We started the second class by reviewing throat tuning and working on harmonics. There is a section in his book Tone Development Through Extended Techniques that focuses on exercises to build up harmonics. They really are a great tool in helping to focus one’s tone. In working with harmonics (and generally any interval larger than a major second), it’s important that the throat tuning leads the notes. This means that if you were to sing and play, the singing would practically glissando to the next pitch before you change the fingering or embouchure to play it. We continued working on harmonics practically while looking at the first of 30 Studies for Flute Op. 107 by Karg-Elert. To best learn music, play through using harmonics whenever possible, and always use the lowest harmonic. For example, in beat three of m. 1 of the first Karg-Elert, the notes are C, G, A, B, C. But the harmonic fingerings would be low C, C, D, B, C. Talk about a pinky work out.
Flying Lessons 1 (volume 1) also makes use of harmonics. In the first phrase, playing the harmonics without the tremolo is great for establishing the embouchure. And pay attention to the dynamics; the G harmonic can be difficult to place when played too loudly, but according to the dynamics Robert notated, by the time you get to that point in the phrase, the sound should be at a softer level. Thankfully, Robert’s extensive knowledge of the flute makes his writing very idiomatic. You can trust it! Another tip (straight from Robert) is to roll out for odd partials in the harmonic series. The last page of the etude is three “swells” of harmonics. Robert suggests changing the vowel shape in your mouth for the arches of the partials.
Also in Flying Lessons 1 are multiphonics. For these, using throat tuning for the weaker note is suggested. Robert was very kind when writing these multiphonics because he sets up the pitch of the weaker note via the note that is sounded directly proceeding the multiphonic. For example, on the second line, there is a tremolo on D, and the following multiphonic has a C as the lower pitch, followed by a multiphonic with B as the lowest pitch. This stepwise motion helps the flutist anticipate the throat tuning needed for the multiphonics.
Covered key clicks also appear in this piece. They are similar to tongue rams in that the sound heard in this instance is a major seventh below the fingered note. This is because the headjoint of the flute is not cylindrical. Huzzah for understanding the mechanics of your instrument! If you are interested in resources for Flying Lessons 1, Robert has made a DVD set to help you out. Buy one. And tell all your friends. Why would you not invest in this???
We also visited Density 21.5 again. Robert has a folder of sketches and publications of and about the piece through the years. It was fascinating to walk through the development of the piece in such a way. There is a great article written by Carol Baron about the connection between this piece and Debussy’s Syrinx and the use of material. The most well known is the pitch relationship of the first three notes of each piece; they are exactly the same, just in different keys.
We also briefly discussed my (current) favorite extended technique: difference tones. Difference tones occur because of how the difference of the sound waves reacts. A helpful visual is ripples in a pond; if you were to throw one pebble to the left and one to the right, they would both create their own set of ripples. Where those ripples meet in the middle and produce yet another set of ripples is the “difference.” To try this for yourself on flute, choose a note in the upper range (let’s say third octave D) and sing a D as well. While continuing to play, glissando your voice down; the resulting sound will be a frequency that glissandos UP. Seriously, how cool is that?? And it turns out difference tones plus multiphonics are even more rad. Go ahead and try some out. You won’t regret it.
- Play to something living. Direct your sound and love and energy to a plant or a pet. Or even a figurine of an animal if no living thing is available.
- When preparing to play your first note, think and move in an upward motion.
- The sensation for vibrato is the same as when you engage the throat to sing.
- When deciding on fingerings for fourth octave notes, you can save your ears and rely on whisper tones to check the fingerings. Related to that…
- Please protect your hearing. Aka, visit an audiology clinic and invest in musician earplugs. You can then buy different strength inserts. Once you lose your hearing, you can’t get it back, so take care of it now.
Until next time!