basics extended techniques harmonics or harmonic multiphonics piccolo practice technique

Using Harmonics: Making Difficult Intervals Even Harder! Why?

If you have a difficult interval in any kind of musical passage, playing the second note as a harmonic makes it even more difficult. You have to put more effort into directing the air and controlling the air speed. Once you have done that though, going back to the original passage without the harmonic seems pretty easy! I see this as good training, the way a weight lifter will shift from heavy weights to light weights (not that my lazy self would really know about this, lol.) This week, working on student compositions, this kind of practice has saved me. However, this time I am applying it to piccolo, and it really works.

The passage in question is as follows:

The last four 32nd notes were troublesome. So I took the E – F# interval and repeated several times slowly, using the F# fingering an octave below (you could also use B natural):

And the A – G interval like this, again repeating several times slowly and with an altered (but still overblown) fingering:

It doesn’t sound pretty! (At least when I play it.) But it does make you work, so when you go back to the original passage, it is much easier!

Any other thoughts? Other applications of this technique?

basics contemporary music exercise books & teaching materials extended techniques harmonics or harmonic multiphonics multiphonics practice technique

Getting Started with Multiphonics

I would like to share the following presentation: Getting Started with Multiphonics – with a deep dive into the harmonic structure of the flute sound. Since this is a work in progress, I will share a link to Google Slides instead of putting the content here. That way you can always view the latest version. Share your feedback, ideas, and corrections in the comment section here on this blog.

Big thanks to Julianna Nickel and her flute studio at George Mason University for inviting me to share these ideas. It was great to bounce around these thoughts, hear questions and receive feedback. Thanks to Studio Musikfabrik for initiating and funding this pedagogical initiative, which will result in a tutorial video scheduled to come out sometime in the Spring of 2021.

basics exercises practice technique

Getting Back in the Saddle

I noticed a strange thing about getting back in shape after the last winter break. I was frustrated and, to be honest, a little frightened at how long it took to retrieve my “norm”, and wondered if it was a dire sign of things to come. I decided to blog about it, not only because most of us have a winter break before us, but to find out if I am the only person to have come up with the solution that I did.

My problem was sound, so I worked on all the “sound” things I was taught. Sonority, harmonics, melodies, whatever I could think of. Even articulation exercises, as sometimes if I do some forward tonguing, my lips are really encouraged to focus and relax. But that didn’t really help. Nothing seemed to really get the fuzz out. However, after a week or so (yes, it was that long!) I decided to ignore my sound and at least not let my fingers lose their condition as well. So I worked slowly on 2nd and 3rd octave chromatic exercises (from P. Edmund Davies’ book) and strangely enough, focusing on really coordinating my fingers somehow got my mouth to do what it had to do to get a good sound, and ping! I could play with my normal sound again.

Today*, due to delayed travels and chaos, I picked up the flute for the first time in a few days. Same yuckiness, but I remembered last year’s trick and it worked again. Was it my imagination, or could I actually feel the neural network involved in coordinating complex fingering activity actually communicating with and instructing my breathing apparatus and embouchure network on how to make an optimal sound? That is really what it felt like. Is there some neurological explanation for this, or is it psychological?

*Actually today is Christmas day for many, but here in Russia, it is just another Monday.