The holidays are over and you might have had some concerts in the beginning, then you decided to take a healthy break from the flute. But now you have to be back on track and fast! This article wishes to help you out with how to get back in shape fast.
I know, we hate the first sound we make after a break and start over analyzing and guilt shaming for having been on a break.
The sound is not centered and we have little support. We feel limited in every aspect of flute playing and look for all the things we were able to do just a week ago, then effortlessly. We are our own biggest critics and also obstacles to getting back into shape quickly.
But have you ever thought that maybe this is an opportunity?
There are technical aspects for every flutist which were hard even when we were in shape. But that could be because we were not flexible enough to tackle them.
Now we can start doing just that and in no time playing even better than before.
Take it Easy and Enjoy!
Don’t try to make a perfectly centered piano sound in the beginning. Start with all the air you can proba
bly exhale together for a longer time and open the lip whole. Don’t try to center the sound right away. Play with an open mezzo forte sound. Just the joy of getting back to playing the flute.
Express joy and openness with you sound, and play whatever melody comes to your mind or fingers. Long legato phrasings. Start with the lower octave. Try to enjoy that you can find a new and better focus later on, but now you can do exactly what you couldn’t before. Relax and push warm and round sounds to the limit of sound production.
Fountain of Air
Do not attempt to play for hours. In fact take breaks, they are the most important part of getting back in shape fast. If you overload your muscles, they will find a way around the fatigue and adopt less than optimal posture, gesture and airflow. You will get used to it and we have to avoid that.
In my personal experience, chunks of 20min are the best in the beginning. Take a pause every 20min or so. However long you need to feel fit again. Do not play when you feel tired!
Concentrate on focused tension and relaxation. Use only the muscles that help you produce and manipulate the sound. The others should not be in strain.
A good feeling is what my professor told me: imagine a fountain, the water rises under pressure on the inside (air stream) and flows freely on the outside of your body (arms, shoulders and legs). I added to complete this picture for a more precise breathing technique, that the pressure we apply is not upward, but downward. It is the air that wants to come up and we increase the pressure by holding it down.
7 Exercises to get back in shape fast
So what should you actually play and study after a break?
- You should start with long notes, lower octave. A good exercise is Marcel Moyse’s “De La Sonorité”. It consists in long legato sounds of the chromatic scale downwards. Use no or little vibrato and anticipate the sound. When you can imagine it, your body can produce it. Add the joy of being able to play again to your imagination and your sound quality will have improved, even after the break! If you have never looked at this cornerstone of flute education, you have to click —————————————————-> here.
- Now you can address the middle octave and add some dynamics. Especially pppp on the same note. In this case start piano but still secure, add vibrato in small amplitudes and enlarge them with the crescendo. Let the air flow continuously and stay relaxed. Play with a lot of resonance (open inner cavities, without rigidity). Re-evaluate your diaphragmatic breathing technique and read more about it —–> here.
- Remember to take a break, those exercises are exhausting when done well. What should you do during a break? Anything else, but playing the flute. Very useful would be some stretching exercises. You can read more about them —–> here. Now we are ready to regain security in all registers of the flute. One of the best exercises to do that is still by Marcel Moyse in his “Daily Exercises for the flute”. It uses still the chromatic scale through all intervals in all registers. Try to play them with a calm but steady pulse. Your breath reaching where ever possible. Remember the feeling of inhaling when you are exhaling. Play the scales while imagining inhaling. This provokes an undisturbed homogeneous flow of air which comes with a surprising ease.
- Now you should take a longer break. You could add some muscle training to the afore mentioned stretching. To find out more, continue reading ——> here. We will be getting into tonalities and all diatonic scales, major and minor. A very useful exercise is M.A. Reichert “7 Daily Exercises for the flute” number 1. I learned it by heart and play it to warm up without the previous preparation when I am in shape. Sing when you play. Always. Never just emit a note. All of those tonalities have different characters and the same note in one tonality might need a different intonation in another tonality, depending on the function.
- Using a metronome start the previous exercise slowly and staccato. Use the single tongue and shape the sounds like pearls on a never ending silver chain (your air stream). Imagine them with beauty and do not criticize. Try to form a homogeneous Pearl necklace. Play it three times at increasing speed, starting very slowly. Then take a break again. If you are uncertain about which metronome to choose you can read about it in my article ————> here.
- To loosen any rigidity in your fingers you can add some trill chains. Where you play a diatonic scale legato and add a trill on every note. As a little workout for the fingers and rest for the tongue.
- You can look at the following exercises to improve your sound quality further. But remember to practice from a serene and relaxed place, in awe of what is now possible for you to gain awareness of. Have a glimpse at those two articles —–> hacks ——-> tips.
Be sure to include adequate muscle training and stretching. You can read about it in those two articles:
————-> muscle training
————-> stretching for flutists
Is it possible to even have improved after the break?
Yes it is. After a pause we need to automate movements and groups of protocols again. This is a wonderful opportunity to form them consciously again with the possibility to improve former flawed ones. This is priceless. We can form new and better ways and play even more effortlessly and musical.
We study to be physically able to execute what we imagine. So when we study our inner critic is always alert and showing us flaws. Give space to also positive remarks and try to quiet it completely at least once in every training session. You also need to train the flow state, to be in the zone and let go of your self. You need to allow the music to flow through you and to let your body produce what it knows best when not examined and stressed. Study this situation. Be sure to link it to something you can easily recreate.
Enrich your imagination with beautiful sounds and images. If you are more of a tactile type imagine beautiful movements, elegant postures and interesting choreography. Create a feeling for each sound and melody that you can evoke when you need it. Some prefer mental pictures or directly the sound they wish to create.
Listen to music, look at beautiful art, feel with friends and in relationships, live more aware and broader. There is no division between music making and life experience.
Get your fundamental books and stick to this cornerstone textbooks of flute practice:
——————-> De La Sonorité
——————-> Moyse Daily Practice
——————-> Reichart Daily Exercise
So study the technique to automate it, set the process in motion and then forget about it and just enjoy!
Feel free to comment and let me know how you start playing again after a pause and what helps you enhance performance.
To creating beautiful unforgettable moments for you and your audience,