Thursday, December 5, 2013

Do, Re, Mi...

It is a whole different world to study music on your own as opposed to taking a prescribed course of study in a college setting. It is easy to simply focus on the art of performing the music and never go beyond that. 

Lucky for me my teacher loves music theory! Once I was finally ready to explore it, we have worked together. Sometimes I would like to put my flute away and focus entirely on theory for a while. 

This year the opportunity to participate in the Certificate of Merit program as an adult student has pushed me to a more focused study. When I realized an element of it is testing on ear training, I began to freak out a bit. This brought about a discussion of focusing on scales as "Do-Re-Mi" -- I was resistant. I didn't see a need to apply silly names instead of note names, (C-D-E..).

Enter a new app called EarBeater. As soon as I discovered this app, I was thrilled. Here was a way to work on ear training, anywhere, anytime I have a few minutes. Here I can create tests that narrow in on exactly the things I need to work on. And here is where I changed my mind about "Do-Re-Mi."

I started working scale identification: Major (Dorian),  Natural minor (Aolian), Melodic Minor and Harmonic Minor. I quickly realized I needed to focus on the intervals between the notes, or rather, the whole and half steps and where they are in the scale. 

This led me to make a little card which gives me a visual representation. With the focus on the relationships of the notes, hearing all different keys of scales...the only answer was "Do-Re-Mi"... And now I see why my teacher advised me to explore it. 

Here's my card: 
The vertical lines are the space of a note. 
Two note names within a space indicate half steps.
Above the lines are "W" and "h" - indicating the scale degrees. For example, a Major scale is W, W, h, W, W, W, h

By looking at the card it is easy to see that Major and Melodic minor will sound the same except for the half step between Re and Mi. Also, Melodic minor and Natural minor are the same except for the half step between So and La, and the whole step between Ti and Do.

A friend of mine just showed me another trick for learning to use Do-Re-Mi.. Curwen hand The senses you can involve in learning, the better!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Air, more air, more air!!

Flutists are an airy bunch: we lose more of the air we put out than other wind instruments. Other wind players blow into their instruments, but we create our notes by bouncing the air across an into the instrument. In fact, part of the skill of playing flute is to direct the air into it as well as across the hole.

As a flutist air capacity has been one of my problems from the very beginning. My teacher would stand there and say "more air, out more air into it!" and I would push,but there was nothing to work with. I have improved, but putting enough air behind a note is still an issue. I am forever running out of air in the middle of a phrase.

My teacher has a new exercise for me: pick an easy note, play it very softly, for as long as you can, until the air is fully exhausted from your lungs...goal: 1 minute. Sounded easy until I tried it. I thought I was blowing for at least 30 seconds....nope. Only 17. Sigh. 

I just had a partial knee replacement (second knee, now both are fixed!), and part of my time in the hospital was breathing into a bottle. The bottle is called an "incentive spirometer." It's purpose is to expand and oxygenate your lungs. Your goal with this little tool is to breathe in through the tube and keep the markers in the right place. It is surprising how difficult it is! I thought I had good deep breathing technique, but not so good as I thought. As I used this tool, I also focused on making a flute embouchure and blowing the air out as long as possible. 

I haven't picked up the flute since my surgery, and all my breathing in the bottle (10 breaths very hour!) but I am eager to see if it is any better.

There are other ways to work on air, so check back to see what I come up with!