Time Signatures

Time signatures can be confusing and are something your teacher should explain to you early on. However, as we encounter more and more time signatures, it is worth clarifying the theory and having a handy video to revise with!

This is our general rule:

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Watch the video on beats, bars and time signatures then see if you can explain to a friend or parent what each of the time signatures below mean.

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Take a look at more videos, articles and music theory help

Articulation on the flute

Articulation is a complicated and hidden part of playing the flute. Everyone has different issues and ways that work for them so it is important to practise and experiment (and read our general guide!)

Any articulation practice should also be tone practice. The tongue does not produce the sound, it simply moves to release the air and make the start of the note neater. A heavy or forceful tongue will get in the way of a good, clear sound. Different teachers use different vocalisations to teach articulation such as the french ‘tuh’/t, ‘doo’ or ‘dah’ – find one that is precise yet gentle.

We should aim to:

  • keep the tongue light, quick and precise
  • vary our articulation where possible. How we start notes can be part of our expression
  • avoid excessive movement – we just use the tip of the tongue so keep it close to the point of contact
    top tip: if you can see a lot of movement under chin/top of the neck then the tongue is moving too much

correct tonguing - Jen Cluff

Practising articulation within a piece

We need to make sure the tone and sound is good before we complicate matters with articulation. Practise difficult articulation passages slowly and slurred before legato tongued. When introducing the tongue the airstream needs to be faster than you previously needed while the tongue stays light and precise.

top tip: practise staccato passages with ‘ha’ diaphragm movements (like when laughing or coughing) without the tongue. The force comes from our support systems and the air so introduce the tongue gently and let the ‘ha’ movement do all the work (in slow practice)

Sounding messy?

Neatness of articulation is difficult as both the tongue and fingers have to be coordinated. In fact, our fingers should move ever so slightly before the tongue so that the start of the note has a centred tone. A way to practise this is to consciously move the fingers first, in scales and pieces.
Example: descending C major scale
C (short rest between notes, move fingers to B)
B (rest and move fingers)
A (rest and move fingers)
G (rest and move fingers) etc.

Double tonguing

Double tonguing is used for fast articulation and is made up of one stroke at the front of the mouth and one further back. Often this is taught as ‘TKTK’ but again, experiment with what works for you. This might be a ‘DGDG’/’dogoodogoo’ (be careful that the ‘g’ sound isn’t too far at the back of the throat and blocking the airstream). Use studies and exercises to practise different articulations – slurred patterns, all front stroke, all back stroke, kt-kt, tk-tk etc.

Once you have the basic technique sounding gentle and clear, practise in short and fast bursts so it feels almost like a reflex movement. Don’t overdo it. Remember the tongue is a muscle that needs to be slowly improved.

Troubleshooting: common issues with clarityvocaltract_custom-20cdfb715393c0476a1a1c1bc2c06e1bae0d4c0b-s300-c85

  1. How much force does your tongue have?
    Even forte fast passages need light articulation
  2. Is the airstream strong enough?
    The tongue disrupts the airstream so it often needs more air than you think
  3. Have you achieved a good tone without articulation?
    Practise legato and controlled first – articulation or excessive vibrato do not cover up a muddy tone
  4. Are you keeping the tongue as out of the way of the airstream as possible?
    Keep it forward and low with quick, precise movements. Consider the sounds that work for you. ‘DG’ is gentler than ‘TK’ but it pushes the tongue further back in the mouth. Consider french ‘tu’ sounds or ‘doogoo’. Experiment!

Triple tonguing

Much like double tonguing it uses ‘TKT-TKT’ or ‘dgd’ patterns and is often used for fast triplets. Practise fast single tonguing so you can move between the sections smoothly. Find a triplet study and experiment with as many articulation patterns as possible e.g. first 2 notes slurred, all slurred etc.

Basic terms and articulation explained here!

Articulation terms

Lets begin with the basic articulation terms and styles. These are the most common symbols you will find.

Staccato – a dot above the note means it should be detached (often, but not always, short)staccato
Slur – a curved line connects different pitches that are to be played smoothly (only tongue the first note of the slur, play all in one breath)
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Tie –  a curved line that connects notes of the same pitch (don’t attack/rearticulate the second note) 
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Tenuto – to hold, a line above or below the note  (play the full value of the note)
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Accent – placed above or below the note, it tells us to emphasise the note
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Guide to articulation on the flute

BLOG: The blur of fourth year

It’s the Easter holidays and, as I’m staring the end of my degree in the face, I thought I’d give an update on what I’ve been up to!

 

My final year has been busy with lots of orchestral and wind band concerts.

A highlight was playing the flute in a lovely, enormous wind section for Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Full of drama with chaotic time signatures to say the least. The post-concert buzz was one of the highest I’ve seen across an entire orchestra.

It got stranger in February with our circus themed performance, collaborating with dancers. We joined in with the movement to create a rather unusual performance

Lots of outreach and teaching projects have been especially rewarding and entertaining. Providing practice workshops to teenagers in Brixton and Peter Pan workshops at a Greenwich Primary School! Two very different projects with very different challenges.

I have recently been offered a teaching post with a fantastic scheme that believes every child should have the opportunity to be a musician. The council provide free instrumental lessons starting as young as year 3.

I can’t wait to start although the next couple of months are packed full preparing for my final recital. It marks the end of my four year Bachelor of Music Performance and I’m really looking forward to sharing what I’ve been working on. The 45 minute recital will include Rhene-Baton, Gieseking, a Japanese-inspired piece and a world premiere – feel free to contact me for more information.

After that it’ll be a summer filled with flute playing as I excitedly (and nervously!) look towards starting my Master’s degree in September.

I’m hoping to keep this website full of music and interesting posts but in the meantime check out my brand new flute based blogForte Flutes!

Dynamics

Dynamics tell us how load or quiet the music is. The Italian terms we use are too long to write out on music, so we use letters to show the dynamic levels of our music.

There is no set volume of a dynamic as it is all relative to the rest of the dynamics used in the piece of music.

Try and learn the terms below or use the poster to imagine how loud you should be playing.

pp   Pianissimo – very soft

p      Piano – soft

mp  Mezzopiano – moderately soft

mf   Mezzoforte – moderately loud

f      Forte – loud

ff     Fortissimo – very loud

sf    sforzando – play with a sudden emphasis

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 22.31.31crescendo (cresc.) – gradually get louder

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 22.31.43diminuendo (dim.) – gradually getting quieter

 

Dynamics Poster – free pdf!

Free Flash Cards (basic dynamic markings)
Simply print out the page and cut across so you have four wide cards. Fold across the dotted line and stick together, so that the picture and word is on the back of the dynamic symbol. You can use these to test yourself on the words or challenge yourself to put them in the right order.

Performance directions – basic music terms

Performance directionIn music we use Italian terms as directions. It is a way for the composer to tell performers their intention and it gives us an idea of the mood or style to perform it in.

Try to think up images or stories as you play that suit the performance directions.
These are just some of the most common music directions, with the most popular ones highlighted. For more on tempo (and terms to do with speed) go to this blog post.

Style

Adagio  – slow
Allegretto – fairly quick (not as fast as allegro)
Allegro – quick/lively
Amoroso – tender, affectionate
Animato – animated, lively
Andante – at a medium walking speed
Cantabile – in a singing style
Con Anima – with life and animation
Con Brio – with vigour and spirit
Con Fuoco – with energy or passion
Dolce – sweetly, privately (for yourself)
Doloroso – sorrowfully
Espressivo – expressively
Furioso – furious
Giocoso – humorous
Grandioso – with grandeur
Grazioso – gracefully
Legato – smooth and connected
Leggiero – lightly
Maestoso – majestically
Morendo – dying away
Pesante – heavy
Sempre – always, continuously
Staccato –  detached
Tenuto – sustained, held for full value
Tranquillo – tranquil

Other useful words

Assai – very
Con – with
L’istesso tempo – same tempo
Meno – less
Mosso – motion, animated
Non troppo – not too much
Piu mosso – faster
Poco – little
Poco a poco – little by little
Sempre – always
Simile – in the same manner
Subito – suddenly

 

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Blog: Sharing Notes

Live classical music is something tangible, honest and emotional. It can be all encompassing. Providing a sense of community beyond the shifting screens of social media.

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Audience is an important word for any in the performing arts and is discussed more and more in the world of classical music. There is a fear, created partly by the traditional audiences of many concerts, that this is a dying art. Music critic Donal Henahan made the comparison between classical music and Latin, suggesting that intellectual or elitist barriers put off potential audiences. 30 years later, classical music is still a thriving, living language.

A quick look into the research of audience development for classical music left me feeling bogged down with numbers and charts. The bottom line is that regular concert goers are in the minority, but almost one third of the UK’s adult population enjoy classical mustic in some form (that’s about 6 and a half million more than the viewers of the last X Factor final).

There is a massive market for classical music. There are millions missing out on the live experience, not even including those who haven’t ‘discovered’ it yet.

It doesn’t take long to see that there are so many music lovers looking to share and it is people who affect others and their experience. According to research by the Welsh National Opera, 43% of attenders did so for the first time as a result of being taken by someone else. Of course I’m not suggesting that we drag friends, kicking and screaming, into the 2 hour ‘promming’ queues but why not share? While an appreciation is often developed over time, live classical music can be an remarkable human experience for anyone. Most of us wouldn’t think twice of getting a group of friends to go see a pub band on a Friday night, there is no reason why classical music can’t be the same.

Getting to the gigs…

Being a young adult, student or child may put you in the minority at many orchestral concerts but Student Pulse are making it that bit easier for London students.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment have rewritten the rules of concert going and are attracting new audiences with their fantastic and relaxed pub performances.

There are always cheap seats and brilliant free resources to break into the world of classical (such as BBC Ten Pieces and ClassicFM).

Have fun!

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

composing1Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. His great influence in the transition from the Classical to the Romantic era created a legacy.

  • Born in Bonn, Beethoven studied with major composer Joseph Haydn after moving to Vienna in his early twenties.
  • He soon gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist.
  • In his late twenties, his hearing began to deteriorate however he continued to compose, conduct and perform, even after becoming completely deaf.

“Yet it was impossible for me to say to people, “Speak louder, shout, for I am deaf.” Ah, how could I possibly admit an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than others, a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection, a perfection such as few in my profession enjoy or ever have enjoyed.” Beethoven

Music

  • Piano Sonatas such as “The Moonlight Sonata” and “Für Elise”
  • 9 Symphonies, notably Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” and Symphony No. 9 in D minor which includes the well known tune “Ode to Joy”. His Fifth Symphony is known for the famous opening (da-da-da-DUM)
  • One opera ‘Fidelio’, a mass, concertos and much chamber music (including innovative string quartets)

Style

  • Large, structured pieces characterised by extensive development of music material, themes and motifs, often using modulation. These pieces were on a greater scale than those before him
  • Beethoven pushed the boundaries of harmony even further than his teacher Haydn and used it to create drama
  • Beethoven extended Mozart and Haydn’s efforts to expand the development section of works, and made it the heart of his sonata form. The complex structures led to great, long masterpieces and set a precedent for composers of symphonies.
  • Known for use of rhythmic patterns in addition to traditionally lyrical melodies

Beethoven’s development and works are typically divided into three periods:

  1. an early period with an especially strong influence of Mozart and Haydn
  2. a middle, mature period where he developed his impressive distinctive style
  3. a late period with a highly evolved, individual, and sometimes fragmented and unorthodox style, where he tried to combine the baroque ideas of Handel and Bach with his icons Mozart and Haydn

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Wolfgang Mozart (1756–1791)

Born in Salzburg, Austria on January 27th, 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a prodigy. He was a musician who could play many instruments and started performing in public at the age of 6.mozart-biography1.jpg.pagespeed.ce.Ox7dPGfH8u.jpg

Facts:

  • Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor, composed in 1791, was left unfinished at the time of his death. He composed his Requiem (a mass for the dead) believing it was for himself
  • He thought up his first rudimentary composition was when he was 5, and by 18 he had completed 30 symphonies
  • In April 1787, a young Beethoven arrived in Vienna to get two weeks of music lessons from Mozart
  • Mozart earned a substantial sum from his successful operas, but he was extravagant in spending and often ended up in financial difficulties
  • He was a Roman Catholic and some of his greatest works were religious
  • The characteristics of the Classical style can be found in Mozart’s music including clarity, balanced phrasing, transparency and a subtle delicacy.

Music:

A successful pianist and composer, Mozart wrote in almost every major genre and played a big part in popularising the piano concerto. Here are some of his most famous works:

  • The Magic Flute (opera)
  • Don Giovanni (opera)
  • Ave verum corpus K. 618,
  • Requiem K. 626
  • Marriage of Figaro (opera)
  • Clarinet Concerto K. 622
  • Symphony No.39 in E flat K.543
  • Piano Concerto K. 595 in B-flat
  • Piano Concerto No.21 in C, K.467
  • String quintets (K. 614 in E-flat)

Listen here

Mozart and the flute:

In one of Mozart’s many letters he told his father he ‘couldn’t bear’ the flute. He was struggling to complete a commission for numerous flute pieces and it is thought he was trying to explain his stalling! The Classical era flute was much harder to play well and in tune than today’s powerful flute. Once the pieces are heard, it is obvious that Mozart had an affinity for writing for the instrument. After transcribing an oboe piece to fulfill the commission, we still have many wonderful and original Mozart melodies to play on the flute.

  • Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C major, K. 299 (1778)
  • Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, K. 313 (1778)
  • Flute Concerto No. 2 in D major, K. 314 (1778) (an arrangement of the Oboe Concerto in C)
  • Andante for flute and orchestra in C major, K. 315/285e (1778)

 

Life:

Wolfgang’s father, Leopold Mozart was a successful composer and performing musician who was keen to introduce his son and daughter, Maria Anna, to music early on. Recognising both children’s talents, Leopold devoted a lot of time to their music lessons. In 1762 he took the children to the court of Bavaria. This began a series of European tours showcasing Wolfgang Mozart to Europe’s nobility and notable musicians.

Young Mozart’s compositions grew increasingly mature and skilled. He gained a position as assistant concert master in Salzburg. Despite his success with his compositions, he found Salzburg too confining and felt it restricted his potential. This negative, immature attitude tested the Archbishop’s patience. With his sister in 1777, Mozart travelled to Mannheim, Paris and Munich is search of better employment. However the several promising positions eventually fell through and Mozart returned to Salzburg soon after his mother’s death in 1778.

Mozart disliked his new position as court organist and moved to Vienna in 1781 where he married Constanze Weber.
He became fascinated with J.S Bach and G.F Handel compositions resulting in some Baroque-style compositions and influences in later works such as passages in Die Zauberflote and the finale of Symphony 41. He also met Joseph Haydn and became admiring and influential friends.
Mozart initially did well in Vienna, achieving success with operas such as The Abduction from the Seraglio and The Marriage of Figaro. Unfortunately his income began to drop and he made more trips like the ones of his childhood but failed to improve his situation.

Following the death of composer Gluck, in 1787 Emperor Joseph II appointed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as his “chamber composer.” The low paid part time position helped Mozart with his debts and it only required to compose dances for the annual balls. It gave him the freedom to compose and pursue his own musical ambitions. Toward the end of the 1780s, his fortunes began to grow worse as he performed less and the ability of the aristocracy to support the arts had declined with war. During this time, Mozart travelled across Germany and Austria in attempts to revive his once great success and the financial situation, but did neither. 1788-1789 was a low point, experiencing “black thoughts” and deep depression. mozart-with-signature

Between 1790 and 1791, Mozart went through a period of music productivity and personal healing. He produced some of his greatest works including the opera Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute), the final piano concerto in B-flat, the Clarinet Concerto in A major, and the unfinished Requiem.

This burst of productivity was interrupted with a decline in his mental and physical health. Mozart died at 1 a.m. on December 1st, 1791. Aged just 35, he was buried in a common grave outside Vienna.

https://open.spotify.com/user/forteflutes/playlist/1cDvPvtHCgwwAUEl6XtIld

Masterclass Survival Tips

Masterclasses are a fantastic way of gaining performance experience and feedback, however they can be intimidating! 

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Here is a little guide to make the most of your first masterclass and go in with confidence:

  1. Choose music that you can play to performance level, unless a work in progress is asked for. Now is not the time to be learning notes!
  2. Remember that everyone is there to learn – no one expects a perfect performance (otherwise there wouldn’t be anything to discuss) and everyone is at a different stage of their flute playing journey
  3. Take a pencil for your music and don’t forget a copy of the piano part
  4. A notepad is useful whether you’re playing or observing – a lot of gems of information could be forgotten by the end of a busy class
  5. Dress comfortably. While few masterclasses are formal affairs, it is important to be smart, relaxed and able to move freely.
  6. Be a good audience for the other players and visiting teacher (even putting away the constant demand of our attention that are phones)
  7. Many good teachers will encourage discussion, however be careful not to argue or come across negatively if you don’t like your feedback. It should all be constructive, not personal!
  8. Even if you’re not playing, if a class focuses on particular rep, take a copy of the music when you can
  9. HAVE FUN. Enjoy the opportunity to perform and push yourself.
    If you manage to do that in front of a room of likeminded flute players, you can do anything.
  10. Sign up for the next opportunity!

 

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