Ory’s Flute Tips
Excerpts guide – Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune
In this and future posts I would like to share with you some tips and suggestions about various orchestral excerpts from our repertoire. The first one will be the “Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune” by Claude Debussy.
I had great pleasure to perform it myself with the Geneva Camerata, in which I’m a member. Listen to the recording, the tips are right after it:
It´s all about colors
French impressionistic music has many flute solos, probably because of the wide range of colors the flute can offer. Therefore, make sure you bring out different colors while playing. There are many opportunities to change between various colors as we play this excerpt/piece and it would be a pity not to use those opportunities.
There are 2 main spots in the excerpt in which you can show your ability to change the color (marked in the red circles):
I recommend you to take a breath before these spots, so you won’t have to breath on the bar line and enable a smooth change of color.
Changing the color goes hand by hand with rubato – take your time and change to the next note with the new color only when the change of color is completely done.
You can find here more tips regarding your tone colors.
Focus your tone
This excerpt (and especially the opening phrase) presents a great challenge for our tone quality control and our use of air. We would like to play very soft and tend to loose our focus of our sound, resulting in an airy tone (and therefore, wasting a lot of air).
Try to have a tone color which is very focused, yet not loud and which doesn’t require a lot of air (rather requires a quick air speed). You can read here my advice on how to use your air more efficiently.
Make sure every note has the same tone quality through the passage – each note should have exactly the same tone color as the previous note, without any big dynamic or colro gaps between the notes.
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Plan your vibrato
You can choose whether or not you wish to use vibrato for the first phrase. Personally I like to use the vibrato for the long notes in order to develop the intensity of the note.
Try to choose a vibrato speed which is not too slow or wide. That will only interrupt the phrase and get all the attention. The vibrato should be small and quick and should be developed through the whole length of the note (therefore, don’t stop it until you play the next note).
On the contrary, in the very last note of the excerpt (the B natural) decrease the vibrato and end the note without any vibrato. As you play the diminuendo, decrease the use of vibrato till you stop it completely and only the note sounds.
Be precise, yet free
Make sure your rhythm is correct. Debussy notates very precisely and we should clearly hear the difference between a 1/16 note and a triplet. Having said that, you don’t want to sound too ‘mathematical’ – use some rubato, make certain notes slightly longer and the rest slightly faster. If the music gets a bit excited, increase slightly the tempo and decrease it as it calms down.