Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Flute Journey Continues

Since the December 25th arrival of my Peter Noy flute, I've been happily adapting to it. Both my embouchure and my hands are undergoing many changes. As I practice every day, I see rapid progress. If nothing else, switching from flute to flute over the past few years has taught me how to quickly adjust to a new instrument, a skill I hope I will no longer need!

Playing a different flute involves work in several areas.
  • EMBOUCHURE: One must learn how best to direct air across the flute's blow hole so that a variety of timbres can be produced and proper pitch can be maintained. This area of work involves strengthening and retraining the muscles of the face and lips.
  • HANDS: One must train the fingers to cover the holes. The fourth finger (the ring finger) on each hand is usually the most problematic, as it is the weakest and hardest to control. The finger span of my hands is average, but even so, I need to develop more strength to consistently cover the holes when playing at top speeds.
To strengthen my embouchure and hands, I am doing two types of work:
  • TECHNICAL: Long tones develop embouchure strength and accurate pitch. Finger exercises allow me to work on various patterns that will develop my coordination while I gain strength in the wider hand stretch required of my right hand. I'm working on my left hand position, rolling the headjoint inwards to give more freedom to my left wrist and to better balance the flute against my index finger. I'm also paying attention to throat articulation and the position of my right thumb.
  • TUNES: To keep from being bored out of my mind, I declared January to be Polka Month. Polkas are easy to learn and fun to play in sessions. Conal O'Grada, my teacher at Willie Clancy Week last summer, taught us some polkas so I reviewed those. I'm also learning a few from Fliuit, a flute instructional tutor by June McCormack as well as from The Irish Flute Player's Handbook by flutemaker Hammy Hamilton. I've worked on 15 polkas in January and I'm having a pretty good time, so maybe I'll keep going for another few weeks.
Thinking about how I came to develop these transitioning skills, I started to recall my journey through Irish traditional music. Being an inveterate list maker, my recollections took the form of a timeline which begins before I started blogging. Once the blog was established, I had a place to reflect on my frustrations and record my progress. Note the links and corresponding labels used for grouping similar topics.

The collage below makes the point in a more concise way, showing the variety of instruments I've played since 2003.

Top left - borrowed
Casey Burns keyless boxwood flute
Top middle - my Cillian Ó Briain tin whistle (2004 photo, lesson with Mary Bergin)
Top right - Peter Noy head joint, on loan, for my silver flute
Bottom left - borrowed Terry McGee keyless African blackwood flute
Bottom middle - my Casey Burns mopane folk flute
Bottom right - my Wm. S. Haynes handmade solid silver flute
Center - my Peter Noy 6-keyed boxwood flute

Yes, the years since that momentous visit to Ireland in 2003 have been full of growth and adventure. During that time I've become acculturated in the world of traditional Irish music and have learned many tunes. I've experimented with Irish piano accompaniment and have discovered I can sing a bit when I'm of a mind to do so. I've even tried set dancing. Flute is my primary interest though, and now that I have a good instrument I'm ready to do some serious work on my playing abilities. If only there were more hours in the day!

© 2010, Linda Mason HoodTruffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

No comments: