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How to improve your staccato tone quality?

by | Mar 12, 2017 | Ory's Tips | 2 comments

Ory’s Flute Tips

How to improve your staccato tone quality?

 

  • Is your tone quality while playing legato different than your staccato?
  • Does your staccato sound weaker than your legato?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to one or more of the questions, then this post is especially for you.

⁉ Why does my staccato sound different than my legato?

There could be of course many reasons for the differences and only after watching you play I would be able to determine the exact reason. Nevertheless, these are the most common reasons:

  • You drop the air speed while playing staccato
  • Your tongue movements are too big and interrupt the air
  • Your embouchure shape changes and therefore your sound as well

In fact, the 3 reasons are connected to each other, and most probably, solving one will help the second and the third reason.

💨 Base your staccato on your air speed

We tend to give too much importance to our tonguing while playing staccato and we tend to forget how important is the use of our air speed and pressure to the staccato. I would even say that the importance of the air speed is higher than the tonguing (and you might wonder how is that even possible, and I’ll explain).

What would happen if you play a scale/passage in legato without the required air speed? You would probably automatically compensate for the lack of air speed by forcing your lips – and the result would be a thin and not a full sound.

The same thing would happen when you play staccato – if you don’t have enough air speed you will have to rely more on your tongue, forcing it to work much harder than what’s actually needed. Your tongue will get tired very quickly and your sound won’t be as full as it could.

Step 1: Wish to have great staccato? Play first great legato!

Here is the deal: Whether you are playing your morning scales, Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Voliere by Saint-Saens or any other passage/piece in staccato, practice it first in legato. Make sure your tone quality is full, focused and equal through the whole passage and concentrate on the air speed/pressure you need to use in order to achieve that.

Create for yourself exercises that combine legato (as your ‘control passage’) and staccato immediately after it (and keep in mind the feeling of the air speed/pressure you just previously used in the legato passage).
Start with big legato/staccato groups and make them gradually shorter.

Here is as example of such practicing method: Try to play the staccato passage with exactly the same air as the legato passage.

Example of a Legato-Staccato exercise

Legato-Staccato ex. 1

 

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Step 2: The secret of great staccato – small tongue movements 😛

If you are sure to have sufficient air speed while playing legato, then now is the time to gradually add the tongue on top of it. I suggest to make it in few steps:

  • Play the scale in legato (Ex.D) – concentrate on your air stream and speed (in order to keep it the same for the next steps)
  • Play the scale with a very broad ‘détachée’ (Ex.E) – la la la la (for single tonguing) / la-ga-la-ga (for double tonguing)
  • Play the scale with a clear tonguing (Ex.F) – da da da da (single tonguing) / da-ga-da-ga (double tonguing)
  • Play the scale with stronger tonguing (Ex.G) – ta ta ta ta (single tonguing) / ta-ka-ta-ka (double tonguing)

The use of air should be similar in all the 4 steps. If you are not sure about how you use your air between the steps, play another legato scale.

In exercises E,F and G the legato sign should remind you to use your air as if you were playing legato.
Make sure to use the air constantly – don’t stop it. Play steps 2-4 exactly with the same air as in step 1.

Legato Staccato ex.2

Legato Staccato ex.2

 

Step 3: Your embouchure position should not change 💋

Now, after making sure your air speed is quick enough and reducing the movements of your tongue, there is no reason for your embouchure to change while playing staccato. You should be able to keep it the same as if you were playing the scale or passage in legato.

Try it out and let me know how it feels.

Enjoy experimenting,
Ory

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

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