Posts Tagged ‘flute lessons’

How will YOU speak through music?

March 12, 2016

By Eric Siegel

Practice, for some, can be harder than playing the instrument itself. Practice is easy when we start simple. Just about everything in music can be broken down into fundamental but little bits that need to be committed to memory. When you confidently know the note names, note values, each fingering, etc., you find that you won’t just be playing the music – you’ll be reading it, too! When you can read music, your vocabulary and ability will increase to intermediate concepts like phrasing, dynamics, and tempo/rhythm change. With enough retention, you might even forget that you’re reading the music at that point. You’ll be back to playing it, but with emotion and a more mature sound. Music really becomes a language.

Is it how much you practice that will make you better? No!!! Practice isn’t always how long you play your instrument. Practice is taking what is learned in lessons and applying that knowledge to your time playing your instrument before meeting again. In a world attached to busy and ever-changing schedules and so many people and things to take responsibility of, take 15-30 minutes of your day to get better at even just one aspect of your playing. Then, commit that to memory. Another day, another dollar.

Air is free, so breathe it all in – and lots of it! Flute, clarinet and saxophone aren’t woodwind instruments for no reason. Woodwind instruments are inoperable without a pair of lungs and lots of air, after all. They possess the clearest sound and tone with air backed up with abdominal (tummy) strength and control. Without an instrument in hand, try putting both your hands on your lower back and take a deep stomach-breath. That’s both of your lungs expanding. We need to use – one more time! – LOTS of air because the air has a bit of a ways to travel!

Have you ever blown air across an empty glass bottle and you’d hear it make a tone? The direction and speed of the air you’re blowing causes the bottle to vibrate fast enough to create a sound. The same principle stands with playing the flute, but optimal sound comes from knowing where to “point” the direction of the airstream, as well as air speed. Unlike the clarinet and saxophone, creating a flute sound doesn’t come from blowing into the instrument with a wooden reed. The speed of the air is what causes the flute to vibrate and, thus, sound. This makes flute tone all the more unique from clarinet and saxophone!

A clarinetist could hold the prestigious role of concertmaster for a world-renowned wind ensemble, but have just as much fun improvising with a big band if he or she wanted to! The clarinet has a recognizable sound that is versatile and uniquely colorful. Part of that is due to its dark wooden body, unlike the brass-bodied flute & saxophone. Whether an instrument is conical or cylindrical also affects what it will sound like; in this case, clarinet and flute possess cylindrical bodies.

Saxophone is arguably the instrument closest-sounding to the human voice. It has the ability to string out the emotions, energy and other characteristics of any genre. It can sound as beautiful to you as it sounds harsh to me, or vice versa! Just as every human being has a voice, every saxophonist has a sound.

How will YOU speak through music?

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Oops! It’s Broken

January 11, 2012

by Greg Warren, Woodwind Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Greg Warren, Woodwind Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Greg Warren

As a player of woodwind instruments I have learned many lessons about how easily they can bend and break.  The saxophone, flute, and clarinet are fragile instruments.  When you have played as long as I have you learn that the tiniest of bumps to the delicate buttons, levers and, rods can severely impact the instruments playability or sound.  It is never fun to struggle on an instrument especially during a performance. Your mind needs to be free of concern for the instrument so you can play without any inhibitions.  With the first round of school concerts and recitals having just passed or coming up you want your instrument to be in peak working condition.

The reason I am addressing this particular problem is because I have been seeing lots of bumps and bends happening to quite a few instruments in the last month or so.  I believe this is a result of students becoming more comfortable with their instruments.  This causes you to lose focus and concentration concerning the expensive instrument in your hands.  One time it happened to me right before a gig I was playing in Vail.  I was back stage talking to some friends when my sax fell off of my lap hitting the floor pretty hard.  The damage was severe, it could not be fixed.  We were going on stage in 15 minutes and at this point in my career I did not have a back up horn.  I ended up having to play the flute on a bunch of songs I didn’t know on the flute.  I love the flute but that was hard.  It was not the best gig I have ever played but at least I had a flute.

Here are some tips for all the woodwind families to help avoid damaging your instrument.  These care tips are common to all of the woodwind instruments.

  • Make sure that all corks are thoroughly greased.  The cork can easily dry up in this dry Colorado climate of ours.  It is not a major repair but can be avoided easily.
  • When concerning metal to metal connections on the flutes and saxophones, they only need to be wiped with a dry rag to prevent sticking.  Never put any kind of grease on these joints; they become very slippery.
  • When assembling woodwind instruments take care to be firm but gentle.  Holding these instruments while assembling can cause a lot of damage; if you are not holding the instrument in the correct places you risk bending the long rods that make the keys move up and down.
  • Always clean your instrument after playing.  Saliva and condensation will collect on the walls of all woodwind instruments while being played.  If it is not dried out regularly things can start to grow, I know from experience.  Sometimes a smell will develop and a professional has to help get rid of the gunk on the inside of the instrument.  This is more common on the saxophone with all its curves.
  • Most importantly, just be aware of your surroundings.  Over time the instrument will become part of you and bumping into things or accidentally dropping it will stop, or become less frequent anyways.

As I said before, it will happen to every single one of us sometime in our musical career.  All we can do is be vigilant about how we treat our instruments and hope for the best.  Most musicians I know have a back up instrument or a really good friend to borrow a replacement from when things go bad.  When you become a professional, having a back up is a must.  Now go practice, but be careful not to drop or bump into anything with your instrument.

Become Versatile, Stay in Demand

April 28, 2011

By Cobus du Toit, Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Cobus du Toit, Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Cobus du Toit

Jack of all trades, Master of none. This proverb is taught to us from a very young age. We are brought up to believe that it is better focusing all of your attention on one skill rather than spreading your attention on various things. Every occupation has a specialty field. If you are a lawyer you can specialize in divorce, property or criminal law. Doctors have the opportunity to specialize in different types of surgery. Naturally, it would make sense for a musician to specialize in one particular instrument and become a master of their trade. Unless, you are one of the lucky few in the entertainment industry; I have found this to be the complete opposite.

When you are a saxophone major in college, you are required to take clarinet and flute lessons. Why if you are a violinist do they not require you take viola lessons? Or a cellist double bass lessons? I have heard numerous times that a string quartet is in desperate need of a violist for a background music function or that a musical at the local community center needs a player who can play saxophone, clarinet and flute. Why not expand on your current skill set and become the musician that is in popular demand?  Piano players are also in high demand in most areas. There is always a pianist somewhere who got sick on a Sunday morning before a church service. Needless to say, good sight reading plays a big part in this so it is important to keep up on this skill too.

I did both my undergraduate and Master’s Degree in flute performance, but I have always kept up my piano skills. I also saw that my friends who were Saxophone majors got much more freelance work than I did, so I took up the Saxophone and Clarinet. If you think about it, why would someone pay three people if one person can do the job?

We all dream about playing a concerto with the New York Philharmonic someday but, until that happens, we as musicians need to make money somehow. My advice to you is to start as many instruments as early as possible. Do a little bit of research in your area and find out which instruments are in high demand.

At the end of the day, we choose music as a career because we love music first, and then the instrument.

Can You See What You’re Playing? And I’m not talking about the notes on the page.

March 9, 2010

By Hollie Bennett, Intern at The Lesson Studio

You know you’re a true music nerd when you start finding all the similarities between everything you do or see and how it could relate to music. And you know you’re especially bad when you just see something and bam! Now that you watched that special on the Discovery channel about outer space, you know how you can explain vibrato to the twelve year old. But really, finding those parallels between, let’s just call it this for fun, the “real world” and the “music world” can help you understand exactly what you’re doing even more than before.

Imagery is such a staple part in music, at least for me. Hearing a piece of music that really attaches itself to me makes me feel in colors, imagine stories and truly understand the emotion that the composer or performer was trying to convey. Part of me thinks that as a musician that is your true purpose in life is to tell the story, show the audience what is happening, even if you don’t know, you need to show that you do. Sometimes doing crazy things like pulling out your box of 64 Crayola crayons that you haven’t used since the fourth grade and literally coloring your music the color that you thinks conveys each part of your piece can do wonders. Even making up words to go along with what you’re playing or seeing a story that can play out in your head can get the emotional and expressive side to connect with the technical of your playing.

One of my favorite topics to bring up to students is the Olympics. I’ve probably been driving my students crazy trying to convince them to watch everything from figure skating to the super-g to curling. The parallels between musicians and athletes are really interesting to me. How much work each party puts into perfecting their own craft is mind blowing: hours in practice versus hours on the ice or snow. You can find so many similarities. Figure skating spins and trills is one of my own teacher’s favorite analogies. You can also think of the idea of balancing between technique and musicality as the way a speed skater like Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski balance around their turns with speed skating. So go out and try to find those parallels and start imagining them will you play. It might just help even more than you’d think!

Meet other flute players!

February 23, 2010

By: Hollie Bennett, CU Intern at The Lesson Studio

Music is a social activity.  Meeting new people by playing in small or large ensembles such as duets, chamber groups, bands, etc., is one of the most basic parts of playing music that many people overlook as being as important.  Not only do you meet new people but you also can celebrate your love for music and personal growth with people you care about. In my opinion, this is the best part of music. It brings people together.

Although this is such a great aspect of music, it can also be the scariest. The way we criticize ourselves as musicians automatically seems to carry over into what we assume others think of us. Anyone has been nervous about performing in front of others, even if the people you are performing for aren’t going to judge you musically in any way, the nerves kick in causing us to not be the best we can be. Once you overcome those nerves of playing for someone else, it can show such beneficial results. As a stepping stone of getting there, playing with someone else can really help you get to where you want to be whether that’s playing your favorite etude in a round with the person who sits next to you in band class at school or just sight reading duets with your roommate or brother/sister. Doing something new with your musical routine can help you grow as a musician in different ways.

With some instruments, finding a group of people of people to play with can be more accessible than with some. As a flute player, it can be easier than you think. Joining a group like the Colorado Flute Association (or the CFA as most flutists call it) can link you in with other flutists in your area. Even if you don’t really want to pay the membership fee to become a part of this organization, you can always just visit their website. There you can find directories ranging from links for maintenance shops specializing in repairing flutes ranging from piccolo to bass flute, music groups to participate in such as flute choirs, orchestras, bands, and festivals, and even reputable flute teachers in your area. They even have information about local flute fairs coming up where you can meet other flute players your own age, sit in or participate in master classes, and learn all kinds of new things about your flute and your playing. So stretch out of your box and find a flute choir in your area or maybe even attend the next Flute Fair! (March 6th with Jill Felber on CU-Boulder’s campus)

Woodwind Equipment Care

November 5, 2009

An athlete needs his or her body to function at the highest level in order to be successful. To make this happen they take great care to eat well, get plenty of sleep, etc. An athlete knows that if they don’t take care of their body then they won’t be able to perform at their true potential. As musicians this is something we should take to heart. If we do not take care of our instrument, whether it be a saxophone, clarinet, flute or oboe, it can cause all sorts of problems that will keep us from playing at our true potential. What is even worse is that sometimes we don’t realize these problems are due to the instrument and think we are just incapable of playing well.

Here are a few tips on how to maintain and care for your woodwind instrument:

1) Never eat food or drink pop before you play. (Pretty easy.) This can cause food or sugar to get stuck to the pads and make them sticky. Getting pads replaced can be quite expensive. If you have to play after you eat (as I have to do many times) make sure you wash out your mouth at minimum, although brushing your teeth is most ideal.

2) Always swab out your instrument. This is another really simple thing to do. When you are done playing your instrument run a swab through it. This keeps the condensation and spit that gets in your instrument while playing from eating away at the pads while it rests in your case. For wooden instruments (clarinets, oboes) it also helps protect the wood from cracking (a very pricey repair). The best swab to get is a silk one. While slightly more expensive than its cloth counterpart, it does a much better job and is much more durable (I’ve had mine for about ten years now). Every now and then you just need to rinse it off in the sink and hang it up to dry.

3) Keep your reeds in a bag. Have you ever wondered why the tip of your reed is all wavy when taken out? It happens because the reed dries out too quickly. This can happen very easily in the dry air of Boulder. By keeping your reeds in a plastic sandwich bag you can slow down how quickly they dry out. This will help reeds last longer and be more consistent. Some people will put a small piece of a damp sponge in the bag with the reeds to increase the humidity, but you have to be careful. Too much humidity, or if you leave them in the bag too long with out taking them out (shame on you for not practicing!LOL!), can cause the reeds to mold.

4) Rotate through your reeds. It means spending more now, but if you have five to ten reeds instead of one or two, and you keep switching off which one you play on, they will last a lot longer.

There are many other things you can do to help your instrument play to the best of its ability. These are just the simplest ones. For slightly more complicated care (oiling keys, etc) I suggest you have an expert, like one of the instructors at The Lesson Studio, show you how to do it properly in person. It is ideal if you are taking lessons, because the instructor can give you a hands-on lesson on proper instrument care. They would also be likely to catch any problems with your instrument. Good luck with your musical endeavors.

To contact Mike G. about woodwind maintenance or to inquire about a private lesson with Mike, please call 303-543-3777, or send an e-mail to: tls@qwestoffice.net.saxophone