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bass flute fourth octave practice technique

(Bore) Size Matters

Several times this year I have had other flutists asking me about my bass flute and whether I was able to play easily in the upper 3rd and into the 4th octave. My Kingma bass flute has a mid-size bore (sorry, don’t know the exact specs) and is able to play up to high C comfortably, high C# and D with effort. When I recorded Mark Barden’s Personae for bass flute and bass clarinet last year, I resorted to borrowing a Pearl bass flute that had a narrower bore, because I could never reliably hit a high E on my Kingma (which is otherwise an awesome instrument!). This passage is an example:

I am posting this to reassure you that if you are a seasoned bass flutist and are having real difficulty with these notes, don’t bang your head against a wall or berate yourself. Check your bore size. If you have one of those lovely large-bored instruments I really envy you – they sound marvelous! But I don’t envy you when you have to play in the 4th octave. Carla Reese sums things up nicely in her guide for buying large flutes:
“In general, a big bore instrument will have a stronger low register and a weaker high register than a small bore instrument. Bigger bores also tend to have a slightly slower response and more difference in tone between registers. Big bores are ideal for playing in flute choirs (especially for the bass) but can be heavier and need more air. Small bores are ideal for solo repertoire, where the demands can require more agility and a stronger high register.”

A colleague of mine who is a woodwind doubler has an extra small-bore Kotato bass flute, he says a high D pops out with hardly any effort.

I wish someone would invent a bass (or alto) flute that has an adjustable bore size!

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Audition videos and tapes – presentation advice and warnings

Here are some of my insights into presentation as someone who watches and listens to many auditions. Please feel free to add to this in the comments below. I won’t talk about equipment or software now, an internet search will provide lots of advice on this subject.

Audio or Video? If given the choice, I prefer video, or at least a mix of audio and video. Good audio is a pleasure to listen to, but it is easier to get an idea of your musical personality with a video. If there are many excellent candidates to choose from, this can be a deciding factor.

Visual Aspects for video auditions:

  • Lighting. If you find a good acoustic space, please make sure you are not back-lit by a window or any other light source. The main source of light should be from the front and sides. It is very frustrating to watch someone but not be able to see them properly.
  • Music Stand. Keep it as low and flat as possible. A rule of thumb is to have a flute length’s distance between you and the music stand. Make sure to do a trial-run to see if your musical movements sometimes get hidden by the music stand. If you are someone who ducks down a lot while playing, put your stand even lower.
  • Unless otherwise stipulated, videos can be edited (montage) with fade-in and fade-out between orchestral excerpts or repertoire pieces with what are called “jump cuts” in film jargon. However, even if jump cuts are allowed, it is very impressive if one can do a complete unedited video of all one’s orchestral excerpts and do it well.

Audio Aspects: make sure you record in stereo and that your mix is in stereo. It is a bit strange to hear a candidate through only one ear of my headphones. Somehow I feel something is missing, even if it is only psychological.

Make sure the recording levels are decent. Some devices will flash green to indicate a good signal, with others you will have to watch a meter, or rather have someone watch it for you. An internet search will give advice on how to achieve good recording levels for your device.

Cheating: Audition tapes and videos usually stipulate unedited materials. This really means no post-production manipulation of your sound signal such as splicing or enhancements. Simply mixing your audio and video together does not fall under this category. Other exceptions may be adding “jump cuts” (see above) and titles to your video, but check the requirements.

Really good digital manipulation is very difficult to detect, even by professionals. But you would be surprised at how often I come across it done badly. If you don’t want to make your auditioner suspicious, watch out for the following:

  • If you are making a video, make sure your audio has realistic reverb decay and pre-delay times that correspond to the size of your room.
  • Make sure there are no sudden changes in the noise-floor level. This is a dead giveaway that indicates the dynamics have been manipulated. Some microphones that are optimized for recording speech have built-in compressors that automatically change recording levels according to the level of input. However, with these you will hear an increase in the noise-floor level during quiet dynamics and a decrease when louder. With post-production digitally manipulated dynamics you hear the opposite.

File Formats: this may depend on the requirements. For me personally, a streaming platform is better for audio and video such as YouTube, Vimeo or Soundcloud. This is more convenient than waiting for a file to download on your computer.

Be aware some formats and platforms are Apple specific. It is better to avoid those and choose cross-platform formats.

Putting your last name in your file: For example, “LastName_Repertoire.doc” or “LastName_CV.doc”. This is particularly important for supporting materials such as resumes, letters of recommendation and repertoire lists. Auditioners may have many documents open at once, and it is easier to navigate them if the file name has your last name in the heading.

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Schönberg Pierrot Lunaire Mondfleck errata

Here is quick reference list of errata in the flute part for those preparing for piccolo auditions or performance. The score and parts are available if you search IMSLP, and the manuscript can be found here.

This movement is palindromic, but there are several inconsistencies which raise questions, and there are discrepancies between the part and the score (I believe I have UE 33794). Examination of the manuscript has settled some of these questions, but perhaps there are more that I have missed. Please feel free to add.

  • Measures 2 and 18 should both have D natural, not D sharp.
  • Bars 7 and 13 should both have F natural, not F sharp.
  • Measure 9, 4th beat: some editions have the A flat C written as 32nd notes, they should be 16ths.
  • Measure 13 has a discrepancy in rhythm between the score and part. If one follows the palindromic principle, the flute part is correct; that is the A flat in bar 13 should correspond to the G sharp in bar 7 and be a 16th note rather than a 32nd. Problematically, the manuscript does not follow the palindromic principle (it shows the A flat in bar 13 as a 32nd note). Is the manuscript wrong? Was the mistake copied to the score and then corrected in the flute part?

It has been suggested to me that this last anomaly might have been to avoid having octave D’s between the piccolo and the piano in bar 13.

Thoughts, anyone? Does anyone have a copy of the latest edition (UE 34806) that they would be willing to show me? I’d be curious if there are any differences.

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