very quickly start blowing."

The only distinction that phoneticists make between "t" and "d" is that the "t" is "unvoiced" and a "d" Is "voiced" (your vocal cords rattle a bit with the "d"). The mouth configuration and the tongue motions are identical for both - for most people.

You do NOT want any "voicing" associated with the tongue motions used to "tongue the notes" on any instrument I can think of. (kazoo maybe? - but do you really want to call it an instrument?)

(You gotta insult somebody once in a while, don't ya.)

Some other instruments use a "flutter tongue" technique but I've never heard of it being used on a flute, and have difficulty seeing what method would be preferred to do it on one. That technique is probably best left for an "advanced lesson" - if it ever comes up.

Even for saxophones, where "flutter tonguing" is used fairly frequently by a few, Rascher (a very famous saxophonist that nobody ever heard of) described it as sort of a "parlor trick" appropriate "only if you're the saxophonist in a jug band" or something like that. Others disagree, of course.

John


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: Helen
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 01:32 AM

I started learning (a silver) flute some decades ago, and can now play just enough to keep myself amused, but I have a way of explaining the difference between playing the lower octave, and the higher one.

Imagine you are talking at normal volume to a friend, and suddenly see another friend across the room or along the hall. If you shout across the room, not yelling loudly, but loudly enough for your other friend to hear you, how does your breathing change, and how does the way you shout differ from the way you talk to the person standing next to you? It seems to me that the "Hey, we're over here!" shout is the type of physiological process which makes it easier to do the higher notes on the flute.

You might find that being aware of that difference helps you to be more aware of how you play the higher notes.

I used to be a class teacher too, so it's the difference between talking to one student to explain something, interspersed with "Johnny, sit back down and I'll come over there and talk to you next".

Helen


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 04:32 AM

The only distinction that phoneticists make between "t" and "d" is that the "t" is "unvoiced" and a "d" Is "voiced" (your vocal cords rattle a bit with the "d"). The mouth configuration and the tongue motions are identical for both - for most people.

No it isn't. "d" is less percussive, which is why all flute books distinguish the two.


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: GloriaJ
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 04:58 AM

I take it you are playing a wooden "simple system" flute - called a concert flute by the irish.In which case the problem wont be the pads, because you dont have any, nor, in my opinion, is it likely to be about different kinds of tonguing.
It's difficult without hearing you play or seeing the flute, of course, but I teach flute for comhaltas,and sometimes the problem is the way the instrument is set up.There is a cork in the end of the flute.If this isnt in the right position,it can make the higher octave hard to get (but the lower notes will be strong) - and the reverse applies too,its a compromise.So look at that - it's easily remedied.
The note E is usually a little weak on wooden flutes anyway and any leak from your fingering will stop it sounding.As you probably know, the way you blow has to change as you ascend the scale - gets tighter and more concentrated.
Finally, of course most classical music was played on wooden 5 or 6 -keyed flutes - the boehm system(which is what makes the difference,not the material the flute's made of) was only really adopted early in the last century.With five keys you can,at least theoretically, play anything in any key.One reason the Boehm system is superior is that it enables you to play in all octaves easily and in tune.But I still prefer the wooden flute.


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 05:00 AM

Jack -

Not worth a quibble, but the "percussiveness" is only apparent in a few languages, and in the more general cases the phoneticists say there's no difference except one being voiced and the other non-voiced.

In phonetic notation, there's an additional "mark" to indicate addition of the "percussiveness" to any stop, as opposed to an "ordinary" version of one. The usage indicated by that mark may be common in your circles, but isn't often used in most of the examples where I've looked for such differences. (N. Chomsky taught a fairly interesting course in linguistic phonetic notation, and I always he assumed he made the marks in standard fashion and had a decent ear for the subtleties.)

In my younger days I did notice that the flutists in the band (all female in my acquaintance then) seemed to have "exqusitely seductive lips" so maybe they do speak differently. If so, I would need to apologize for dismissing the characteristic in those I knew as just representing an unusual selection of "specially gifted" persons.

Perhaps if that one I thought might be the most appropriate subject had been more amenable to my suggestion(s) about studies involving appropriate "lip tests" I'd know more on the subject, but ....

John


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 07:31 AM

The difference doesn't have to track the phonetic features of any particular language (nobody ever suggests voicing the "d" or "g" when tonguing a flute). I would guess the articulation was first described with the sounds of Italian or French in mind, and both of those have the "d" definitely less percussive than the "t".

Quantz probably described it in minute detail but I don't have his book with me here.


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 08:58 AM

There is often a distinct difference between the typical sounds, especially of consonant "stops" in speech and the results many people get when they attempt to articulate an "isolated consonant."

Most of the theories that I've seen do deal primarily with the sounds used in speech, and have given little discussion for how the sounds might be affected in trying to isolate the individual parts "out of context."

It is possible that some have found a difference for "isolated bare stop" pronunciations that's "differently different" than needed for descriptions of speech, and a difference of this kind might be persistent enough to make it useful in conveying the "idea" of something like tonguing in music performance.

I'll certainly agree that reality often is more complex and more subtle than any particular theory, especially when discussing something even a little bit off the track beaten within a particular theory.

Even a slight suggestion of a specific difference in the stops as used in tonguing would be sufficient for most students to forever hear the suggested difference, especially since most people ordinarily devote so little attention to how they actually form speech sounds that it would be difficult (in most languages) to explain the difference between a "voiced glottal fricative" and "hacking a loogie."

John


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 09:01 AM

Thank you Helen, for the analogy about calling across the room.

Gloria, I'll have my teacher take a look at the position of the cork.

My flute is unique.   It came as a keyless, a wooden flute made by Ralph Sweet. I couldn't hope to reach the third hole from the top, so I took it to an instrument-repair person, and she bent a bassoon key of the right size to fit the hole. It works like a charm.

Yesterday I decided to let the high notes rest for a while. I got out an old hymnal, the Lutheran Book of Worship, and paged through it, playing hymns in D and G. It sounded pretty good, and occasionally it sounded magical.

Of course I intend to use the suggestions here to get back to the high notes.


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 09:12 AM

I tried lifting the index finger on the E and produced a shriek which hurt my ear and caused the cat to yelp in protest. Clearly a wooden flute can't do all the things a silver flute can do.

Well I'm not sure that follows to be honest - I'm far less experienced on Boehm flutes than on wooden flute, but I'm pretty sure that the silver flute would produce an equally horrible noise if you applied a wrong fingering and got the blowing wrong on one of them too! As discussed the fingerings Bernard was suggesting are for the 3rd octave - try them with an embouchure and blowing for the 2nd octave and you will indeed upset your cat.

I can't really offer anything over what's already been said further up the thread on the original question, but a wooden flute will happily play in all the common keys found in traditional music. The tone is quite different to a silver flute, so (massive over-generalisation ahoy!) you might want to consider whether you want to be producing the sweeter tone of a silver flute or the earthier thicker tones of the wooden flute. Compare Joanie Madden to Michael McGoldrick - both brilliant technicians and players, but you really can hear a difference in tone despite Madden's excellent efforts to get a wooden-flute tone out of her Boehm.

If others have played your flute and had no difficulty getting the upper notes, then we can assume the flute itself is OK and it's the player that needs to put the work in to get the upper notes - and that, I'm afraid, is just down to putting the hours in on practice, following the advice given above.

Suddenly the penny will drop and it will all be worthwhile, but there just isn't any shortcut to spending the time playing the instrument ...


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 01:42 PM

Oh and be *very* careful about moving the cork in the head to compensate for a perceived issue with the flute.

Unless you (or even your flute teacher, because being a flute teacher doesn't automatically make you a flute technician or maker) know *exactly* what you are doing you stand a far better chance of ruining the flute completely than you do of fixing your current problems.

Having an experience flute repairer move the cork might, in some cases, help with tuning the octaves or the lower notes; but it almost guaranteed won't help you get notes that you can't get but other people can get on the same instrument.


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 05:06 PM

Yes, Steve, I believe you are right. I don't think it's worth it to tinker with the cork.


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: Bernard
Date: 14 Aug 11 - 01:31 AM

Agreed - unless someone has already messed with the cork plug (absent-mindedly twirling the adjuster without realising what it's for), it's unlikely to have moved since manufacture! In many cases, especially with older wooden flutes, it will probably have become stuck solid... I keep mine greased to prevent that happening, not sure why, really!

If it's in the wrong place, the octaves will be a little out of tune with each other - a bit like moving the bridge on a stringed instrument. Other than that, leave well alone!


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: Tootler
Date: 14 Aug 11 - 05:51 PM

The only distinction that phoneticists make between "t" and "d" is that the "t" is "unvoiced" and a "d" Is "voiced" (your vocal cords rattle a bit with the "d"). The mouth configuration and the tongue motions are identical for both - for most people.

As Jack says, there is a difference between "t" and "d" tonguing and it has to with the position of the tongue.

With a "t" tonguing, the tongue is placed directly behind the teeth - actually touching them whereas with a "d" tonguing, the tongue is placed on the hard palate in the roof of the mouth and is not touching the back of the teeth. The result is that a "t" tonguing gives a sharper attack than a "d". An even softer tonguing is to use "r" which again uses the roof of the mouth but you don't get the slight explosion of sound at all (I believe linguistics experts call "d" and "t" sounds "plosives" which is a good description) and so gives a softer attack still.

"g" and "k" sounds bring the back of the tongue in contact with the roof of the mouth and are usually used in double and triple tonguing to enable effective rapid tonguing of groups of notes of short duration.

Quantz is still considered to be the best authority on tonguing of flutes and his techniques are as much used by recorder players as by flautists so if Jack has a copy of Quantz, he will be spot on.

The point about different languages is a valid one as the consonants suggested for the different tonguings do vary from language to language but d, t, r, k & g are the main ones I have come across from being given tonguing advice in English.


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: Tootler
Date: 14 Aug 11 - 06:10 PM

As far as leeneia's problem is concerned I think I said much the same as Bernard about directing the airflow more precisely but my post seems to have suffered from the disappearing post syndrome. As you go higher, you need a more precise and somewhat narrower airstream. Also the position of your mouth over the embouchure hole is important. It is a matter of trial and error to some extent. With my flute, I need to have the far side of the embouchure hole roughly in line with the centre line of the finger holes and even then I need to roll the flute back and forward slightly to find the optimum position. It's also important to make sure the fingers are properly covering the finger holes, so when I put the flute together, I usually play bottom D, second octave D and second octave G to ensure everything is right. In the process, I also need to move the head joint in and out to tune it as I don't have a tuning slide. In some ways it is a bit of a beast, but it has a wonderful tone so it's well worth the effort.

Here is a clip of me playing Da Slockit Light. Not sure if it's any help but it's a great tune :-)


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 17 Aug 11 - 10:25 PM

Thanks for the insights. I've been trying to rotate the flute when a high note approaches. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

I've found that relaxing my throat helps a lot. I didn't realize I had been tensing it.


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 18 Aug 11 - 08:41 AM

There's some good and relevant advice over on this thread on Chiff and Fipple ...


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Subject: RE: flute advice sought
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 18 Aug 11 - 09:38 AM

Thanks for the link, Steve. There are some good tips there. It's interesting how many ways there are of attacking the same problem, from using metaphor, practicing on a different instrument, to spitting rice.

I'm also glad to see that other people have an aversion to fat paragraphs on the screen. I thought I was the only one, but a couple people there bring it up.


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