Peter Lloyd has been on both sides of the audition screen in his career and has coached many of his students through the stress of their first auditions. Over the years, he has gathered some tips for flutists who are facing the audition process.
Even with the best of advice, Peter Lloyd reminds flutists that no audition is foolproof. The element of chance is always present, and no one knows for certain exactly what qualities a committee is seeking.
He is especially concerned about the current use of screens for auditions.
It's very difficult to penetrate a screen if it's cloth. In order to make any sort of impression, you have to push the sound.
It is a problem, trying to project a personality through a brick wall, you know....So you have to feel that the energy can be got through or over or something. We can do it. The good players will always do that.
This concern has also been voiced by James Galway, who states:
A popular, but in my view misguided, practice nowadays is to hold auditions behind a screen. The argument is that if the judges can't see whom they are judging, the audition won't be fixed, and the one who gets the job will do so by virtue of his skill and musicality alone. I disagree...primarily because the screen or curtain or whatever tends to blur the clarity of the sound.
American flutists who are auditioning in other countries are cautioned that playing behind a screen is not used in many European auditions. Americans who are accustomed to playing behind a screen may find these auditions especially unnerving.
If it is at all possible, Peter Lloyd strongly suggests knowing something about the sound of the orchestra, musical habits of the conductor (i.e., tempos on the fast side, etc.), and the sound of the current or former principal flutist. The last part is especially important for a second flute audition.
It might be worth it just trying to research them a little bit. If you get a chance to hear the first flute, if it's a second flute position, if you can listen to the first flute anywhere--or even watch the conductor anywhere--you should get a clue as to what they're looking for.
[When] you've got your chance, try to calculate what they [the principal flute] want. Try to listen to the sort of sound they make. If it's a very dark, harsh sound, try to copy it. Try to be with it. Because if you're making a very light sound, and they're making a very dark sound--it ain't going to blend!
If it's an orchestra that's done a recording, check them out and see what the general standard of the playing is like there. See if the conductor is a very musical man, or a slick one. If he's one of these ...laddies who like everything to go very fast, then go very fast.
James Galway goes even farther and suggests taking some lessons with the principal flutist, "which may prompt him to argue in your favour at the audition on the grounds that he knows and likes your playing and believes you are up to the job."
Having sat on panels, Peter Lloyd asks the auditioners to consider the audition from the panelists's point of view.
I wonder if...you can imagine yourselves on the panel? Try to decide in your own mind what you want to hear. What's the first thing you've got to think about? Don't only think about your own nerves, even though they're overwhelming. There's another part. Remember, the panel's probably sat there and listened to thirty or forty people, if the first letter in your name happens to begin with an R or S....What you've got to do is think...how can I impress them?
Don't forget the panel is bored until you play. And then if you do something they'll think "Wow, listen to that, lads, isn't that great?" And honestly, any panel wants to enjoy. Nobody wants to sit and be bored. The player who comes in and does something good, you're already allowed to slip something later on.
A panel is not likely to be impressed with the thirty-fourth unexciting rendition of Mozart's Concerto in G. Neither are they likely to be moved to sympathy by a performer's anxiety. What might wake them up is confident playing full of life and, unless the Mozart Concerto in G is required, another work with an exciting opening.
If you play [your] first four bars with brilliance, accuracy, color, life...they will already have been listening....You want to find a piece that has not got to be Mozart, which is so difficult to start with. You need to find a piece that will suit you and will impress them. In other words, something that will help you relax. Don't start off with [a piece that begins with] a piano, if you're tense. Think forte. Think Hüe Fantaisie or something of that nature. Then automatically you can get expression and life going in the sound.
Trevor Wye advises that if the choice of a solo is up to the auditioners, they should choose solos that show them off to their best advantage.
Choose solos to show how good you are. That is to say, the piece must demonstrate your abilities in a lot of areas: tone, technique, etc., as well as your suitability for an orchestral chair.
If, however, the first movement of the Mozart Concerto in G is required (as it often is), Peter Lloyd advises:
If you're playing Mozart G Major, practice that first entry and practice it until you're black and blue in the face! Practice it upside down--whatever! Make certain that the energy is in your articulation at the beginning of that first note. Already, an impressionn is formed by just that very first thing.
Performers of any ability must deal with performance nerves. No matter how shaky one feels, Lloyd says that a secure breathing cycle will help the audition.
If you're very nervous, try to get your mind off the nerves and onto the breathing. Try to breathe, because if you breathe well, you've got a chance to produce a warm, good sound that's going to help you relax. Most of the time, the nerves come because we don't know what the first note's going to be like. [And] you've got this awful battery of people in front of you, or on the other side of that screen, waiting for the mistakes....
After the opening solo work, auditioners will play a number of orchestral excerpts from a pre-supplied list. These excerpts will include many difficult passages, designed to eliminate the less skillful. James Galway describes the process:
Most orchestras announce beforehand what the audition pieces will be....The idea of an orchestral audition is not to test your abilities on--say--an early Haydn symphony, but to see how you sound in the tricky bits, when the chips are down, or when the flute has thhe starring role.
Peter Lloyd cautions that the first round is not the place to show one's unique interpretation of these excerpts. This is the qualifying round, where players show that they can be exact in their rhythms, pitch, and dynamics.
Be very careful about all the expressions and all the things that are on the [excerpt] part. You're not a free agent, as you are when you're playing a recital ....It has to be perfect. You have to play exactly what's on that part to start with.
Lloyd adds that these words of advice were supported by a visiting flutist, who told students under what circum-stances they could take freedoms with the excerpts.
Somebody played Daphnis quite freely, and she said, "No. Not if you're doing an audition. They don't like that. Play exactly what's on the part. Dynamics, rhythm must be absolutely exact in what you do so that nobody can criticize you. There are a lot of people who don't want to hear that played freely, and they'll vote against you. When you've got the job, that's different. Then it should be played freely within the style that's there."
Dynamic and rhythmic considerations are crucial in an audition situation.
Make sure your fortes and pianos are very different. And if you're behind a screen, I'd suggest that you try to exaggerate that, because there's an awful lot of mush to get through with the screen.
Be absolutely exact in what you're playing, so your rhythmic affection is totally strong and prepared. Make sure that you use the metronome. Make sure that your sixteenths are not triplets, that everything is even--absolutely exact. That's something they [the panel] look for, and I think that's fair enough.
In order to work through a battery of difficult excerpts, Peter Lloyd suggests a warmup/scale routine that will help in playing the actual works.
[Don't] just practice the bits and pieces. Make certain that you practice around them. Say, if you've got a Beethoven piece in D-major, make certain that you're practicing all your scales and arpeggios and everything you can possibly do--in the keys you're involved in. So if you're short of time and you've got this big audition coming up, look through the lisst of excerpts they demand and work specifically--particularly--on all the keys involved in those particular excerpts.
Rhythm is a crucial aspect of playing audition music. If there are long rests involved in an audition, Peter Lloyd recommends asking beforehand if those rests are to be counted out or not.
When you practice, do make sure that you practice with a metronome because one of the quickest things to [cause you] to lose your chance in an audition is to play your excerpt...unrhythmically. You don't catch your rests properly. The rests must be counted perfectly.
As far as the screen...is concerned, remember to make certain of your rhythm. Behind that screen, some of those [auditioners] will be going [taps a pencil on the table, eraser side down so it can't be heard]. They'll be seeing if it's out of time, and watching very carefully that everything is perfect. Get that rhythm right.
One part of auditioning that may unnerve flutists is that they may be playing from an orchestra part instead of their favorite excerpt book. It may look strange. Your personal markings are not there. The setup of bars to a line may be different. To flutists who have been staring at a particular excerpt book for weeks in preparation, the shock of suddenly being confronted with parts that look different may affect their playing.
Lloyd recommends learning from an actual orchestral part. These are available through Flute World, Eble Music, or Luck's Music. Flutists can get either a first part, a second part, or piccolo part. In the case of twentieth-century works, it may not be possible to buy a part. But the wise auditioner will consult a professional orchestral player to check for mistakes in the excerpt.
[One] thing you must watch for, which is a big, big trap, is that you've probably learned your excerpts from an excerpt book and excerpt books have mistakes. They have accents where there are no accents. When you come to play in your audition, there won't be an excerpt book. It'll be from orchestral parts. Those parts are going to be in different places on the page--even from one edition to another. You'll probably find that people have scratched things out and put things in. You've gott to very quickly see that and play it as it should be.
The best thing is to memorize the [excerpts]. And, having memorized, be careful to play what is in front of you and not what is in the back of your head. We all know these excerpts. They're not difficult to memorize. [But] then be aware that the part in front of you in an audition will be different. And they may be different from one edition to the next, because editions are different.
Take Dvorak eight [Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 8]for instance. The solo in the last movement, in one edition, is all on the left-hand page. But in another edition, it's half at the bottom and half at the top of the next page. And you get to the bottom and suddenly [you're thinking]..."Where is it?" You have to be terribly careful of that.
I really am emphasizing that strongly. It is surprising how often we are put off by that, [but] it will get you out of the way pretty soon!
After passing the first round, flutists are faced with the final round. This round may or may not be held behind a screen. This is the time when an auditioner may show more individuality and musicality. If there is no screen, the demeanor of the flutist is very important.
Supposing you've gotten through your first screen and you're back out of the screen now--the screens have been thrown away. Make sure you look confident. You know what you're doing. You're positive in everythinng you do. Speak to them in a positive way. If you're at all diffident, they will interpret that as being unsure of yourself.
Once you've gotten through the first round I think things in some ways can be easier. There's no screen so you can actually communicate with people. And if you know you've done well, you've done your homework, you shouldn't be so nervous of your own playing.
When choosing a second flutist in the final round, the London Symphony Orchestra had finalists play along with the principal flutist to test how well they blended with and followed the principal flutist.
You've got to show that you've got the possibility to play with someone else. That's why in Britain, we generally play. I would bring in [an orchestral work] and I would deliberately do rubato where it wasn't wanted. And I would use my vibrato in totally wrong ways. Out of about eight people, one followed.
Trevor Wye cautions flutists auditioning for second flute parts to hold their dynamics in check, even in their opening solo. Playing very loudly, "apart from being unmusical--would be telling the panel that you would be unable--or unwilling--to play under, and balance with, the principal flute."768
Peter Lloyd condemns some of the tasks asked of flutists in an audition situation that would not actually occur in an orchestral performance. For instance, flutists in auditions are asked to play the opening phrase of Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun in a single breath. Likewise, it is de rigueur for auditioning flutists to play the last phrase of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream "Scherzo" movement in a single breath.
What are you going to do about Après Midi? You need to play it in one breath. I'm not saying you should musically, because I think that's nonsense. However, for the sake of auditions, do it in one breath.769
By the final round, flutists can help themselves by taking these excerpts faster than usual.
Silly little things I think are worth doing. If you've got to start with Midsummer Night's Dream "Scherzo" or something, make sure you play it fast enough to play it through [in] one breath. They may easily say, "That's too fast." But you've done it once, and then you've already got a feeling of [worth]. Little things like that can help.770
Auditioners in the finals round may be asked to try something different, such as playing an excerpt faster or slower, or bringing out certain aspects. Often, this is a test to see how well the auditioner takes directions.
If they're terribly interested you know, if you play like a genius, really fantastic, they're not going to worry if you play slightly slower or slightly quicker. They're going to say, "Could you play this a bit slower for us?" or "A bit faster for us?" because there aren't going to be that [many] players who are going to go through to the next round. They're after the person who can do it. And if they hear somebody who plays just a bit too fast for them, they'll say, "Could you please slow that up for us?"771
Trevor Wye also cites this practice. "Be prepared for anything," he cautions, "such as being asked to play as softly as possible, and then to repeat the passage at half the volume again!"772
Flutists auditioning for colleges, universities, or conservatories are urged to audition live rather than sending in a tape. Throughout his career Lloyd has seen a number of instances in which the personality of the player did not emerge through a taped audition. Also, auditioners must be aware that a tape may distort or muffle their sound, or that a tape may run at a slightly different speed on another tape player, which would alter tempi and tuning. If a live audition is not possible, use the best equipment available, and as Peter Lloyd says:
Be as accurate as you possibly can, and give an idea of intensity, energy in articulation, and life in the vibrato. Be sure the rhythm is exact....The little box can't take in personality. But the rest is there.773
Nancy Toff had the following advice for flutists preparing tapes:
(1) Make sure microphones are not placed so closely that mechanism noises or breaths are picked up.
(2) Choose a room that is medium "live"--"neither an echo chamber...nor a dead room."
(3) Use high-grade tape and a separate microphone, "not the condenser microphone included in some portable recorders."
(4) Before sending a tape, especially if it has been dubbed from a master tape, listen to it.
(5) Make a "safety copy" for your files, in case the original is lost or damaged in transit.774
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Supposing that an auditioning flutist has been chosen for an orchestral position, the next hurdle to be faced is a "trial period." This is a probationary time in which the flutist actually plays with the orchestra to see whether they will be hired permanently. Sometimes two or more finalists will undergo this final trial.
It should be allowed. [One should have] a long enough time to settle down and give one a chance to know what's happening around you. So often, people can be appointed who are totally wrong and then of course you've got the misfortune of having to get rid of them....But having a chance to really soak in all the styles with a different orchestra for a long time, it's the best way.775
One crucial aspect of surviving a trial period is not necessarily playing, but getting along with colleague musicians.
You know, it's not so difficult to actually get the flute up and play. But actually working with individuals of all sorts and shapes and sizes... [that's] a problem to face.
One [player]...should have gotten jobs all over the place, but never did so because whenever she got onto the trials she couldn't stop opening her mouth. She'd say, "I think it's sharp there, do you think you could come down a little..." and [that was that].
You don't do that. You must always ask people, "Look, would you help me? Am I a bit sharp? Would it help if I played a little lower?" Always work like that. Always work as though you are always wrong and everybody else is right. Use a strong sense of psychology. It's very, very important in a wind section.776
Another bit of advice is to avoid showing off one's skills, especially in a second flute situation. It is not only ill-mannered but professional suicide to play the principal flute's solos where other orchestra members can hear. Even principal flutes on trial should avoid giving the impression that they are better than other members of the orchestra. Give the impression of competence, but within the context of working with other orchestra members.
It's very tricky. But if you look at it from the point of view that almost everyone in that section is nervous--worried--you're not going to outdo anyone else. You are going to ask other people's advice. Because by so doing, with a bit of luck--unless they're stupid--you're going to get along. You're going to get them on your side.777
Obviously, a second flutist must get along with the principal flutist. As in other professions, getting along with one's job superior is crucial to keeping a position, even if the principal is rude.
Hopefully you've had a chance to weigh up the principal, whether they happen to be an easygoing person or one who's going to be a nervous wreck all the time. It makes a total difference to the way you react. You have to be quick. You have to understand straight away.778
Trevor Wye put it this way:
Principal players won't be interested in you if you are competing with them; they will only see you as a threat. A second flute is a supporting role in many ways, not the least of which is allowing the principal player to play at his ease, and to assist him. Only a silly second flute would be practising the "big tune" in the dressing room before the concert, especially so within the hearing of the principal.779
It is helpful for flutists on trial to realize that they are not the only person nervous in a performing [or even rehearsing] situation.
Everyone playing in a wind section is nervous, as you well know. Everybody has this feeling of...we're all worrying if it's going to be okay, or not all right. Nobody's ever really confident no matter what they look like. We're all worried. So you've got to understand that the people around you are looking for a new player sitting there who will fulfill their criteria, which means somebody who has a knowledge of how to get [along] with them. The playing part is, as I've said before, probably the easy part.780
Being on trial is equally stressful for principal and second flute positions.
[You must face] the terrible problems of trying to sit with a whole lot of strangers and wondering how on earth you're going to deal with them. For one thing, you don't know the first flute. You don't know if they're going to play loud, sharp, flat, fast, dull, or if they hate music! The point is, you've got to play with them. And it doesn't matter if there's an extremely difficult second clarinet or a first flute that's forever worrying, or a first oboe who's twisted all around mumbling about his bad reeds. You have to learn how to get on with them.781
Finally, any person on trial must also watch the style of the orchestra.
Having hopefully assessed the principal and some of the other weird people sitting in the wind section, you've got to remember that you've got to play in tune...at whatever dynamic they want. Try to understand why they articulate the way they do. If they are musical people, they might articulate differently for each piece. [Listen to] the type of color they're using.
Hopefully you've had a chance to listen to [the principal flutist] in concert and found out the way they vibrate, the way they make their sound, [and] whether they have a dynamic range of zero.782
It may help to ask about the balance wanted by the principal flutist. In the London Symphony Orchestra, for instance, Peter Lloyd says:
I always liked my second flute to be louder than me. Because in order to build up volume in a wind section, it's not the first players who play loud. It's building up the harmony inside the chords that really makes the difference.783
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Playing in a Professional Orchestra
Peter Lloyd makes no secret of his love for orchestral playing. As he puts it:
Orchestral playing...is by far the hardest and most rewarding medium that a flute player will ever experience....When you're playing in an orchestra, it's not only a question of playing in tune, it's a question of being a personality, a question of doing what the conductor wants, and somehow blending the whole thing together.784
Gareth Morris points out that, although orchestral work provides "magnificent opportunities" for the flute, it also includes "great responsibilities." At various times the orchestral flutist is "required to be a soloist in his own right, a chamber musician, and to have the stamina and confidence to dominate in tutti passages when the occasion arises." Being the top instrument on the score "gives the flautist a dangerous opportunity to make or mar the quality of a performance."785
Just as in the trial period, working orchestral performers must get along with their colleague musicians. Because continued employment depends on every performance, every musician is likely to be tense to some degree.
The political angle is a very tricky [thing]. If you're in a top class orchestra, you're working with a lot of people who have egos, and you've got to learn how to fix yourself up....Most of us are on the defense because we're all worried about being out of tune or too loud or too something, and we're all wondering when the next conductor's going to jump on [us].
The main thing, I think in any orchestra, especially an orchestra filled with prima donnas, is to try to find out how to get along with them. I'm not saying that there is an answer to all of them. But ...you can treat them differently according to what you feel their problems are.786
You get the nervous ones, who if you dare say anything about intonation they go [in a panicked voice], "Oh, God, am I sharp again?" Then you get the "Oh, I'm always right. I've been right for the last thirty years, that's how it's been, why should I change now?" You have to learn to be psychologists.787
Okay, you can say, "No, I'm not wrong," and have a great big row with somebody. But it doesn't get you anywhere in the long run. I think it's one of the most extraordinary things, the way I hear wind sections in this country [United States] have gone, where first oboes and first flutes don't talk for twenty years. I can't understand how anybody can...work musically... under that sort of regime.788
You see, I think music is far, far more important than silly little squabbles between two or three people. It's something we have to learn to get over.789
James Galway echoes the call for teamwork in an orchestral setting and cites two diverse personalities that are negative to that end. "Dull" players who consider their position a "chore" and are "disappointed in their professional and personal lives" make teamwork almost impossible by presenting a dead weight in any section. On the other end, "the ego-tripper" may antagonize colleagues and destroy teamwork by setting up factions within an orchestra.790
One of the most important aspects of orchestral playing is tuning. According to Peter Lloyd, it does not matter if the flute is in tune and other instruments are not, because as the top voice--the flute will always sound wrong.
This is a very crucial thing in orchestras. It's so hard for us sitting on the top to understand that we will always sound wrong if the chord isn't sounding right. It's the top that sounds wrong. We need to have this terrific flexibility of fingerings to be able to find how to be right. Otherwise, we might be perfectly right, but we just sound wrong.791
In such a case, having the latest word in tuned flute scales is fairly useless. As Lloyd says:
You may have the most fantastically well in-tune flute, but that's no good in an orchestra, because you've just got to learn to play it out of tune with everyone else. Of course it helps to know where your notes are, but you need an understanding of all the other instruments around you because again I say, when you're on top you're the one that's going to sound out of tune if that octave or fifth down below you is wrong.792
While flexibility is stressed in orchestral tuning, one should not avoid projecting for fear of being out of tune.
Always play forwards. Always play with energy. Always breathe well. If you feel uncomfortable because the intonation is wrong, don't ever shrink back, because [your] harmonics will start to fight against one another and the sound will go wrong and nobody can play with you. If you play positively then others will hear and think to themselves, "Oh, I'd better get with that."793
If it sounds wrong and you hold back and shrink back, it sounds twice as wrong. You've got to play right out. Play full. Play as rich as you possibly can without increasing the dynamic too much....Above all, keep the air going through. If you're playing quieter, try to squeeze it in the embouchure, but push the air through the small hole. Then you keep the intensity and the control of the pitch.794
Is it possible to have too much harmonic in the sound? The answer is--no. Because the more harmonic you are using in the sound, your own sound is richer. And another thing is if you are playing with an oboe player who has a very thin and low, small range of harmonic, you can't play in tune with them. It can be very difficult to cope with unless your own band of harmonic is wide, so that you can get around both ends of it [the oboe's sound] and encompass it.795
Peter Lloyd points out that harmonics in the flute sound can provide support for the rest of the woodwind section, a fact he was taught as a young, slightly-awed orchestral principal early in his career. As he tells it:
I remember in the early days of the London Symphony Orchestra when I was having problems. I expect it's the same in America. You play in a provincial orchestra and as I always say, you can drive a bus down the intonation system--you could be in tune here, there, or anywhere in between. But you get to the LSO and suddenly the intonation system was just there. You couldn't be here because you'd be out of tune. And I remember being terribly shy and very anxious when I started because I was finding it so hard, because I was always in tune before--and now I was never in tune!
And of course my nature at that time was to shrink back, with the result that I would cut out harmonics and make it very hard for other people. I remember [a colleague] saying, "Play! Fill your sound. Play out and let us fit with you." And of course when I eventually got the courage to do that, there was no problem.
If you haven't got confidence...it's very hard to produce color and sound. But I think you have to somehow think breathing....Try to think breathing and try to relax and try to let the sound come without you trying to get tense and stopping it. And then see what happens. Let the sound contain the harmonics and let it sing. It can cover a multitude of other sins.796
As a rule of thumb, Peter Lloyd advocates pushing the flute headjoint in a bit when playing slow movements. Most flutists believe that this is done to keep the flute from playing flat, but Peter Lloyd says that it actually has more to do with tuning to the clarinet.
Generally I would push in for slow movements because of the problems of clarinets in particular. It's not their fault. It's just unfortunate that when they play softly it tends to be on the sharp side and when they play loudly it tends to be on the flat side. We just have to accommodate as far as possible, and so will they....The whole thing in a wind section is compromise.797
Peter Lloyd cautions flutists who have been playing recitals that the dynamic levels in an orchestra tend to be more extreme on both ends, loud and soft.
When you play in a good symphony orchestra, the problems that you're gong to face are far greater than anything you'll face standing on the front of the stage....I think the worst problems are dynamics and the fact that you don't play forte and mezzo-piano as you would if you were standing [onstage]. You're playing from ppp to fff, and having to be in tune with the people all about you. It can be a big, big, big problem--particularly with a top-class orchestra with a top-class conductor who's insisting on the difference between pp and ppp.798
The late Thomas Nyfenger wrote about conductors who misjudge the type of sound and projection that might be required in a particular hall and "expend a great deal of effort sticking his non-time-beating hand out at the winds in an effort to shush them." He called this "nay-palming" and wrote:
The winds end up almost sucking on, rather than blowing into, their instruments, strangling their natural sounds and mis-learning the art of orchestral playing. The audience, meanwhile, strains and hears very little.799
Besides pitch and dynamics, orchestral flutists must be extremely sensitive to and flexible with articulation. Not only are there many styles of articulation within the flutists' own music, but they must match articulation styles with a variety of other instruments.
All instruments articulate differently. So...in a general way, try to feel that the wind section's articulation techniques are similar....It is an important point to try to match and feel around to [make sure] it's working.
Until you play in orchestras, you don't understand the problems of articulation, you don't understand problems of balance and psychology of other people and all those things.800
Many times, flute players are asked to blend their sound with another instrument to produce a musical effect. Peter Lloyd believes that this blend, and also the overall balance of the orchestra, depends not on the principal player, but on the second chair performer.
Color blend depends, I think, very much on the composer and of course...on the strength of the second players. If the second player is good and strong, it's much easier to blend rather than having weak seconds.
I believe...that all second players...should be quite as strong or stronger than the first players. Not everybody agrees.801
I say...in chords in the wind section, the seconds should be louder than the firsts because the firsts are always audible and we ought to build up volume from inside the wind section. It's not the first players playing louder, it's the seconds and thirds--the middle of the chord--that makes the difference...That's why you should always have very good players in the second chairs....it's the job that really makes a wind section sound good.802
Second flutists must match their sound and articulation to that of the principal, and Lloyd reminds flutists that they should remember to match vibrato as well.
It's no good to play a Brahms symphony and you've got two flutes wobbling away in the vibrato in the chords at the end of the slow movements and nobody else in the winds doing it--and the two flutes doing it differently anyway! It doesn't do. It's just common sense. You've got to go with your principal and hope that your principal has some clue as to how to make the vibrato match the style of the music a little bit.... The thing is always try to underplay your vibrato.803
Lloyd adds that this attention to vibrato applies not only among the flutists, but within the entire wind section as well.804
Trevor Wye advised orchestral second flutes to "Be prepared to switch off your vibrato. Be prepared, in fact, for anything!"805
In general, the wise second flutist will assist the principal. One way is to keep track of the bars, even if the second flute part is not playing in that particular spot. Peter Lloyd still recalls a second who failed in this respect:
He never counted bars. Never. So if I got suddenly stuck, if we were playing something and we didn't know just where to come in, I'd say, "Where are we?" and he'd say, "Wha? I dunno." And I had a solo coming up and suddenly--panic.806
Always be ready to help. Don't ever put the knife in and hope [the principal] is going to make a mistake --and then laugh.
Anything that you can do to help in a very quiet way that doesn't show is very, very much appreciated. As a second, your job is to make the principal as comfortable as possible. And [in a trial], if he's got confidence that you're going to help--you'll get the job.807
One responsibility which often falls to the principal flutist is to bring the wind section in together on a particular chord or passage. This can be a nerve-wracking ordeal, and many flutists make the mistake of trying to use their flute as a baton.
You can't lead with the flute because those [players sitting] in back can't see it anyway. And the rest say, "Where's the bottom of your beat?" So, breathe rhythmically. Always.808
This is something I find very difficult with students--how to actually bring people in. They're so frightened of making a movement or a sound. And you say, go on, breathe with it and they sort of [wheeze] and there'll be nothing strong.809
Always breathe in tempo and let them hear the breath. Wind quintet things too. Always breathe in tempo.810
Another nerve-wracking aspect of orchestral playing is working under the batons of various conductors. If getting along with one's fellow musicians is crucial, staying out of the conductor's way is vital.
An orchestral player meets many conductors of differing abilities....It's very tricky for an orchestra who has the luck to play with really top- class conductors to suddenly...be reduced to having to do a cheap Tchaikovsky night out in the woods somewhere with a hopeful. Happens all the time. It's very difficult. You just grin and bear it and remember you're getting the money the next day and the conductor is only there for one day.811
The one thing you want if you're in an orchestra is not to be spoken to. You don't want the conductor to even notice you. So the only way you can do that is by having the best section you can possibly put together, so that they will look for a weaker section. And that was true--particularly if you've got second-rate conductors coming in.
Maybe a third of the time we [in the LSO] had top class conductors. The rest of the time we were doing work in the film studios and light music and vacuous God knows anything-you-can-think-of in order to make money. But even with the lesser concerts, we had some very funny conductors and it's very difficult working with them because they don't know any better than you do. The best conductors never admit it and just get on with the job.812
In theory, musicians are supposed to follow the beat given by the conductor; but in reality, some conductors are very hard to follow. Peter Lloyd's real-life solution is simple:
It is important to anticipate and feel where people are going to play because when the conductor comes down [with his/her baton], nine times out of ten, you're going to be wrong. [So] don't follow conductors, for goodness sake! It's disaster.813
There are some conductors who insist "Follow my beat", but they don't give you a beat. They do this action [waves his arms around]. Very few of them know that we have to breathe. They don't do their homework.
Really, what the wind section has to do is play irrespective of conductors, and use conductors for musical reasons--expression. We should be able to play together with our ears. Everything should be with your ears. That is the safest way. You can hear people breathing, and very soon you get the feel of when that oboe player is going to be coming in.814
No matter how difficult or stubborn or egotistical a conductor may be, the orchestral player must bear with the situation.
I think the psychology of it is to try to understand conductors' weaknesses rather than us [players] standing up for our own rights. It's hard but I think you have to understand that so often conductors have to be right because he's leading a collection of ninety-odd people and we can't actually stand up against him, whatever we feel or whatever we know.815
I've talked about alienation of the species. Try not to. It's not worth it.816
On occasion, difficult conductors may not be reacting to the orchestra at all--even when they seem to be. Factors completely unrelated may have been taking a toll on an otherwise reasonable human being. Peter Lloyd tells of such an occasion:
It got tougher and tougher. If anything wasn't right just from the beginning, he'd start throwing a tantrum....We discovered--because we didn't understand what had gone wrong--that he'd had some sort of big issue at home in Russia and he'd been demoted from being conductor of [a major orchestra] to being sent out to the provinces to conduct a youth orchestra. And he was taking it out on everybody.817
With all the difficulties, Lloyd recalls other times when conductor and orchestra worked magic together.
You've got people who are totally nice and just accepted the players in front of them, and we found that the orchestra always responded and played--beautifully--for them, because they were warm comfortable conductors who appreciated you. There weren't many like that, but the better conductors were.818
No matter what the situation, orchestral players must be listening at all times in order to be in control of the musical situation.
You know, generally in an orchestra...you don't have a lot of rehearsal, pre-rehearsal, because it's there in your ear, in your listening. And I think that this is the danger that does happen if you don't do much orchestral playing. You forget that ninety-five percent of what you're doing is listening, and fitting. You're always subconsciously aware of what's happening all about you. You're not following a beat. You're not following a conductor. Conductors are there to show you phrasing and music, they're not there to keep a sort of martial beat all the time. And honestly, if it's free, you're going to get it....You automatically follow what you're hearing. If you're not a prominent part, you're following whatever is.
I remember very early on having a problem of ensemble on something and asking [a colleague], "What's going on?" I wasn't comfortable. The ensemble wasn't together. And he said, "Listen to the second trumpet. That'll help." Well, I hadn't noticed that. And then I did and everything was okay. And it's only doing it day by day and listening. If you get stuck, look at the score. Learn the score. You'll see lots going on, and then you'll know where you are.
Really, it's not as difficult as all that.819
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Playing Selected Orchestral Works
In his orchestral classes, Peter Lloyd has worked with flutists on major works that have prominent flute parts or sectional ensemble problems. The "orchestra" part is taken by a pianist, while as many flutists and piccoloists as are needed play the normal orchestra section's flute parts. From these sessions have come advice about several works. The following are selections from these classes, in which Lloyd shares his lifetime of experience playing these works.
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Debussy: Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun
One of the biggest solos faced by orchestral flutists is Claude Debussy's work, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. The flute starts the piece alone, and the first note is one of the worst on a flute--open C-sharp. Plus, according to tradition, the flutist must play the opening phrase in a single breath--although in actual performance most flutists take this admonition with a grain of salt.
Seriously, the breathing thing--I think it an un-useful thing to have to play it all the way through in one line. I think the allowable one is to take it before the [last three] "waspy" notes because that's actually a pickup into the oboe solo.
I remember working with [a particular conductor] and he insisted on me taking two breaths. Actually, there is a copy that has a Debussy suggestion on the breath. [Peter Lloyd sings the first ten notes of the solo and stops.] That's where [the conductor] made me do it. And then another one before the last three notes. But he made me play it very slowly, with absolutely buckets of passion. It was really quite a good thing.
When I first played this piece with him in our first rehearsal, I played it in one breath because that's the way we "had" to do it, the way everybody else did. He looked up and said, "What do you think you are doing? This is music, not mechanics. Play it again."820
I think it's stupid playing like this--told that they've got to play it in one breath. Having said that, at an audition, you're [still] going to have to do it in one breath!821
Even for flutists who plan on taking one or two breaths within the opening phrase, Peter Lloyd cautions that a completely full breath at the beginning is a necessity.
If you're playing Après Midi for instance, I would [begin with] two breaths. Take a good long slow one, and then [just before playing] take another one. When you're taking your long slow one, you're almost full. But then the muscles relax just a little bit--and that was always enough to get [me] through when the conductor wanted [the opening phrase] in one breath.822
Besides breathing, the most tension-producing moment of this work is coming in with color and life on the worst, most out-of-tune note on the flute. Peter Lloyd shares how he prepared himself for this task:
In performance, before I would start playing this, I would always--while the crowd was still making noises out there--be touching top G's as pianississimo as I could....Anything to get the embouchure [extremely] small, so that when the conductor came on, I knew that I could start as economically as was possible and have enough air to make the phrase.823 In this way, Lloyd was able to keep the air speed going fast enough to keep color and life in the sound. But by sending it through the smallest possible opening he was able to conserve his resources without undermining that sound.
A third daunting experience in the same solo is its dynamic marking--"piano." Some players are encouraged to enter almost inaudibly, while others ignore the marking completely in order to project the sound. Peter Lloyd reminds flutists that changing the sound of the flute with different colors can imply a dynamic.
I think you have to be very canny about the... definition of dynamic markings. They're not only dynamic markings. I think if you're going to pull it off, don't think of them as "piano" and "forte"--because the way we translate it, the forte is far too loud. So it doesn't work.
I think you'll find that pianissimo is a beautiful soft color with life; [with] something happening. It doesn't matter if it's desperately quiet. You have to sing.
If you start the piece off and it just said "piano", what does that mean? You cannot play piano unless you've got something to compare it with--something to balance it....I think in this case it's an expression as much as anything.824
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Ravel: Daphnis and Chloé Suite
Another prominent flute solo may be found in Maurice Ravel's Daphnis and Chloé. The only sounds accompanying this solo are a muted, repeated chord in the strings--an almost "white" sound. The flute stands out in contrast. This most rewarding of solos can also be most terrifying, particularly with its opening sweep up an A-major scale to a third octave A, all marked "piano."
Peter Lloyd urges flutists to remember what is happening in the ballet at that point, even if one is playing the orchestral suite.
You see, in Daphnis...it's called piano expressivo. What does piano mean in that relationship? It's got to be relaxed. You have to feel that Daphnis is stretching himself. He's waking up. He's on the mountainside...and nothing really happens in that solo for half of it. And then you suddenly have the scale going up to forte--with intensity. Well, that's because he has suddenly spied Chloé.
Piano in this case is relaxed, stretching, gentle --partly the atmosphere of the early morning and partly waking up. It doesn't need to be quiet, see? Think of [the dynamic] as being gentle.
Pianissimo mustn't be a frozen pianissimo. It's a romantic pianissimo.825
Some editions of the opening scale are marked as a simple A-major scale, while others include an E-sharp, which makes the passage an F-sharp minor scale. Flutists are always worried that the scale they choose will be the "wrong" one. As Peter Lloyd says, "Okay--F-sharp minor or A-major? Whichever you like. Apparently, [Marcel] Moyse asked Ravel to choose which was right and Ravel said, 'Oh, I don't care.'"826
No matter which version is chosen, the opening scale is a frightening experience for many flutists.
You see, you're tightening because, "Oh God, it's got to be pianissimo!"827
Before you start off, you've got two and a half bars of [sings string bass part] and everybody in the audience is very quiet. And everybody in the orchestra's got a grin on their face. They're hoping you're going to wreck it! [laughter from class]828
Just as in Afternoon of a Faun, breath [or lack thereof] can be a problem in the Daphnis and Chloé solo.
The important thing to remember is whenever you breathe on big long solos, to look back. There's no point trying to breathe at the last second when you've got to play. Breathe big before you start the solo.... You've got a whole bar of rest to get enormously full. Then [later] you just top off. You should be able to get all the way through, keeping the other [subsequent] breaths short.829
As if the principal flutist does not have enough to contend with, sometimes a conductor will insist on trying to beat time while the flutist is playing. Peter Lloyd feels that this is a mistake.
The problem with conductors and this [solo] is that they have to lose their ego. They keep trying to conduct it, when all they should be doing is conducting the basses. Keep the basses in one place, then the flute player can play around the basses. Then we've got loads of possibilities as to how to play it really free. But with the conductor trying to follow the flute and the basses trying to follow the conductor, they get slower and slower and...slower.830
Lloyd has shared some shorter tips on the orchestral solo passages that follow:
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The thing to remember is, the puppeteer is introducing the two puppets. [And]...the rising arpeggios indicate Petrushka's introduction and the downward arpeggios are the introduction of the other puppet. So it's quite free. That's the choreography I see and I've always been told about and I've always done. [So] don't worry about being so precise.831 Strauss: Til Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks
You'll find quite a lot of third flute solos in this, you know. Push them out--hit them out! Knock them out! All of a sudden you think "Oh, I'm in the wrong place," because the others have gone deedle-um. But it's not. Funny piece, Til.832
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Mendelssohn: Scherzo movement from Midsummer Night's Dream
When you play Midsummer Night's Dream, make sure that the first breath isn't just enough to get you along the first phrase, but huge. As big as possible. So that when you take your next breath, you're topping up to your top. And when you take your last breath, again it's topping right up. Then you'll get through easily. People don't generally think of that. They think of getting enough air in for the first bit, then later they've only got time to fill up halfway. They never have enough in store to do the last long one.
Every time when you have a chance to get a decent breath...make it as big as you can.833
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Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphosis
The thing to remember about that line is that it's obbligato. So the line, the tune, is down in the bassoons and then we crescendo at the end. So whatever rubato they do, we have to follow along here. And if they suddenly do something funny, we've got to go with them.834
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Schoenberg: Wind Quintet
The second movement is all piccolo. And there are two solos in there that go down to bottom D-flat. What you do is play D, and then bring your [right] little finger around and plug up the end. You've got to bring your little finger round the corner and cover it as much as you can.835
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Most flutists, no matter what their career path, will be called upon to play a recital at some time. One of the most important parts of playing any recital is planning the program. A well-planned program allows flutists to be at their best and allows the audience to be both enlightened and entertained by the performance.
Peter Lloyd has both played and attended many recitals, and feels that it is time for a change from the "chronological" recitals that take an audience on a virtual trip through time, in order, from Baroque to twentieth century.
I don't think it's a good idea where you work chronologically. You start with your Bach, maybe move along up through your Schubert variations...and then come along to Reinecke and go on to the Martinu and eventually maybe you do a contemporary piece. I think it's all wrong because...with an instrument like the flute, it gets very boring.836
Typically, many flute recitals begin with a work by J.S. Bach or another Baroque composer. Peter Lloyd believes this to be a most unwise choice.
I'm certain it's wrong to play a Bach sonata first. When you go on in the beginning I think you're much too nervous, and to do a good Bach sonata really well is difficult--very difficult.
In order to make things go well for you, don't play a difficult piece for a starter. Play easier pieces to start with...that you can suddenly open out and be happy and start to breathe easily and feel comfortable. Then when the appropriate moment comes, then play your Bach or your Couperin, because it needs so much more care and decision and thought!
I don't think it matters what you start with, but don't start with Baroque--unless you're doing a Baroque program! Then there's not much you can do except choose an easy piece that you can start with.837
Lloyd believes that the more variety one can put into a recital, the better. He advocates putting stylistically contrasting works side-by-side on a program, so that the audience does not feel that they are hearing an historical timeline.
This is an age of easy accessibility to a wide range of musical styles. The flick of a radio dial or television remote sends widely varying styles into the homes of the general public every day, so a program that does not adhere to a timeline is much less of a shock to an audience nowadays than musicians think.
Break [your works] up so an audience hears different styles of playing--from one piece to the next, all the way through. And don't forget to put in your unaccompanied piece, because that again offers change, variety....Think about it. It makes life so much more interesting for the audience. Don't ever play two pieces that are very similar in style close together. The flute is too boring.838
When programming in this way, flutists are cautioned to use all their resources to bring out changes in style. Varied articulation, color, phrasing, and dynamic ranges can be incorporated to make a memorable recital.
For my own taste, I honestly get bored to tears with a recital of seventy or eighty minutes of flute playing where every piece sounds the same. I think it's perfectly possible now to think stylistically and change your styles between one piece and another.839
The way recitalists present themselves onstage can set up the audience's perception of what they are about to hear. Peter Lloyd finds that this is a neglected area. Besides having a positive entrance and general stance, Lloyd suggests addressing the audience as a mutual ice-breaker.
When Mrs. Gilbert...gave two classes on voice projection and demeanor...and actually watched people walking on and presenting themselves it was absolutely fascinating. Hardly anybody did it well. People found it so difficult to express themselves speaking--to speak out. I think that's something you all need to think about.
It helps...if you are playing for an audience...if you do say a few words about the piece. It does help relax the atmosphere somewhat.
I found that out...in America, because that's the first time I started speaking before concerts at recitals, and people were immediately on my side....very sympathetic vibes coming back at me instead of that total first moment of terror of walking on and feeling all sorts of shaky. It does help.840
Female recitalists often dress in very expensive gowns. Peter Lloyd cautions that the stage lights are apt to pick up any reflective material and glare--sometimes painfully--into the audience. This includes gold watchbands, earrings, and even a highly polished flute. But the worst offenders are sequined gowns coupled with flutists who use a great deal of body movement while playing.
Whatever you do, do not ever wear spangles. Sequins. All those shiny bits that you ladies wear. I mean, the flute is brilliant with light, you've got lights up there in a big concert hall, and all the light flashing off the flute...it really destroys any slow movement....It's a bit too much.841
An outfit that seems lovely at home may present unforeseen problems onstage. For instance, Nancy Toff advised that female flutists might be better off wearing a skirt and blouse combination rather than a dress during recitals, "so that their skirts do not hike up when they raise their flutes."842
Recitalists naturally want to be heard by their audiences. The vast majority of flutists feel that they will be overpowered by the sound of the piano, so they keep the piano lid down as far as possible during recitals. Lloyd agrees with Trevor Wye that this is a mistake--the lid should be opened completely.
If you stand in front [of the piano], the sounding board of the piano will help project your sound....It really does make a lot of difference. And if you think that you've got a small sound....you'll find that standing here, you can count on extra sound. Also, if you're playing something and you're thinking "Gosh, I want a bit more color..." you just gently turn slightly and you get--with the pedals on--some very interesting effects.
In a big hall it's fantastic, because the sound will go much further than the piano's. So often you know, with the lid down, the piano gets squashed--and our sound disappears around the back of it. It may be more painful to you playing there, but I can promise you it'll sound much better.843
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Mental Barriers and Stage Nerves
One of the most trying circumstances in the life of any performer is to have a work ready to near-perfection, only to have it marred by performance nerves. Whether during a solo recital, an exposed passage in an orchestral work, or in a chamber performance, stage nerves cause performers to question their choice of careers.
Peter Lloyd has also faced what he terms "the pearlies" and is fully aware that many times it has nothing to do with fear. "These things suddenly take over for no reason. I've no idea why. Maybe I was very tired...maybe that set up something...I don't know why."844
What an audience may not know about even top-notch soloists is that the confident, outgoing stance they show the audience is not their backstage demeanor.
Everybody's nervous when we go on. I mean if we're actually truthful, we are nervous. I remember very well watching various pianists in my orchestral days back of the stage before they went on....and then they walk on and look so happy.
[One performer] used to have little hot water bottles in his sleeves...and then he'd walk on and have smiles for everybody. Incredible. It's an amazing act, you know.
The message of course is that we've got to find a way to control [nerves] so it doesn't affect our playing or the way we appear to show ourselves to the audience.845
Showing yourself to the audience appearing totally confident and comfortable makes them comfortable too, and that's when the vibes come back good.846
Peter Lloyd feels that if performers can control their breathing and start with a good sound, they can break the tension of performance nerves and begin to calm down.
I think that above all, try not to concentrate on the fact that you're feeling nervous, but go back to thinking free breathing. Try to relax that. If you play your first few notes well, you feel more comfortable with the color. More relaxed.847
Actually the control of the adrenaline flow is difficult. Sometimes...it is hard to calm yourself down. But the only way I've found to cope with it before a concert is to do slow, deep breathing....I always say that if you can play your first two or three notes with a deep breath, you will sound okay and you'll relax and then it's easy.848
Rather by accident, Lloyd found that another cure for stage nerves is anger.
I'd been dreading [a concert] because I'd had an operation and hadn't been practicing and really I was so nervous. And then I had this mighty row [argument] with the manager of a hotel about a stupid phone bill with them wanting to charge me fifty cents before I was going to be allowed to use the telephone. And I got so angry that when I walked on that platform...I had no problems at all!
What you need to do is find a way of distracting yourself--have a row with your [spouse] about an hour before you go on!849
One habit almost guaranteed to bring on the "pearlies," Lloyd says, is being obsessed with the music backstage.
If you're playing a recital you've been practicing all the music for ages and ages. Don't take it to your dressing room and refer to it. Don't keep it with you. That makes it worse, because there you are, "Oh, I've just got to get this one little bit." Like as not, you're going to be twice as nervous about that passage as you would have been if you'd left everything on stage.850
Peter Lloyd advises flutists to practice concentration, just as they would practice a difficult music passage. In his Manchester flute studio, Lloyd uses etudes to build stamina and concentration.
If you can get through [an etude] perfectly, playing it to a class of flute players, you're doing fantastically well, because you'll never do anything harder.
Any piece of music unless it's Bach has got rests. And so you pick up re-concentration before the next phrase. With an etude, you start here and you finish there and you just keep going. And what happens is...most people will play the first 2/3 or 3/4 of the thing perfectly. And then you watch--they'll become more and more tense. "I'm going to reach the end! I'm going to make it! I'm going to make it!" And then they fall on their faces. Very few people seem to be able to [play it] perfectly. Try it.851
The flutist who learns to keep tension under control until the end of an etude will know how to control tension in concert situations.
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Playing in Different Halls
It is always wise, particularly in a recital situation, to check the size and acoustic properties of the hall where the performance will occur. This is especially critical when a performer is on tour.
Peter Lloyd advocates slight changes in tempo and in articulation to make up for varying acoustical properties among halls.
[One's playing] has got to be conditioned very much by the acoustic you're playing in. You can't play very fast in a cathedral because it's just washed out. You have to hold back. Otherwise, it just goes sweeping by.
You have to be very careful about acoustics...Suppose you're going on tour? You've got different acoustic conditions. You're playing in a theater one night with a curtain and then the next day you've got a nice concert hall with hard walls and a hard floor and very singing acoustics. Remember when it's much more resonant, be much more clear. Be a bit shorter [with articulated notes]. I think it's a very important point that we tend to forget.
We go practicing away and the program is fantastic in the little practice room--and then you go out into the hall and it's terrible. So whenever possible, check out the hall.852
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Peter Lloyd's practice regimen is similar to that of Geoffrey Gilbert's, but varies in its order. Gilbert's practice regimen was as follows: tone studies, scales and technical studies, etudes, and solo works.853 Peter Lloyd reverses the first two.
I always say do your scales first rather than do long note slurs which are far more difficult and need far more sensitivity and control. Get your lips warmed up while you're doing all the scale stuff...and get your scales done. And then get on to the really hard stuff, which is doing long tones because there's nothing more difficult than standing and breathing and understanding how to put together the color and sound. Practice that, and then go on to your etudes and pieces.854
Peter Lloyd advocates many hours of practice, but he sees no sense in drilling away hour after hour, leading to flute "burnout" or physical injury. Instead, he suggests breaking practice sessions up into blocks of time in which one is awake and aware, and then taking some time off. This allows the body to unwind from what is, after all, an unnatural stance, and it allows the mind to stay flexible.
I believe that you have to have time to relax while you're practicing. If I expect people to do four hours worth of practice--of concentrated work--it takes six hours to do it. You see? It's no good just standing there and putting your clock on and going "Oh, there's an hour and now another hour--and I can go soon!" You have to practice according to your own ability to concentrate.
When you can't concentrate because you're tired or other things are crowding into your mind...there's no use practicing beyond that limit....You've still got several years of time to practice. My point is patience. If you learn to practice in twenty-minute stretches because you can't do half an hour, take time off after twenty minutes...settle yourself down. Take your mind off of it. Why don't you do a breathing exercise, instead of setting yourself up with [another work]?
Enjoy your practice. It seems like [people think] "Have I done this? I've got to do that. Have I cleaned my teeth today? Have I done my scales?" You must never be a drudge. It must always be interesting and it must always be productive, you see.855
For many flutists, time is at a premium. There is simply no room for a four-hour regimen--especially one that takes six hours to complete. Peter Lloyd is very aware of this problem. His method for keeping one's flute skills sharp during busy times is as follows:
What do you do if you've only got an hour to practice a day? I do think that you have to find time, at least five days a week...to practice scales and do scale exercises, and to do a certain amount of sonority. I think you can do a tremendous amount of sonority on pieces that you learn.
I think the first thing you'd probably give up is the etudes. I think they're terribly important, because certain other folks do claim that they do help people to play easily and with confidence. But I think that's the first thing you do--give up etudes. And then you do a lot of your sonority and your careful hard work [with] articulation on your pieces.
But I do think that the scales are important...If only to keep your fingers free. It's the freedom and the fact that when you face scales you are learning to face lines of sixteenths evenly....I can't give you a blueprint beyond that.856
After warming up on scale exercises, Lloyd believes in working on the difficult part of flute playing--long tones. He feels that, by beginning with scales, flutists warm up their bodies to the point where control is possible. Only after that has been done should long tones be attempted. He feels that long tone exercises are too taxing to be played "cold."
Get students to do their scales for at least an hour....because in the process of doing that, you're getting free. Your muscles are relaxing, your lips are relaxing, and everything's free. Then after that start doing your sonority because then your mouth--your whole system of blowing--is ready for it.857
Students often neglect this aspect of practice, feeling that playing long tones is beneath them.
Sonority is the hardest thing to understand....Supposing you do practice your long tones. You start off in the morning and you think, "Okay, better get my long notes done." [There, Peter Lloyd plays once, carelessly, and then adds some vibrato, equally carelessly.]
It's incredible how many people do just that. And they very soon get used to the sound...because they've got nothing to compare it with, and then you start to accept it.858
Just as the terms "embouchure" and "technique" incorporate several aspects, "long tones" are not simply a test of breath and endurance. They also help build a repertoire of tone colors [timbres], dynamics, tuning, expression, and even various types of articulation.
Try to think that it's not just a question of making a beautiful sound. Work on that [sound] in different dynamics. Try different controls of articulation within those.859
Peter Lloyd learned control of tone color through long tone studies with Fernand Caratgé.
Caratgé used to make me play on...the extremes of color. [He'd] try to make me work the most disgusting hard ones, in that color, through the whole dynamic range. And then again to work in [a contrasting color]. But it is desperately important that we don't just play a medium color--a medium dynamic. That really is not what music's all about. We have to take risks. You'll find when you listen to the best players, what risks they're taking musically. Listen to them playing a pianississimo. Listen to the intonation and the color that they're producing. Listen to the bigger sound, too.860
Peter Lloyd feels that, especially in the middle and upper octaves, many flutists tend to aim their airstream too high and lose the richness of sound present in the lower harmonics. Long tones provide an opportunity to solve this problem.
When you're warming yourself up, work from below. Start to hear the lower harmonics in the sound. And if you start [your] sound and it isn't quite as well done as the end of the previous one, do it again. Make sure it comes back to the same position. Don't be lazy and...let the colors go.861
The control gained through long-tone studies provide the tools performers need for maximum artistic expression.
I've not made a big enough issue in past classes about this point. It's very hard wherever one goes to get people to understand how important it is...because in our career, whether you're a solo player or an orchestral player, you'll need the biggest range of dynamic and color that you can find.862
Marcel Moyse's book De La Sonorité863 is an excellent source for tone study exercises. Lloyd cautions flutists not to blindly start on whatever note Moyse wrote first for each exercise, but to personalize each study for themselves. Flutists should remember that this book was written for himself and for his sounds. He used that B-natural in the middle octave because that was a very good note for him.864
When one has gained a certain amount of control over tuning, dynamics, color, and articulation, study of Marcel Moyse's book of opera arias, Tone Development Through Interpretation865 should commence.
When flutists begin the third phase of Peter Lloyd's practice pattern--etudes--they usually begin practicing them too fast. Lloyd recommends tying long tone studies and etudes together the first time through an unfamiliar etude.
When you're learning an etude...rather than running through the thing and looking for the difficult bits, get familiar with it by playing it as long notes. You'll find that...the connection of intervals when you get faster is that much more effective because you know the sound colors that you're trying to hear.866
Thomas Nyfenger advocated a slow read-through.
Discover where the most difficult parts are, not by tripping over them several times, but by taking note of them during the first slow reading and MARKING THESE AREAS FOR EXTRA CARE [capitals are Nyfenger's] so as to avoid the common pitfall of the mistake-ridden play through.867
Slow practice is not a waste of time--it is a time saver. Peter Lloyd feels that slow practice can keep flutists relaxed during the learning process. By practicing phrases correctly at a slow tempo initially, flutists will tend to practice them correctly--and stay more relaxed--as phrases are played at increasingly faster tempos.
Don't, don't, don't, don't play too quickly too soon....[Take] a really difficult piece that you've never played or a study that you've never played, and use it as a tone study. Use it for intervals. Use it for colors. Use it for anything else you can think of, but keep the tempo back and only bring the tempo up bit by bit.
It's all psychology. There's a nasty little man that lives up [in our heads] you know. And he looks at these things sometimes and he tells you, "You can't play that. It's too difficult." And you've just got to learn how to beat him, because he's really wrong.
Try something really, really difficult....Try getting it down to where you don't make a mistake because it's so easy to read. And you'll be amazed how quickly you learn the piece right. That type of slow practice is very good.
Now the guiding point is to play it perfectly relaxed. If the fingers start twitching, then you've gone wrong. It's too fast. It's got to be relaxed. Totally relaxed. Be patient. Move your metronome up slowly. I know most of you are impatient. But it is a point, it is a way that works, and I do honestly put that suggestion to you. Try it.868
Remember, every person in the world can play everything that's been written--provided that it is slow enough.869
Above all, the wise flutist will attempt to play even the most dull etudes musically. "Practice and play etudes like they are solo performances," Geoffrey Gilbert advised.870
Thomas Nyfenger wrote:
Discover music in these pieces. Yes, I said pieces....If you can make music out of these etudes, you can charm a stone when applying your skills to some more performable repertoire.871
Flutists should use etudes to practice aspects of their playing that need work, rather than struggling with those aspects on solo literature. Etudes are perfect vehicles for experimentation that leads to improvement. They will reveal the work to be done, not the impossibility of achieving one's goals. As Thomas Nyfenger wrote: "Never allow the flute to dictate to you what can and cannot be done."872
The final aspect of the routine is practicing solo repertoire. Geoffrey Gilbert accorded this aspect of practice no more time than etude work; if the other aspects of playing have been achieved, solo work will be the easiest part of the practice routine.873
Lloyd adds the following advice from Geoffrey Gilbert: "Remember, practice difficult pieces, but play easy ones."874
Often, in solo literature, flutists experience difficulty playing two notes against three in the piano or orchestra--or four against seven. Peter Lloyd worked cross-rhythms out on graph paper.
Beginning with large-scale, duple beats, he used the graph paper lines to determine exactly how beats divided into triplets and sixes, and then into fives and sevens, matched up against one another. With this chart Lloyd was secure when called upon to play any beat division against another--even such exotic combinations as sevens against fours. As he said:
You can be exact....And then you can start thinking, "Right, I'm going to go two against seven," and work that up. In other words, you've got in front of you all the combinations that you use, and [you] take it up to thirteen. It's really very important to try to understand, to see where the rhythms are.875
TOP Main Index
Playing with Tension
Most musicians are always trying to improve their playing. This constant striving means that occasionally, during practice, musicians work themselves into a state of tension. Peter Lloyd breaks that tension by playing while lying on the floor.
If you have problems with articulation or problems with breathing, just lie on the floor and do it because you're totally relaxed. You're not standing, holding yourself up. You're not trying to stop yourself falling.876
Chronic tension is another problem altogether and is one of the hardest habits to break in flute playing. Peter Lloyd advises flutists--as Geoffrey Gilbert did--to start from a point of success.
What you've got to do is go back in your practice and playing to a stage and a tempo where you can play slow enough for it to not happen. In other words, slow enough for you to be able to concentrate on it. [As soon as] you start playing quicker notes, then the problem is going to come back.
It may take a month. It may take two years. You never know. But the point is, if you break that sequence of practice where you're very slowly developing that relaxation, if you break that, you've gone back.877
On-the-job practice is an aspect Lloyd has had to face for most of his professional life. As a "no play, no pay" organization, the London Symphony Orchestra had a grueling schedule where much of the playing was practically sight-reading. Lloyd quickly learned how to make the most of his time during rehearsals.
You know in the orchestra we did an awful lot of session work on films and whatnot, and there were times when you walked in there in the early morning and you hadn't had the music...and you're looking at this dreadful mass of black and you knew that it was supposed to be in the can [recorded] in the next half hour. And it had to be there, and it had to be right.
So, while the strings were trying to figure out their own notes and bowings, you're very carefully going through...looking for wrong notes--looking for notes that didn't belong to the chord or scales.... working very slowly, very concentrated.878
Above all, flutists should never stop striving to better themselves. Many times in the rush of teaching, concertizing, freelancing, or negotiating the maze of paper in classroom situations, flutists are drained of time and energy and practice suffers. James Galway writes:
You must learn to need practice, just as [without troubling to learn it] you need to eat and sleep. When practice has sunk into your routine to this extent, we are really getting somewhere.879
One of the reasons Peter Lloyd keeps his masterclasses open to both students and professional flutists is the realization that even professionals need a "thousand-mile checkup" now and again to make sure that bad habits have not crept back into their playing.
Peter Lloyd has distilled the best advice from his teachers and his own experiences into a wealth of knowledge which he has freely shared in classes, private lessons, and through this paper. His generosity and kindness kindle such enthusiasm for the art of flute playing that flutists under his instruction gain rapid progress. Moreover, this progress is accomplished with joy instead of fear and frustration.
It is hoped that this work will bring Peter Lloyd's ideas to many flutists who may then benefit more directly from his teaching.
769 Masterclass notes, 6/95, Class 1.
772 Wye, Proper Flute Playing, 27.
773 Masterclass notes, 6/13/95, 5 P.M.
774 Toff, 182.
775 Masterclass notes, 6/13/95, 5 P.M.
776 Masterclass notes 6/14/95, 5 P.M.
779 Wye, Proper Flute Playing, 26.
780 Masterclass notes, 6/14/95, 5 P.M.
784 Masterclass notes, 6/21/94, 8 P.M.
785 Morris, 52.
786 Masterclass notes, 6/15/95, 5 P.M.
787 Masterclass notes, 6/13/95, 5 P.M.
790 Galway, 194-5.
791 Masterclass notes, 6/16/94, Evening class.
792 Masterclass notes, 6/21/94, 8 P.M.
794 Masterclass notes, 6/16/94, Evening class.
795 Masterclass notes, 6/14/95, 5 P.M.
798 Masterclass notes, 6/13/95, 5 P.M.
799 Nyfenger, 30.
800 Masterclass notes, 6/15/95, 5 P.M.
802 Masterclass notes, 6/26/94, Technique class.
803 Masterclass notes, 6/14/95, 5 P.M.
804 Additional taped notes, February 1998.
805 Wye, 26.
806 Masterclass notes, 6/14/95, 5 P.M.
808 Masterclass notes, 6/22/94, Morning class.
809 Masterclass notes, 6/15/95, 5 P.M.
811 Masterclass notes, 6/16/95, 5 P.M.
812 Masterclass notes 6/15/95, 5 P.M.
813 Masterclass notes 6/14/95, 5 P.M.
815 Masterclass notes, 6/15/95, 5 P.M.
816 Masterclass notes, 6/14/95, 5 P.M.
817 Masterclass notes, 6/15/95, 5 P.M.
818 Masterclass notes, 6/13/95, 5 P.M.
819 Masterclass notes, 6/15/95, Evening class.
820 Masterclass notes, 6/17/95, Morning class.
822 Masterclass notes, 6/13/95, 5 P.M.
823 Masterclass notes, 6/17/95, Morning class.
824 Masterclass notes, 6/17/95, Morning class.
825 Masterclass notes, 10/29/94, Performer 6.
826 Masterclass notes, 6/26/94, Evening class.
827 Masterclass notes, 10/29/94, Performer 6.
828 Masterclass notes, 6/26/94, Evening class.
829 Masterclass notes, 6/26/94, Evening class.
832 Masterclass notes, 6/14/95, Morning class.
834 Masterclass notes, 6/15/95, Evening class.
835 Masterclass notes, 6/14/95, Evening class.
836 Masterclass notes, 6/21/94, 8 P.M.
837 Masterclass notes, 6/15/94, 5 P.M.
838 Masterclass notes, 6/21/94, 8 P.M.
839 Masterclass notes, 10/29/94, Performer 3.
840 Masterclass notes, 6/21/94, Morning class.
841 Masterclass notes, 6/25/94, Evening class.
842 Toff, 174.
843 Masterclass notes, 10/29/94, Performer 1.
844 Masterclass notes, 6/15/95, Morning class.
845 Masterclass notes 10/29/94, Performer 2.
846 Additional taped notes, February 1998.
847 Masterclass notes 10/29/94, Performer 2.
848 Masterclass notes, 6/15/95, Morning class.
849 Masterclass notes, 6/15/94, 5 P.M.
851 Masterclass notes, 10/29/94, Performer 2.
852 Masterclass notes, 6/26/94, Morning class.
853 Floyd, 126.
854 Masterclass notes, 6/21/94, Morning class.
855 Masterclass notes, 6/16/94, 5 P.M.
856 Masterclass notes, 6/21/94, 8 P.M.
857 Masterclass notes, 6/95, Class 4.
863 Marcel Moyse, De La Sonorité (Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1934).
864 Additional taped notes, February 1998.
865 Marcel Moyse, Tone Development Through Interpretation (New York: McGinnis & Marx Publishers, 1962).
866 Masterclass notes, 6/15/94, 5 P.M.
867 Nyfenger, 122.
868 Masterclass notes, 6/16/94, 5 P.M.
869 Additional taped notes, February 1998.
870 Floyd, 124.
871 Nyfenger, 122.
872 Nyfenger, 122.
873 Floyd, 130.
874 Additional taped notes, February 1998.
875 Masterclass notes, 6/26/94, Morning class.
876 Masterclass notes, 6/15/95, Technique class.
877 Masterclass notes, 6/95, Class 3.
878 Masterclass notes, 6/16/94, 5 P.M.
879 Galway, 111.