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 Dynamics
Author: Rapidcif (---.nc.res.rr.com - (Road Runner) Cary, NC United States)
Date:   2012-04-22 23:12

Hey i am a beginner player who's been self-learning the flute, so excuse the simplicity of my questions, but i was wondering how to control volume on the flute? I play the clarinet, and compared to the clarinet, the airflow used to play the flute is such a more narrow stream, -especially starting on notes D5 and higher, and this is giving me trouble. It just seems that any attempt i make to change volume disrupts the rigid, concentrated airflow required to play the flute. For instance, an undertone always comes out whenever i try to push my air and accent a note, and my dynamic range is also very small - my loudest is not much louder than my medium. So because of this, my playing is very monotonous and i'm stuck at one volume. I guess i want to ask what the proper breath/air control technique on flute is so that i can play with dynamics? Thanks a lot!



Post Edited (2012-04-22 23:14)

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 Re: Dynamics
Author: DrewSorensenMusic (---.hsd1.pa.comcast.net - (Comcast Cable) Philadelphia, PA United States)
Date:   2012-05-14 04:05

Most of the problem is probably the instrument. That, and all the musicians around you playing too loud. Aim for as sweet and full of a tone as you can without overblowing and becoming shrill. I don't find the airstream rigid. To get louder, think larger air stream, not faster air, although you will probably have to blow a bit harder to compensate for the extra space. You can roll in slighly to play softer more clearly. Be careful of tuning and dynamics.

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 Re: Dynamics
Author: Claireinet (---.midco.net - (Midcontinent Communications) Bismarck, ND United States)
Date:   2012-07-19 21:19

Hi Rapidcif,

Looks like there is not much activity on this forum, so not sure if this thread is dead or active…I suppose in either case I’ll post anyway.

Obviously the best advice is going to be to seek out a teacher that can see you and your issues in person. Even then you might get some conflicting advice based on different schools of thought but at least they will have a more concrete idea of your playing.

I can note as a “clar-flute-ist” that the flute is quite a different beast. Also, what you are saying about dynamics is quite normal- dynamics on flute is not really a ‘basic’ skill, it will take quite some time and work. Expanding your range louder will be easier than quieter, so you might simply start with everyday practicing some long tone crescendos. (eg. “mf” to … louder) *Eventually* with some patience your range should increase. After you feel you have a grasp on crescendos you might try decrescendos or crescendo/decrescendo. Just go as loud/soft as you can at the time, and that might change from day to day.

I don’t think I can emphasize enough that you should just be patient- don’t feel bad that you don’t have the control over dynamics yet that you wish you did. It is a process. Softer dynamics will take longer to develop, and as a clarinetist you may struggle with feeling you can not play quietly enough on the flute. It will come eventually, but remember that there is a significant technical/mechanical difference between the instruments! (ie - Don’t feel bad/insecure because you cannot yet do things on the flute that you do with ease on the clarinet!) Flutists (even very skilled ones) are constantly working on dynamics - and yes, with skill it is possible to play very soft AND very loud (in all registers).


A couple of notes:
- You mention the flute using a more “narrow stream” of air than the clarinet. I’m not sure if this is a semantic thing (such as using the terms “dark” to describe tone), but based on my perception of the meaning it sounds like this may be part of the problem for you-which perhaps you are aware of since you are asking about air stream. On the clarinet you should be using a high tongue position (eeee) - which will create faster air. On the flute however you should have a low tongue position (ahhh). To me when you say “narrow” it leads me to think “faster” -- so perhaps you are using too much or too fast air in your flute playing, rather than properly hitting the embouchure plate.

-Think of the flute as a bell. All that is required to get the sound is to “ring” it through the embouchure hole. So once you have accomplished that why waste more air?! Save it! :)

-On the flute the instrument does not provide any resistance(like the clarinet does) so *you* need to “create” the resistance. Yes, you still need to be taking proper (low) breaths. But to support on the clarinet you are constantly using(flexing) your abdominal muscles and creating a strong, steady, fast airstream. So when you are playing clarinet you are likely thinking: 1.abdominal support!!!!!!, 2. High tongue, 3. Embouchure. But this is not the same on flute. I think I might describe the difference on the flute as the abdominal support being more.. subtle? And think of the airstream as continuous from the bottom of the abdomen all the way up to the lips. Keep it all open, don’t pinch off at the throat in an attempt to control the air. Instead you might imagine (while not forgetting the low support) sort of a “bowl” of air swirling around in your upper chest and that it sort of swirls/wafts up the OPEN/NON-RESTRICTED throat and past the LOW/relaxed tongue.

-Flute playing doesn’t use an “embouchure” the way clarinetists think of it. You don’t need to firm up your muscles, you basically just blow through the lips- not hold them in a “ready position”.

- I’m not sure where you are aiming on the embouchure plate. In general try aiming down to your left elbow. I don’t want to get much deeper than that in this internet post.. so as not to unintentionally misguide you. Generally you might think of the higher pitches requiring a higher aim on the plate, but this doesn’t mean you need to move the air stream all around -- this is really quite a small adjustment, small enough that if you are *thinking/trying* to do it you very well may overdo it. A good guideline would be to just keep steady - pretend the whole phrase is the first note of the phrase (in terms of both air and “embouchure“).

- I would advise against rolling the plate in. It might be “easier” to focus the sound or feel you are controlling the dynamics but it will not be good for your tone or “flexibility” so would ultimately end up being a detriment (this is coming from someone who acquired the habit and had to ditch it, which is much harder than just not doing it in the first place)

-You mention D5 getting an undertone - are you minding your left index finger? Remember it should be up for that note… If you have proper air support you should actually be able to jump instantly from D4 to D5 simply by lifting that finger.

- I would very highly recommend the book “The Simple Flute: From A to Z” by Michel Debost (not only for the flute specifics as there is also some really wonderful general musical info in there as well). You might try “The Art of Flute Playing” by Edwin Putnk too. Also there is the Taffanel and Gaubert “Complete Method for Flute” (This is not the “17 Big Daily Exercises”- aka the flutist’s bible). If I recall it comes in 2 parts or one giant book, and is a bit “spendy”. I found the first volume to have been very useful and greatly beneficial, I never did buy the second volume. You could probably get it on loan from the library first to see if you want to buy it.


Not sure if this helps, I hope it does. Again, just take it slow and have patience. And if you can get some pointers from someone in person that is always best.



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 Re: Dynamics
Author: Wes (---.lsanca.dsl-w.verizon.net - (Verizon Internet Services) Redondo Beach, CA United States)
Date:   2012-07-21 06:56

If you have Taffanel and Gaubert, take a look at page 48, long tones, and practice it for dynamic control. Moyse's de la Sonorite has some great exercises for dynamic control that are tiring but effective. Good luck!

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