Develop your flute tone colors palette
Ory’s Flute Tips
Develop your flute tone colors palette
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Musicians are often named artists. One definition of art is: ” the conscious use of skill and creative imagination “. Skill is what we practice daily: Our scales, arpeggios, exercises, etudes and playing different pieces. Creative imagination is the factor that would differentiate the musicians from the music artists.
Have you ever considered what do you value the most in your playing or the playing of others? Are you impressed by the skills of a player (for example finger technique, loud low register, or maybe by extremely quick staccato) or is it rather the musicianship, the risk taking, the special interpretation suggested by the player that is striking you more?
Certain skills are purely mechanical and ‘muscle work’ – How quick your fingers move or how quick your staccato is. These you learn and improve by strengthening your muscles as you would make a workout in gym every day. But other skills are only possible to improve when you combine them with your creative imagination and create a skill which is unique to you. One of these skills is your tone color palette.
🎨 Why do I need a tone color palette?
Every painter would have his unique color palette in order to create his painting with it. It consists of few basic colors and the artist will mix them as he likes in order to create new and unique colors for his painting. In music it works the same way: we need different tone colors in order to ‘paint’ our musical pieces with the right color that would fit the specific phrase, or change of harmony or even a color that would fit better to the style and the period of the piece we are playing (for example, to have a different color for playing Baroque music and a different color for playing romantic music).
We flutists are very lucky, as the flute allows us to have great variety of colors. By adapting and changing few elements you can create new colors and ‘pick them from your tone colors palette’ when you need. What elements then will effect your tone color?
The direction of your air stream
Your lips pressure, the air speed and the resistance in the embouchure hole
Wish to play with more tone colors? Come to a private masterclass
🔼🔽 Change colors by changing and controlling the direction of your air stream
By simply directing the air stream up and down you can get a variety of colors. The lower you will direct the air stream the more ‘metallic’ and dark your sound would be. The higher you direct the air stream the more ‘airy’ and bright your sound would be.
Personally and generally speaking, I would choose to use brighter colors when I play Baroque repertoire and a more darker sound when playing romantic and 20th century music.
How to practice that? Very simple: Play a long and easy note such as an A or B in first octave. Start by directing your air to the middle of the embouchure wall and slowly change the direction of your air stream towards up or down. Listen to the changes and decide when it’s too much and you loose control and focus over your tone quality.
💋💨 Change colors by changing your lips pressure, the air speed and the resistance in the embouchure hole
In an earlier post I gave some suggestions and exercises to how to develop your lips flexibility. Another practical use of it is the ability to change and fine tune your tone colors. The idea is that by stretching or relaxing your lips you change the air speed and create different resistance when the air stream hits the wall of the embouchure hole. That will result in a variety of tone colors to choose from and the quicker you can change your lips pressure and the better you can control them, the more control you would gain over changing colors during playing.
Again, play an easy note such as B or A in the first octave and change the pressure over your lips. Bring your lips towards the center, as if you were giving a kiss. You should feel that the center of your lips moves forward. Listen to what happens to your tone color while changing the pressure, pick the colors you like the most and notice which lips position do you need in order to play these colors.
Try it out and let me know how it feels.
Ory Schneor is a principal flutist with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, Tongyeong Festival Orchestra and member of the Geneva Camerata. He is teaching masterclasses around the world and he is the founder and instructor at FLUTEinWIEN