Need flute learning anecdotes

For Anything and Everything to do with Flute Playing and Music

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Need flute learning anecdotes

Post by scwillson » Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:05 am

This is sort of an unusual request, I'm sure.

I'm currently writing a novel where the protagonist, a young Russian woman living in Paris in 1869-70, wants to learn how to play the flute. She has a flute, a Theobald Boehm concert flute in sterling silver, and after weeks of searching has finally found a teacher. Because learning the flute is her primary reason to be in Paris, it's an important aspect of the story, although the shenanigans of her 15-year-old roommate and the Prussian siege of Paris in 1870-71 during the Franco-Prussian War are other major themes.

Unfortunately I'm not a musician, so I really don't know what's involved in learning to play the flute. All I have is a bunch of technical terms, which may or may not appear in the story, and I want to keep my story at least technically accurate. What I'm asking for here is for some personal anecdotes, either as a teacher or student of flute, of interesting or amusing things you've experienced while learning the flute. What were the areas of study and/or practice that gave you particular difficulty, and which ones gave you a Eureka! moment? What makes a teacher tough and/or strict, and what makes one good? Are the best teachers demanding, or easy going? (I have my own suspicions on that, but I'll await informed input rather than simply going with my assumptions.)

If I use your anecdote, as a thank you, I'll be happy to include your name (or any realistic one you prefer) as a character in the story, although I won't guarantee it will be as a flutist. (The last person who helped me, with some research on translation dates for "The Three Musketeers," was put in a previous chapter as an expert chess player, although he'd never even played the game. ;) )

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Re: Need flute learning anecdotes

Post by scwillson » Tue Dec 26, 2017 11:52 am


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Re: Need flute learning anecdotes

Post by pied_piper » Tue Dec 26, 2017 7:56 pm

Hmm. Once when I was teaching, my student was playing an etude very nicely when all of a sudden, many notes were all wrong and quite a strange sound was coming from her flute. I tried her flute and couldn't play it properly either. After examining it, I found that a pivot screw had fallen out of the right hand keys which caused it to not play correctly. I, my student, and her mother had to scrounge around on the carpet and we finally found it. After putting it back in and securing it with a jewelers screwdriver, the flute once again functioned normally and she finished her lesson in fine form.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."

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Re: Need flute learning anecdotes

Post by scwillson » Wed Dec 27, 2017 6:39 am

Heh. That's good, and it'll be a useful way to let my character know that like any mechanical device, flutes can have mechanical flaws.

And while she has a top-of-the-line flute from the 1860's, I suspect modern ones are better in a number of ways.

Thanks. :)

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Re: Need flute learning anecdotes

Post by new2flute » Wed Dec 27, 2017 3:31 pm

I guess at that time the library would be one of the only centralized locations for finding books on how to play the flute. Chance meeting in the flute book section of the library? I found the following regarding the 1800's and history of the flute that might be useful.

1829 - Boehm creates his own fingering system. The fingering system used rods that connected the keys. Boehm builds an elaborate machine for boring holes, pillars, posts, and flat gold springs.
1830-1831 Boehm finishes his new model and presented it in performance in London and Paris.
1832 - Boehm is impressed by Nicholson's flute design, which produces a clearer tone, and switches to ring keys instead of open holes, thus improving the tone of his flutes. He also invented the thumb left hand crutch, which helped with finger action.
1834 - Boehm's model becomes very popular among German and French flutists.
1838 - Buffet and Coche add the D# key and the G# key.
1846-1847 - Boehm gives his flutes a new cylindrical bore. He also enlarges the embouchure to a quadrangular hole to produce fuller and clearer tone. His new fingering system covers the inside of his closed keys with felt pads and and the rims of keys with skins, and holds the keys together with screws and washers. He experiments with different materials for making flutes. He decides that silver is the best, seeing as it is light and produces the best tone.
1847 - Rudall and Rose, Clair Godfroy and Louis Lot buy for rights to manufacture Boehm flutes from Boehm. The flute goes to New York, where it becomes very popular. Flutes are adopted as official orchestral instruments in the Paris conservatory.
1849 - Composer Briccialdi adds the thumb B-flat key.
1878 - Boehm finally perfects his 'modern silver flute'. His final, perfected model is accepted as the standard today.

You might be able to include in the story a popular period piece that she heard and inspired her. A list of songs published in 1860 can be found here...

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Re: Need flute learning anecdotes

Post by scwillson » Sun Dec 31, 2017 8:18 am

That's good. With the story taking place in 1869-late 1870, she probably won't have the "final" version of Boehm's flute, but something fairly close.

I would still appreciate some anecdotes of what were the hardest parts to learning the flute. Fingering? Breath control? My character has zero musical experience, so she's not starting from another instrument.

Also some humorous anecdotes would be greatly appreciated. I don't want her flute lessons to be all grim. There has to be joy and humor in it as well.

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Re: Need flute learning anecdotes

Post by SylvreKat » Sun Dec 31, 2017 9:58 pm

It was long enough ago that I don't remember what was the hardest part to learn.

But I do remember getting my flute, and Dad sitting on the davenport teaching me the very VERY basics of blowing into the headjoint by itself. He had played a bit of flute in his younger days, but didn't remember anything more than this. Since Dad usually was doing "his thing" I appreciated the time he spent with me doing this, and really felt close to him.

I'll try to think back and see if any more useful memories crop up.

Flutes:1975 Gemeinhardt M2 in chrome nickel;1982 Armstrong 80;2006 Yamaha 584

Piccs:1978 Artley piece of crap 15 P;1982 Gemeinhardt 4S;1980s? Armstrong all wood (no model)

Bass:2006 Jupiter di Medici G0199
Treble:2009 Guo New Voice

+ many flute-cousins

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