High notes and...

Basics of Flute Playing, Tone Production and Fingerings, Using Metronomes, Scales, Tone, Studies, etc.

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Bo
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High notes and...

Post by Bo »

...pp, or even ppp and pppp (I have found this too!)
Well, I find it difficult to play the highest notes ppp. :x
Any advice please?

Thanks!
Bo

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pied_piper
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Post by pied_piper »

You've discovered one of the issues that all flute players have to learn to deal with.

Yes, it's difficult to get a good response and good tone on the higher notes while trying to play softly. The problem is one of control. That's something that you have to develop.

Playing scales at different volume levels can help develop that control, but to really attack the problem directly here's what I would suggest: Play long tones on all notes. Not just high notes. Play a scale but hold each note for about 8 slow beats. On each note, start F and diminuendo to p. Repeat this but reverse the dynamics. Start p and increase to F. When you can do this reliably with a good tone throughout, start FF diminish to pp. Later try FFF-ppp, etc. This will help you develop the control needed to play softly in the upper register.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

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Bo
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Post by Bo »

Thank you, pied_piper!
I will try that. :D

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Zevang
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Post by Zevang »

Hi Bo,
You may consider projecting the mandible to the front a little bit when playing high notes. But remember, this is a very subtle movement, almost imperceptible.

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Bo
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Post by Bo »

Thank you, Zevang. I will try that too.
It was a little bit better today. Yesterday, I had to play the highest C pppp.....

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Post by Benjahmin »

Zevang,

What exactly is the "mandible" ?

I turn the tonehole TOWARDS the lip slightly for the high notes, and it works quite well if not perfectly yet, so to project the mandile away confuses me now...not knowing, what is meant by it :?

Sorry :roll: :wink:
Benjahmin

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Zevang
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Post by Zevang »

It's the movable bone where our teeth are fixed. The one we move when chewing.

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Post by Benjahmin »

Zevang


Oh, ok !
So the lower jaw-bone.
Learnt a new vocabulary, thanks !


Benjahmin

numptie
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Re: High notes and...

Post by numptie »

Bo wrote:...pp, or even ppp and pppp (I have found this too!)
Well, I find it difficult to play the highest notes ppp. :x
Any advice please?

Thanks!
Bo

Interesting you should ask that - I'm just starting out and here's what I noticed.

When I play pianissimo or fortissimo, the note invariably goes flat or sharp no matter what I do.

I was surprised to read the Trevor Wye Omnibus chaper on Tone, particularly dealing with pianissimo and fortissimo playing. He mentions moving your head/jaw position, locking the tongue/lip/flute position simultaneously until you find a better play. He also mentions opening holes partially (maybe he is referring to an open hole flute?) since weakening the air column will make notes go flat or 'wispy', rather than pianissimo.

I still haven't found a solution - but Wye's recommendations seems to suggest all of the above options for flutists to find which method helps them best, rather than relying on purely one sole method.

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Post by Arlee »

I don't really know how to explain what I do to get good strong ppp high notes but maybe someone else will recognize what I am describing and be able to explain it better :)

So first thing I do is make sure I am really supporting my tone and really open up the back of my throat, and then I do what Zevang was describing, and the end result is it sort of feels like I have air coming in and going out of my mouth at the same time. I don't know if that makes any kind of sense to anyone... vaguely feels like breathing out and in at the same time, but not really. I hope this sounds familiar/makes sense to someone.


Some thoughts for Numptie: When you are playing quietly the main thing to make sure of is you are really supporting the air. Also I learned a great technique in a master class for projecting your sound but making it quiet (think of it like when actor do stage whispers). While you are playing kind of look at your elbow on your left arm and aim for there. I don't know if it will help without being able to demonstrate though. Also on ff make sure you are not pinching your lips and tightening up your throat... I was having that problem for a long while :oops:

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Post by numptie »

Some thoughts for Numptie: When you are playing quietly the main thing to make sure of is you are really supporting the air. Also I learned a great technique in a master class for projecting your sound but making it quiet (think of it like when actor do stage whispers). While you are playing kind of look at your elbow on your left arm and aim for there. I don't know if it will help without being able to demonstrate though. Also on ff make sure you are not pinching your lips and tightening up your throat... I was having that problem for a long while
thanks for the thoughts Arlee.

My main problem is being a numptie, I remember to do one thing, like relax my embouchure, then I forget to do another bit, like breathe! I remember to breathe, then I forget to use my tongue. Gaagggh. It's horrible being a numptie :)

The problem I am getting is a bit like what you've described with air going in your mouth and out at the same time. I find I sound too wispy. Sometimes the wispiness is louder than the pianissimo. Something is badly wrong there!

I wish I had a teacher. Instead all I got is Youtube lol.

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Post by Bo »

Numptie - I think a lot of music playing, at least at a relatively advanced stage, happens automatically, without too much thinking, like walking or moving an arm. Don't worry, it will happen! :)
And thanks for your thoughts, Arlee!

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Post by Arlee »

My main problem is being a numptie, I remember to do one thing, like relax my embouchure, then I forget to do another bit, like breathe! I remember to breathe, then I forget to use my tongue.
I had that problem a lot as well... in fact I still do sometimes. You just get so involved in focusing on one thing you forget about the others, It's soo much to think about.

It reminds me of what my theory teacher said one day in class: "the goal of studying theory and music techniques is to learn them and then forget them". Which simply means getting to a point where you know these things but you don't have to think about them, they become like breathing.

I would also suggest finding a flute teacher, they would notice things you might not and might be able to give you some more personal direction. Also, if you have the ability video recording yourself playing can be very helpful. I noticed when I started doing this (though I did it because I had/have horrible stage-fright) you hear what you do tone wise differently than you do while playing, and also might notice doing other general things it is difficult to notice unless you can see yourself.

numptie
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Post by numptie »

Thanks for the encouragement Arlee.

I've already had a flute teacher: there are only about 3 where I live, and I've phoned all of them. Only 1 of them was available and I had a lesson from him. It was a complete waste of $50 (or about 32 UK pounds).

I've realised, that despite all my numptiness and asking for help on this forum, I had a problem which no one here has been able to help me with. I'm not saying this forum is a complete waste of time, however there are too many variables for a numptie to cover, and it's rare that anyone will have the patience on a forum. Besides, any free advice is free...or what it's worth. That's better than paying $50 for flute teaching advice, and getting none of it.

My problem? I discovered it weeks later after I made it into a flute centre and tested a number of flutes. Slowly, it dawned on me ... that the flute I have .... is leaky and needs adjustment.

Having tried to force and blow; huff and puff; tongue and angle the air frantically to make any and every kind of embouchure just to hit the second octave, I finally plucked up the courage and took a screwdriver to my flute's keys and altered the heights of the coin operated levers so that they actually seal when they are supposed to.

It is so incredibly easy to hit the second octave and third octave now. I can't believe how simple it is. I was straining myself to force my tongue half way up my nose just to get the F sharp on the upper staff line. Now I just read the note and it plays without any effort. With a perfect working flute, I feel much more confident in learning to play with my own book methods without a teacher. My first teacher completely missed checking my flute was competent (maybe that was my job, but I'm learning and didn't know any better), and even doing the most basic of embouchure checks. For reference - if you are interested in teaching yourself, the Trevor Wye practice books are probably a step too advanced, however the Simon Hunt book is ideal, since it phrases learning in pithy questions which can be used for self-direction.


If anyone else is struggling to hit the 'top notes' and has just started out on the flute, I'd recommend you make sure you have a perfectly adjusted flute which seals all the notes in the lower octave, and tighten the springs for some resistance, but not complete resistance so that overblowing results.


I still suck at playing the flute, but at least not as unbelievably bad and squawky as I was before :D

Arlee
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Post by Arlee »

I can't belive I neglected mentioning this before but this is a technique which really helped me on getting my high notes not only relible, especially that pesky high E, but also able to get them to sound beautiful even at ppp.

Basically you finger low C and play low C, then without changing fingering you sound E, G, A, C and on up until you reach the highest note you can sound with that fingering. Then you can start at the top and come down. You can do this with all the low note fingerings.

At first it is pretty hard and I recomend using a tuner so you can visually see if you accidently skip a note and can go back for it. After awhile I got used to the excercise and could hear in my head what the next note was supposed to be before I sounded it. Also after awhile you might find you can get more notes in between the C's than you could when you first started doing it.

Also, no tonguing! That is cheating :wink: but do breath if you need it and don't rush through it.

PS- After rereading Numptie's post I wanted to mention that in general (nothing is ever a sure thing in life) if you are having trouble getting a note, or a group of notes out pay attention to your fingers and what you are doing. If you find you are pressing down the keys harder and the note then comes out... chances are you have a leak somewhere on your flute and should take it in to be looked at.

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