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.



2 responses to “Getting Back in the Saddle”

  1. Bonnie McAlvin Avatar

    I consider everything that is psychological to be physical/based in the neural activities that are occurring; that whatever is going on pychologically is going on because it is going on physically.

    Maybe the reason the high register exercises worked was that they are new? So they are asking you to create new pathways, rather than re-visit old ones? Your body is new every day, new cells everywhere, so a “return” to old exercises might trigger a set of associations that worked a while back, but don’t really work today. So by doing a new thing, you’re asking your brain to create new solutions, new pathways, and a space for “today” is opened. Those are my thoughts anyway!

    Well, good luck! Sometime we can play multiphonic duets (quartets?) together maybe.

    1. admin Avatar

      Thanks for this, Bonnie. I had the feeling though that, although the exercises themselves were new, I was returning to something very basic (in this case, slow chromatic finger work in the 2nd and 3rd octaves). And this basic-ness (not a word, I know) helped to shift something that told my body/neural circuits: “this is how you play the flute well”. It felt more like a recovery than a building of new pathways, but maybe that was an illusion.
      You are very right about renewal! Something I have to keep reminding myself. Hope we can indeed play duets!

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