Music is a mixture of rhythm and melody. Without the rhythm, a melody cannot be understood. So rhythm is the most important element of music making. It forms the structure and foundation on which the notes sit.
We all have a connection to rhythm in our everyday lives when breathing, talking or walking. Making a connection with that inner sense of pulse is essential for helping our music to be understood.
The following exercises will help you lock into your inner sense of pulse. The idea is that you play the top line and tap the rhythm with your foot, using either your big toe or heel.
Quavers or eighth notes have the value of half a crotchet or quarter note.
Clap the rhythms below and then play them.
Individual quavers have a tail on their stem. When there is a group of quavers, they are joined together.
Information on how to play music can be given in English or Italian terms. These terms usually describe how fast a piece should be played and how loud or soft. Louds and softs are called dynamics. Dynamic markings are often abbreviated:
Mezzo forte/moderately loud/mf
Mezzo piano/moderately soft/mp
Lines to indicate getting louder or softer are called hairpins:
Playing long notes helps you to improve your tone or sound. This is because you have time to listen. Long notes also help improve your posture, breathing and technique because you have time to think.
Play the following exercise slowly, using all your air supply. Experiment to see what changes you can make e.g. blow more or less, relax or slightly tighten your lips/embouchure, make your teeth closer or further apart.
Listen to the effects of all of these and decide which ones improve your tone production.
How much you cover the mouth hole with your lips makes a big difference to the sound. Try to cover about a third of the embouchure hole.
Breath control is also a very important element. When you take a breath, take care not to let your shoulders go up. Let your tummy muscles expand outwards and then use those tummy muscles to push the air out
Posture and breath control help create very solid foundations which enable you to develop all areas of your flute playing.
Below are flashcards, which give you all the information that you need to help remind you of the essential points. Print them out and have them on your music stand as a regular reminder.
FLASHCARDS No. 1
- Keep your head up
- Feet shoulder width apart
- Shoulders relaxed and down
- Turn head slightly to the left
- Lift flute to lips – not lips to flute
- Keep a 45 degree angle between the end
of your flute and right shoulder
- Relax your elbows
- Use a mirror to check
FLASHCARDS No. 2
- Check your posture
- Breathe in slowly
- Keep shoulders relaxed and down
- Imagine filling the bottom of your lungs first
- Let your abdominal muscles expand out
- Let your ribs expand out
- Use your abdominal/tummy muscles to push the air out