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The 3 most important techniques to your flute playing that you never practice

by | Feb 27, 2020 | Ory's Tips | 6 comments

Ory’s Flute Tips

The 3 most important techniques to your flute playing that you never practice

 

This time I decided to share with you and discuss a phenomena I see with the big majority of the students I work with, across all level (both hobby, students and professional flutists), who are coming from all countries and flute schools.

In order to start, let me first ask you quickly the next 3 questions:

  1. What are the two most important and basic elements in your playing, without them you won’t get any proper sound?
  2. How much time do you normally practice every day?
  3. How much time during your daily practice do you dedicate to the 2 elements you’ve mentioned above, if at all?

Before I continue, and in order to allow other flutists to compare their answers, click here and write down your answer in the comments section below.

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Curious to know my answer?

If you have answered “air and lips” then you are totally right: if you don’t blow air at all you’ll get absolutely no sound and if you can’t aim the air properly into the flute it will go above the flute and there won’t be any sound. If you wonder what’s the third most important element (as the name of the article suggests there’s a third one), it will come soon…

“Air and lips” might sound very basic to you and I’m sure you’ll agree they are in fact the most basic in your flute playing.

Since I’m sure you’ll agree about it, let me ask you the next questions:

  1. Do you practice these elements daily? How much time daily?
  2. Why don’t you practice them regularly?
  3. Can you guess what might you miss out because you don’t practice them regularly or not at all?

Just in order to compare, how much time do you dedicate daily to your scales, arpeggios, etudes and fingers technique?

Now let’s assume you practice between 2-3 hours a day, 6 days a week. That makes 12-18 hours a week of practicing, 48-72 hours a month, 576-864 hours a year…shall I continue? All this time without giving your attention and care to the most basic elements of your flute playing, that without them you can’t get a proper sound.
Does that sound OK to you?

I can assure you, that you are certainly not the only flutist who don’t practice these elements daily (and probably not even sure how). I get to work regularly with students who have spent years playing without the daily care for their basics. Many of them feel stuck in the same place for a long time because no major improvements or breakthroughs are happening, although they practice regularly.

They are as well always very surprised by the quick results they achieve by practicing these basics during few days of classes only and working on these basics allows them to gain access to many new possibilities they haven’t explored and haven’t been aware even exist.

So what can you do about it?

"If you have time, come to Vienna, learn a lot, improve your playing and meet a fantastic artist and teacher!"

Wieslaw Suruło, Intensive Masterclass Participant
(Krakow Opera Principal flutist, University professor at the Krakow Music Academy)

 ➕ Adding the 3 missing elements to your warm-up routine

I prefer and recommend that you would consider your warm-up routine as your laboratory, in which you are allowed and encouraged to experiment with the various elements that are vital to your playing. It’s not so much about the perfection, rather about taking the risks and discovering your current limits and the ways to go beyond them every day.

Adding the 3 most basic elements of flute playing to your daily warm-up routine will result in a significant improvement in your playing and in fact, will solve issues you’d never thought might be related and can save you months and years of trying to improve your playing without really understanding how.

The 3 elements you should add to your routine, with specific exercises that address them directly are:

The first element is the air and it is the most basic – I consider the air as the starting point of everything you’ll ever play. Here it’s not so much about how you take air, rather how you blow your air.
The second element are the lips and they are the finishing point – the last place your air reaches before leaving your mouth on its way towards the flute. Here I’d use various exercises to develop your lips flexibility and your fine control over the angle you blow the air into the flute.

The third element is in fact everything that is happening in between these 2 points and it contains various elements in it – the balance between the air and the lips (your air pressure), the space you create inside your mouth, the placement of your tongue, your posture (that affects the air column and your ‘resonance box’) and more. Each of these has a direct effect on your sound and you need to know exactly how you can benefit them for a better sound production.

The ideal warm-up routine will start with specific exercises that should be simple yet challenging and address separately each one of the 3 elements. The exercises should allow you to train the relevant muscles for each one of the 3 elements and separate them as much as possible from other elements. That’s the only way to practice effectively and learn how to actually control what you are doing while playing.

Since these are the most basic elements of playing, your warm-up routine should always start with these exercises. If you are building a skyscraper, you should absolutely make sure that your fundamentals are solid, otherwise you can’t build it higher and higher. Your warm-up routine should allow you to deepen your basic techniques and growing further will become easier.

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 – Intensive Masterclasses in Vienna

6 Comments

  1. Mandy Kent

    Most important to me are tone and musicianship. To achieve those (and I think the answer you are looking for), breath support and posture/angle are critical.

    Reply
  2. Peter Ceccarelli

    I play five to six days a week. Two to three hours. I do exercises and Etude work for an hour. I play out of 12 exercise books. Moyse (five books), T&G (two book. , Reichert, Boehm (three books), and
    Macquarie. I then play music I’m working on for an upcoming recital (I do three a year), and work on duet pieces for the Flute Duo I perform with another professional flutist for the past 20 years. I’ve been playing since the age of 10. I’m 62 years old now. My teacher of 10 years was a top Professional in Seattle. She used to play with both the Tokyo and Honolulu Symphony Orchestras and was a busy chamber player. I was trained in the French School. She’s was a decent of the Kincaid American School and Barrere of the French Scho (her teacher studied under both). I had great training and discipline. I adhere to that to this day, but l LOVE playing my flute. True love fest.

    Reply
  3. Benjamin Costello

    Tone (via long tones, harmonics, etc.) And, at least for me, double tonguing, since that’s my greatest weakness as a flutist.

    Reply
  4. Yavuz Mutlu

    1. Support the column of air using the stomach muscles.
    2. Embouchure. Using the tiny muscles in the middle of the lips. I have to admit I learnt this from Ory during a week’s masterclass, which totally transformed my playing.

    Reply
  5. Valerie

    Two most important are breathing/breath control and tone. I try to focus on these throughout my hour long practice session each day, even when playing scales and pieces I am working on.

    Reply
  6. Geraldine Powell

    Air stream and tone

    Reply

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