"Daily Notes for Flutists" is an original creation of the Pikes Peak Flute Choir of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and all profits benefit our instrument/equipment acquisition fund. Currently, we're saving up for our second bass flute -- with membership just topping 30 players, we need one soon!|
Daily Notes is a 365-page desk/wall calendar -- each day you get a little tidbit of information that tells you something new, useful, or just weird about the flute (quotes, practical tips, bits of history, etc).
Like "page-a-day" calendars you find in bookstores, it's done in black ink on white paper; unlike those calendars, it doesn't come in a fancy box, and uses an environmentally-friendly cardboard base instead of a plastic one. Best yet, it's lovingly assembled by a crew of your fellow flutists, all jammed into our director's studio for an evening of hot glue and pizza!
My Comments As Printed In
The 1996 Pikes Peak Flute Calendar
- "The piccolo is not simply a small version of the flute. Although the difference between flute and piccolo is not as radical as with other woodwinds, there remains enough difference to make the task of learning both quite daunting for developing embouchures, fingers, and ears. In most cases, a good piccolo player practices piccolo and a good flute player practices flute. Doing both is certainly possible but I don't know of any short cut that successfully eliminates practicing both."
- "For many years I had to teach in a studio that was extremely dead. The inevitable result of playing in that room for any length of time was tightening and forcing in a futile attempt to make the tone ring. We all must learn to deal with poor acoustics, whether it be in a practice room or on a concert stage, but I can't help but believe that it is not healthy to spend great amounts of time practicing in spaces which are extremely dead or live. As in most things, it would appear to me that moderation is the key."
- "I learned long ago that when I arrive at a hall my first activity is to blow a note or two in the green room or wherever the help is shunted off to. If the room is extremely live or equally dead, I quit right there and refrain from playing another note. I try very hard to locate a space with rather average acoustics for the warm-up to a gig. There are enough emotional things going on right before a performance without having to deal with a space that either makes you sound like you play on a drain pipe or magically creates a sonority that would cause Moyse to swoon."
- "The world of amateur music making can, and does in many cases, have an extremely high standard. I don't know about you, but when I hear a beautiful phrase played live or on recording the first thought that enters my mind is not about how much the player was paid for that phrase."
- "As teachers we must not only pass on knowledge and understanding but also a sincere love for the art that we represent. Not everyone can or should proceed on to a profession in music and the elimination process should not leave a bad taste in the mouths of prospective musicians. I recoil at the idea that only the 'hot shot' players should be encouraged to proceed with their studies. This could be because I never was a 'hot shot'. In spite of that deficiency I have managed to make an acceptable living over a quarter of a century. Being devoted to raising the standard of performance should not come at the expense of maintaining a love for making music."
- "Although I no longer face catatonic trance when taking the stage, I still get the jitters and have (hopefully) learned how to rechanel that energy into the music. On that rare occsion when there is no nervousness I tend to give a very dull and boring performance."
- "During practice sessions in preparation for a performance I often imagine the hall complete with audience and myself walking across the stage to take my spot. I have even gone so far as putting on my shiny black shoes to further enhance the fantasy. I do the customary bow and the whole bit before playing the piece for my imaginary audience. I make every attempt to conjure the adrenaline flow that stimulates the nervous condition. I can actually make myself quite nervous when I do it with great intent."
- "While playing I try to maintain a vision of the energy flowing from my arms and body out through the flute and out to the back of the hall. When I can maintain this focus on communicating with the back of the hall, the shaking goes away and I seem to regain control of my lips and breathing without losing the high energy. It all sounds a bit esoteric, but it actually works for me."
My Comments As Printed In
The 1997 Pikes Peak Flute Calendar
- "One need only sit in the pit of a typical Broadway musical or a recording studio to observe the vast array of instruments surrounding the woodwind players. What you will not see is a woodwind player doubling on a brass instrument. I can think of no more damaging activity to a good flute embouchure than tightening the cheek muscles and buzzing the lips. Several years ago I had a high school flute student who was seriously considering entering a music program at university the following year. For reasons unknown to me, she began getting worse instead of better with each passing week. After several weeks of this problem, she entered a lesson and asked if I knew how to finger a particular note on the trumpet. When I asked why, she explained that her band teacher had convinced her to play trumpet because he needed a good player in that section. After a short lecture and a phone call to the band teacher, that was her last day of being a trumpet player. She has long since gone on to earn a bachelors degree as a flute major. That young student came precariously close to losing a potential career due to an innocent error."
- "Each woodwind has a myriad of technical skills to be mastered. Details regarding articulation, fingering, and wind speed/intensity are different for each instrument. I would include piccolo as a clearly separate instrument with regard to this aspect of doubling. One can learn many ways to use the tongue, one can memorize millions of fingerings, and one can even learn to vary the speed and intensity of blowing. The problem is that attempting to internalize these functions, so that they become completely natural and second nature, can be a lifelong task on a single instrument. Trying to accomplish this on many instruments is a lot to ask."
- "After nearly three decades of dedicating myself to becoming the best woodwind doubler that I could be, I made a decision to discard the entire
project and become a full-fledged flute player. The frustration of never being good enough at any one instrument became overwhelming, and fears of
not being able to earn a living as just a flute player began to fade. Five years ago I played my last Dixieland gig as a clarinet player, announced that this was the last time that I would be swabbing the clarinet, and that was that. The case has never been re-opened. The following year was spent studying in London and practicing from six to eight hours each day. I discovered what I knew had been missing, and I have never been more pleased with my humble playing skills."
- "If you enjoy playing many instruments, if your career and artistic goals are being satisfied, and if frustration is not part of your musical experience then keep right on doing it. Good music is made by musicians who love what they are doing. If you find that love through doubling, then go for it and love it."
- "I try to avoid the use of the word "accompanist" because it is not truly descriptive of the role of the piano player in a duo. There are many times when the piano player is expected to play the role of accompaniment but, more often than not, the two voices function as equal partners. I can't count the number of times that I have been saved on stage by an astute piano player who was able to compensate for one of my blunders. I try at all times to keep in mind that we are an equal partnership, and then act accordingly. In rehearsal I encourage input from the piano player on all aspects of the music. This includes thoughts about my tuning, tone quality, phrasing, tempos, etc. I try to discard many preconceived ideas about the piece and allow the musical ideas of the piano player to participate in the shaping of the work. I had the good fortune to work with one piano player on a regular basis for a period of nearly fifteen years. All of our music making was a joint effort, and at no time would I take a bow before her or retake the stage for a second bow alone. As flute players, it is in our own best interest to treat piano players with the respect that they deserve. If our performances are deemed wonderful, we must not lose sight of the fact that we did not do it alone."
- "The topic of judging your own tone quality is a complicated one. We hearour sound from the outside, as the audience does, but from a much closer
proximity. We also hear a certain amount of sound which arrives at the listening mechanism from the inside of our head. I find in my students a strong tendency to cover more and more lip plate in order to create what they believe to be a pure and centered tone. The result is limited carrying power and, from a distance, a strangled kind of sound. When the lip plate is more open they begin to hear all sorts of hissing and wind noise but the tone carries and sounds quite lovely from a distance."
- "Geoffrey Gilbert once suggested that the best place to locate a microphone to record a flute is slightly above and behind the head of the player. I once found a recording technician who was willing to try that setup, and it did make a nice recording."
- "It was a warm and sunny day in the spring of 1987. The air had that pure sweet smell of new blossoms and life seemed so peaceful. For reasons that still elude me, I chose to take my vintage Powell #757 to work that day. My students were meeting me in the recital hall for their final lessons before next week's juries, and each had arranged for a piano player to attend. My old flute was resting comfortably on top of the closed grand piano while I was checking my students' sound from various places in the hall. I turned to face the stage just in time to see a piano player rush up to the piano. Without looking at the top, she began to raise the lid. I let out a shriek as the old Powell began it's bumpy roll across the raised piano lid. Never before had my body moved with such swiftness, but at the same time I arrived at the stage apron the flute hit the floor with a clang and a thud. The piano player was mortified, my student was terrified, and I was in a state of shock. The damage has long since been repaired, but it will be a good long time before I ever lay my flute to rest on top of a grand piano again."
- "I strongly encourage my students to use a metronome at certain points in their daily practice routine, but I warn of the possibility of becoming
metronome dependent. Since the task at hand is to develop the ability to feel stable tempos without relying on a machine or another musician, I do not suggest using the tool all the time. I prefer to think of it as a device for checking to see just how well you are really doing. I rarely would suggest that a student should use a metronome to play through an entire piece. Music -- like language -- must breathe, and in most works there are moments when motion alters according to the emotion of the moment. A metronomic performance is often devoid of much musical expression."
- "I recall Geoffrey Gilbert speaking once about what he referred to as 'perfect rhythm' - the inate ability to judge accurate metronomic pulses without the use of any tools. He said that this was a useful and rare condition. Far be it from me to criticize his wisdom, but I do believe that players tend to develop an extremely high degree of what I will call 'relative rhythm.' For several years I taught across the hall from a voice teacher who was forever forgetting to bring her metronome to work. It was commonplace for me to answer a knock at the door and be greeted with, "96 please?" I would then close my eyes, concentrate for a moment and then begin clicking my fingers. She would hurry across the hall and pass the tempo on to her student. When tested I was rarely off by more than a number or two. There was no magic going on, just many years of playing jazz, playing for dancers, and using the metronome on a regular basis."
- "The setting was a masterclass. I was busy playing from center stage when Geoffrey Gilbert wrapped his hand around my music stand and carted it about 20 feet away. My playing stopped as the audience began to titter. Gilbert then asked, "Can you see the music?" When I responded with a resounding "no" he then said, "Good -- keep playing." To my utter amazement I could keep playing. Once I was done, Mr. Gilbert explained the importance of not becoming too fixed on the stand and, instead, being more concerned with communication with the audience. He was often annoyed with players who set the music too high, and he was equally distressed by players who folded over in the middle in an attempt to look down at a low music stand that was placed too close. He referred to this posture as the 'flute crouch' and had a lot of fun with people who were caught in the act. His advice was always: stand upright, place the music low and at least the length of a flute away from you, and look down with your eyes -- not your head."
- "I recommend my students to use the Taffanel et Gaubert daily exercises and have them extend all of the patterns to D4. It isn't pleasant at first but if you really want security and comfort up to C4, then practicing these patterns (or any for that matter) up to the D4 is just the thing."
- "I try to reserve a few minutes at the end of many lessons for a little sight reading session with my students. I must say that I have never come across an easy way to learn to sight read better. It does seem that doing lots of it is the most sure way of developing greater skills. When using duets for sight reading, I have the student read through both parts. We then switch parts at the beginning of each new line and then at each bar line. When the duet is not too difficult we try to switch parts every beat. It is always fun and does seem to encourage looking farther ahead."
- "Flute teachers do not come with a guarantee or a manual. They do, however, come with a set of credentials. One way to assess if a flute teacher is good is to take a look at the teacher's track record both as a performer and as a teacher. If you like what you see and hear, then possibly the teacher will be the one for you. Since playing any instrument is such a personal thing, there are as many ways of playing and teaching as there are players. A personal chemistry exists between each student and each teacher that cannot be duplicated. When the chemistry is right and the teacher has a great track record, then the end result is most likely going to be good."
- "My old flutes get somewhere between two and four hours of work nearly every day, and I find that visits to the shop happen about twice each year.
The problems that creep up are extremely slight but, as they add up, the instruments become more and more difficult to play. If I allow too much time to pass between visits to the shop, then my finger pressure begins to slowly adjust to the increased leaking. I would much rather repair the flute more often than wait for a long time and have to fix myself when the mechanism is restored to good condition."
Many thanks to Kathy Russell for selecting and editing my words.
President, Pikes Peak Flute Choir
12915 Myrick Road
Colorado Springs, CO 80908