"Oiling" the Pinkie
What This Term Incorporates
In this work, the term "facility" is often used in place of the more commonly used "technique." Geoffrey Gilbert, Trevor Wye, and Peter Lloyd all make a distinction between these two terms. Technique refers to every aspect of flute playing working together in concert. Facility is the physical ability to move quickly--being facile. This is not to say that they never used the term "technique" in reference to finger facility when talking to an audience.
TOP Main Index
Common Pitfalls That Hamper Facility
Peter Lloyd believes that finger facility should be taught as early as possible.
If you can get young kids interested--to get their technique going before they're fifteen--this sort of stuff is easier for them. It's possible to do it later, bbut it gets harder and harder as time goes on.
Coordination problems occur when players are not paying attention to what their fingers are doing. This is interpreted by listeners as sloppiness, even though the correct notes are being played. This is especially true in slow passages, where players may move their fingers in a slow, uncoordinated manner. "Look, when you make movements with your fingers--don't let them be lazy. Make the finger movement as fast as you can. Don't do it like centipede legs."
I do think, particularly for you young ones, get at these noodles. Get at them as hard as you can while you're still young. The ancient ones get at them three times as hard!
Geoffrey Gilbert taught the concept of "finger legato." This is the ability to play "without any perceptible interruption between the notes" and is achieved by keeping the fingers close to the keys at all times, avoiding "popping" or slapping down the keys with excessive force, and keeping the fingers as relaxed as possible at all times.
TOP Main Index
Minimal Movement of Hands and Embouchure
Obviously, the less movement expended by both fingers and embouchure, the faster they can move. John Krell wrote of the concept he learned from Kincaid:
All technique begins with finger position, a position that permits the maximum efficiency with the minimum of effort and movement. The effort can be measured in ounces, and the movement in eighths of an inch.
A more common obstacle to facility, especially in works that demand rapid alteration among octaves, is a tendency to move the lips, jaw, and head more than is necessary. Peter Lloyd feels that students are using extra body movements to compensate for not using enough air speed.
Geoffrey Gilbert also addressed this problem. He taught that developing flexibility and control was achieved by moving the embouchure as little as possible among octaves, and, "simply stated, if one wants to change registers, then blow harder."
The following are samples of Peter Lloyd's comments in this regard:
You don't need to move so much....you don't need all that movement.
TOP Main Index
I think if you try to keep in the same spot here and don't do the big movements and just let the air do it for you, this really does work better...than having a lot of tension in the air and having to do a lot of movement here [at the jaw]....It really is the secret honestly...to try to keep the air flowing and not do all this business on the chin. It's not necessary.
For facility practice, Lloyd suggests using the Marcel Moyse patterns in Etudes et Exercises Technique , Trevor Wye's Machiavellian exercises from Practice Book for the Flute, Volume 2 [Technique] , Daniel Woods's Studies for Facilitating the Execution of the Upper Notes of the Flute , and Gunnar Johanssen's works Exercises for Advanced Flute Technique , numbers 1 and 2. "These sorts of noodles--you can make them up yourselves! But the more technique you get down early [the better]. It makes such an incredible differrence."
Lloyd insists that technical exercises, such as scales, be worked gradually faster after starting at a slow tempo.
Remember, that all these techniques need patience. Don't expect to get results by next week. Just work them up month by month by month. You'll be amazed how easily they'll come.
TOP Main Index
When playing exercises for facility, he asks flutists to resist the urge to use alternate fingerings, which make passages easier.
When you're doing scales, exercises, and all that, use the correct fingerings because the point of the whole thing is to make it difficult, for flexibility.
Although memorization of solo literature is left largely up to the performer, Lloyd does advocate memorizing technical facility exercises.
How quickly can you memorize these? Seriously, those of you who can memorize very easily, just get them in your head as quickly as possible so you can concentrate on what you're doing, rather than what your eyes are seeing.
Group Exercises Used in Masterclasses
The following is the routine of group exercises used by Peter Lloyd in his Masterclasses. Each morning the group played the same general routine, but started on a different note. As an example, the following begin on C.
* C-major scale
All scales and arpeggios use the form in Geoffrey Gilbert's Technical Flexibility --beginning on the tonic, proceeding upwards to either c-sharp 4 or d4, descending to the lowest C or C-sharp, and then risingg back to tonic.
* C-major scale in thirds
* C-harmonic minor scale
* C-harmonic minor scale in thirds
* C-melodic minor scale
* C-major arpeggio
* C-major arpeggio, broken
* C-minor arpeggio
* C-minor arpeggio, broken
* C-Dominant-seventh arpeggio
* C-Dominant-seventh arpeggio, broken
* C-Diminished-seventh arpeggio
* C-Diminished-seventh arpeggio, broken
* C-augmented arpeggio
* C-augmented arpeggio, broken
* Whole-tone scale beginning on C
* Whole-tone scale beginning on C, in thirds
* Chromatic scale beginning on C.
We do everything in one key. So we start on C major, all straight scales. Start on low C, run up to top D, then drop back to low C. No scales down to B. So there's your C-major. Then your C-minor harmonic, then C-minor melodic. The arpeggios are in this order: major, minor, dominant-seventh, diminished-seventh, augmented. Then whole tone scale, and straight chromatic. We'll bring in some scales in thirds and broken arpeggios on Thursday, and chromatics in seconds, minor thirds and major thirds.
Lloyd also uses exercises involving scales and arpeggios that break up the routine and cause the player to make rapid switches among keys.
Take a whole tone scale, play it over two octaves and when you come back, take the semi-tone higher, just as we were doing with the sevenths....It works pretty well. So you go from C up to C two octaves, and back to D-flat. There's one note out, but it works all right. The reason I do this is because, it seems to me that when we always do all majors, all minors, etc., there never seems to be time to get to the end ones. And I do find very often, diminished sevenths and whole tone scales seem to get neglected.
TOP Main Index
Facility Routine Used in Manchester
I have a system in Manchester. The first year they do what we're doing now. The second year they add thirds, chromatic seconds, major thirds, minor thirds, and broken arpeggios. The third year they add fourths, fifths, sixths. Then the fourth year they add sevenths and octaves. So those who are not due for it, just play the scale every other note while the others are playing all the intervals.
TOP Main Index
In Manchester, we have to set the courses for each year. So what the first years do is the basic pattern that I've told you--no intervals, all the way through. And then the second years have to do all that lot, plus all scales in thirds and fourthss, plus chromatic and add the broken arpeggios. Then the third years add sixths, the whole tone and chromatics in sixths. And the fourth year add sevenths and octaves. So that way, if you can see, it sounds an awful lot in a lump like that, but if you look at it over four years....They start working on their next year's scales immediately after the scale exam, so they've got a whole year to add just a couple of intervals. And if you'd look at it in long term instead of thinking, "Oh, my God, I've got to do all this..." it really isn't as bad as all that....When we're working in class, if the first year [students] don't know the second year's stuff, they drop out. And [by the end] the poor fourth years have to do all [the rest] by themselves.
I'll tell you what you do, if you have a small class. What we do in Manchester is, we have just one ring [circle]. And of course you start and each person does one separate [scale]. And each time a person makes a mistake, they have to do that one again and the next one. So nobody afterwards knows where they are, so they can't practice ahead. Works very well.
Auxiliary Fingerings for Selected Difficult Passages
Some flute players feel that auxiliary fingers are "fake" ones and should be avoided at all costs. Gareth Morris was one such player.
Even though Peter Lloyd insists on standard fingerings during the playing of exercises designed to build facility, he is a strong advocate of using alternative fingerings for musical reasons in a working situation.
The original fingerings are always preferable, because they are acoustically accurate in sound and pitch; therefore, every effort is made to avoid the other, unless it is impossible to negotiate a particularly difficult passage in the normal way.
Other players, such as William Kincaid, were not as strict.
Do not be a purist in the sense of never resorting to any type of...so-called fake fingering. There is nothing so chaste or uncompromising about some of the pure fingerings to begin with, and frequently the character of the music demands a lightness and facility that can only be accomplished with the fake fingerings. Used with discretion, they are often the more musical solution to the playing of an otherwise clumsy handful of notes.
As far as playing pieces is concerned, use the fingerings that sound right. I don't care what the fingerings are, as long as they sound right when it comes to pieces. [But] not in exercises.
The following are examples of orchestral literature using alternative fingerings that Lloyd has found particularly useful:
If you're going to play in orchestras, it is absolutely essential that you have as many alternative fingerings as you possibly can find, because you cannot always be switching here [indicates embouchure].... Because, however perfect your flute is--maybe you've got the flute of the world. Factory in tune. That's okay. But having got your perfect flute, you've then gott to play it out of tune with everyone else. So it doesn't make any difference!
Alternate fingerings are so important because in an orchestra when you're playing sharp with the fiddles and flat with the clarinets...you need every possible fingering in the book because you don't want to control intonation on the lip, because that keeps changing the color--and you lose your intensity....You want to get fingerings that are in tune with whatever is happening at the time....It's noot difficult to do. It's not complicated....
For instance, you're sitting first flute and you're playing the opening to Beethoven's 4 [Symphony No. 4], which if you remember has a lovely pianissimo B-flat in octaves with the clarinet and bassoon. So if you do this one, you're either going to have to do this [makes huge lip movement] or this [uses a harmonic fingering which bends the pitch 1/4 step up] because they always play sharp. You use a harmonic and you...can beat them at their own game!
[NB: The fingering is a low E-flat, playing the harmonic B-flat above, and sliding back on Finger 2--the "A" key.]
For the famous flute solo in the Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Lloyd uses the following fingering for the opening e3. The left hand plays the normal fingering, but:
Put all your right hand down, with your little finger on the C keys. Now you can play very loud. It's a very useful fingering if you're playing Brahms 1 and the horn is too loud--as they always are these days with their big instruments.512
Peter Lloyd uses the right hand middle finger for third octave F-sharp almost always, but keeps the tone color from becoming unclear by putting down only the ring. He uses the following story to illustrate the blind obedience that many students have to the "right" fingering for a note.
I was accused once by a member of an audience... who was obviously watching me play in the orchestra through binoculars or something because she came down afterwards and said, "So why do you always play that F-sharp with the middle finger? You're not supposed to, you know!" So I said, "Because it's out of tune if I don't!" She couldn't understand that at all. She'd obviously been taught that you've got to use what's in the book.513
In Prokofiev's Petrushka, Lloyd advocates the following fingering for the opening motive:
If you start with your A, put down your G-sharp key and your F key. This makes a very loud A, which enables the player to emphasize the beat. I want to hear the accents on the beat. Otherwise, you're shifting the beat.514
A third octave A-B trill is a quandary flute players hate to face. Peter Lloyd has this suggestion:
Finger a low A and put the first trill key down as well. Then trill the octave below with the first trill key on. If you [play] it slowly, it's disgusting. But if you're playing loud and fast, you don't notice it. It doesn't sound so flat.515
In Bela Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, measure 106, he suggests:
On the piccolo, try playing E with your thumb off and low D with your thumb off; it should play softly enough. And don't forget for the A-sharp you can play low E-flat with your thumb and second finger off....now do it as pianississimo as you can.516
For Richard Strauss's Til Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Lloyd advises the following fingering:
When you play the A-F-B, I would always fork that F with the extra finger [thumb, 1,3,4,6,D-sharp key] because that way it can't crack....In the same way, always use the middle F-sharp if you're going from A to F-sharp, [because] the long F-sharp will crack.517
He urges the use of auxiliary fingerings [and harmonics] for certain colors and dynamics in solo repertoire and orchestral works.
I don't mean fingerings only to put things into... orchestras...but things that are making music. For example...in the middle of the second movement, [of Sergei Prokofiev's Sonata for Flute] those high A's--use harmonics on them. Use different colors. I really believe you've got to think a lot more about harmonics. There must be a musical reason--you must never do it at random, because they're in a phrase--influencing the phrase.518
TOP Main Index
Use of the Knuckle Key
The knuckle key is present on every Boehm-style flute and piccolo. Because flutists are never instructed in its use, it remains one of the least utilized parts of the instrument.
A lot of you, particularly you young people, don't seem to be too aware of what that funny little [key] is. It closes the B-flat. I'm going to ask you to do a very simple little exercise which goes [puts knuckle key down and leaves it while playing] B-flat/A-flat/B-flat/A-flat [repeat] and continue down to F-sharp....Do it four times. But, I repeat, try not to take the key off. That is the whole point of that fingering. When you're moving around, instead of using that first finger F where you have to take it off every single time...[you can leave it down].519
TOP Main Index
Just use the side of your finger. Don't actually put your finger on it, just lean over.520
I remember going to Geoffrey Gilbert once...and I said "What's this for?" He sort of looked at me with a blank face wondering why on earth didn't I know. Next time I went to him for a lesson, he gave me a piece of manuscript paper with all the orchestral solos that he used it for and explained why.521
"Oiling" the Pinkie
One suggestion sometimes forgotten by flutists (only to be remembered when encountering notes in the bottom of the range which incorporate a great deal of movement with the right hand little finger) is to put a smudge of face oil on the right hand little finger before trying to negotiate the several keys moved by that same finger.
Who hasn't greased their little finger? How you do it is your own business! I don't know what it is about girls, they're so worried about doing this. I think it's because you don't like admitting that there might be some grease on your face. But really--slobber it on so there's no question--I can hear an awful lot of gritty movements at the bottom [of the scale passages], and I'm sure from 90% of you it's because your fingers are dry.522
512 Masterclass notes, 6/95, Class 8.
Inelegantly put, the best places for finding face oil are the sides of the nose and the temples near the hairline.
514 Masterclass notes, 6/16/95, Evening class.
515 Masterclass notes, 6/16/94, Morning class.
516 Masterclass notes, 6/17/95, Morning class.
517 Masterclass notes, 6/16/95, Morning class.
518 Masterclass notes, 6/15/94, 5 P.M.
519 Masterclass notes, 6/24/94, Technique class.
522 Masterclass notes, 6/15/95, Technique class.