Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Learning from the Masters

From time to time I run across a YouTube video that offers an opportunity to learn from a Master Flutist. I discovered Emmanuel Pahud a few years ago when I needed a recording of a piece I was learning. I fell in love with his sound, so the other day I was wandering around on YouTube and found this clip from a Masterclass he gave: watch and learn! 

Thursday, May 9, 2013


If you play flute, and you have (or had) a good teacher, you know that proper posture is key to good tone and performance. I am a self-educated expert on posture..not that mine is perfect...but that I know what perfect is/should be, and what muscles lead to it. (Once a Fitness Instructor, always a Fitness Instructor!)

I had the delightful opportunity to go to a Masterclass with Sir James Galway (one of my heros!) and here is what he said: Place your weight on you right foot, lean back slightly onto that leg, and tilt slightly forward at the hip. Tilt your head a bit to the right, but keep the flute at a right angle to your lip. By doing this you have a strong stance, and can move a bit to enhance your performance. The right arm gets a bit of a rest when you are playing for long periods of time.

I tried this stance..but here is the wild thing: I found that FOR ME, I have much better tone when my weight is forward on my left foot, my head erect, lifting from the back of the head, and flute parallel to the floor. (It does make the right arm work more.)

Try placing your weight in various places--left foot, right foot, central on both feet. Try a slight lean from the hip,or a tilt of the head (always maintain flute at 90 degrees to lips). Experiment and explore until you find the right posture to give you beautiful, round tones. 

More Fantastic Discoveries

I love the process of rediscovery...the times when you make a discovery and it feels fresh and new, but you know that it is something you knew before.

Today's discovery is about standing when practicing. I have always disliked having to standup when I play. And as my knee deteriorated, I found I would get too fatigued to stand and practice, so more, and more I reverted to sitting, and only stood to play when performing or at a lesson.  I liked the excuse, and didn't notice that it made much difference. Yeah, sure.

Today was the second time I tried to practice following my partial knee replacement (you can see all about that on my other blog: Partial Knee Replacement: My Experience . I started to practice, with two chairs, one facing me so I could keep my feet up. But that got a little uncomfortable, so I got up on my feet...Wow!! WHAT WAS THAT!?!

My tone changed 100%! It was incredible! Who knew? Well..I guess lots of people know. But after not being able to stand firmly for months, I am seeing months of effort/practice show up all at once!! 

For more information on proper posture, check out my post labeled "Stance"

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

About Knees and Shoulders

Who knew that having a partial knee replacement would improve my flute playing? I certainly didn't! For the last 4 years I have had a steadily deteriorating knee due to osteoarthritis. It's not been a big deal until about 6 months ago when it began to catch, lock, and cause sudden bursts of pain. 

Long story short, I eventually found myself in the hands of an excellent surgeon who introduced me to MakoPlasty Partial Knee Replacement...totally awesome. But I get ahead of myself.....

About 9 months ago I noticed I was having more trouble holding up my flute. My shoulders would collapse, my chest would cave in and my right arm would drop. We all KNOW that posture is key to performance/tone/technique. I have always had a weakness in my upper back and shoulders. Until I discovered the world of fitness at the age of 48, I was not able to hold my shoulders back for more than a few seconds at a time. 

In the process of becoming a fitness instructor, I engaged a personal trainer to help me to develop my upper body strength. The process of weight training for strength improved my posture, and ended the pain in my wrists which had developed because of lack of muscle tone of the biceps and triceps. 

Two days ago I made a discovery which is best explained on Day 8 of my other blog, Partial Knee Replacement: My Experience.  

Here is the essence: now that my knee has been repaired, and I am able to stand balanced on both feet, my shoulders no longer droop or become fatigued in a few moments!! Holding up my right arm is suddenly easy. 

Who knew?