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, corners pinched, fingers clenched, eyes squinting, breathing shallow…. Sound familiar? We have all encountered students with one or more of these issues. We say the usual, “relax your shoulders”, “Breathe from the diaphragm”, “Loosen the embouchure”, “Relax your facial muscles, hands, etc.” but the problems persist. One issue may disappear only to be replaced by another, more difficult to eradicate. We see this in our students of all levels, from beginners to advanced players, in varying degrees and, though we don‟t like to admit it, we experience some of these things ourselves. They are insidious symptoms of something much deeper which we need to address; the lack of connection with our natural voice as flutists-our LYROS. Before we begin to work on tone, technique, repertoire or interpretation, we must become aware of the deep, expressive silence which precedes all that we do as musicians. Working in silence, as I was fortunate enough to do as partner to Israeli mime Samuel Avital, teaches the salience of sound. As educators, we encourage growth in our students by helping them to explore how they will break the silence. Over the year my students have come to a consensus on the three elements of silence; peace, quiet and the absence of speech. Here is a sampling of some of the exercises I use to help students find LYROS, their own voice as flutists. As you experiment with these techniques, try to make them your own. They need your understanding of your students and your personal gifts as teachers to lift them off the page and give them life. You will find that some corollaries to this approach are an increase in technical ease and a decrease in performance anxiety. Peace: centering exercise: With our feet firmly planted on the floor, we imagine the space below us, travelling down through the stories of a house or an apartment building until we reach the bottom-bedrock. We experience this sense of being literally grounded. Quiet: listening exercise Grounded, we stand still without speaking, obviously with our cell phones off and no controllable ambient noise. We become aware of the sounds which surround us; city noise outside the windows or interior house sounds, heating system, dishwasher etc. Gradually we turn our attention within. We may be aware of chatter in our minds. Gently we quiet our thoughts, which are a kind of noise, and become aware of sound in our bodies, our stomach’s gurgling, the sound our ears produce when we are quiet and only then are we fully aware of the breath.
This is the tricky part and you may find that you need to repeat an exercise or invent an entirely new one if they go back to old habits of playing. before each of the following standard exercises remember to ask them to return to silence. connected sound and holding each pitch as long as possible with correct intonation . De la Sonorite) Overtone Series Exercise D-Bb(Catherine Curran-William Kincaid) Though traditional in nature. Over the Bar Line ( Francis Blaisdell from Marcel Moyse. We imagine what it would be like to have no words.B4 through E1-E4 aiming for a straight. the approach to developing technical facility. 5 finger scales with varied articulation plus straight and broken arpeggios (BakerKincaid) 2. This is a subject . Etudes. 3 octaves B1 . and consciously aware of our thoughts so that we do not allow mental static to break our deep quiet. must always be informed by work in silence. we pick up our instruments as we inhale. If this work is neglected. an essential element of LYROS. going back to early childhood before language. either in addition to or as a substitute for etudes. The development of LYROS requires relaxation which cannot happen if the material is too demanding technically. You will find that the duration increases as your student‟s breath becomes lower in the body and thus more efficient. You will find that you must repeatedly return to this with your students. Slowing. low in our bodies.LYROS: wordlessness: exercise We are grounded and in touch with the breath. My preferred sequence is the following: Long tones without vibrato. aware of the bones of our feet connected to the bones of the earth. In this way they will learn to center themselves before playing much in the same manner as a mime must focus and establish the „point fixe‟ before creating illusion. you run the risk of having students lose tone as they gain finger technique. I would suggest that you give students etudes that they can sight read nearly perfectly. our LYROS. After all this metaphysical work is in place. Over the years I have found that playing Bach is therapeutic on many levels. standing in silence. 3. We bring our flutes to our lips. When the moment is right for us to break the silence we will exhale a sigh from the depths of our being into the flute and the sound we make will be our unique natural sound as flutists. Bach Sonata movements. communicating whatever we are feeling without language. aware of the breath flowing in and out. You will have your own favorite ways of working on scales and arpeggios but my favorites are the following 1. Therefore. begin to apply it gradually to long tones so that your students do not realize that they are doing warm-ups.
etudes. noticing how low the breath is in the body. it is a better path for them to find what they love musically. asking them to relax every part of the body. from the feet to the pelvis and from the fingers to the torso and finally the neck and head. Gradually feel the energy returning to the body from the toes through the legs to the pelvis and from the fingers up the arms into the torso etc. quiet and wordlessness before they break the silence with their first low B. If you have time you can continue to the internal organs and then ultimately to the mind. Bach and their solo piece. I don‟t usually get to this point primarily because I want both of us to be awake. They will allow themselves to experience peace. their level.for a different article but you will find that your students develop LYROS more rapidly when working on Bach. giving them the enthusiasm needed to learn it quickly and accurately. Lay on the floor with your student at least an arms. Your role here is to guide them. scales. All of the pieces of the puzzle that comprises a fine musician must be securely in place or irreparable damage can be done. Pre-performance-One month prior Have your student come to their lesson in comfortable clothes. Rather than having a set repertoire required of all students. They will let you know when they feel that they are ready to share their work with an audience. Draw their attention to their feet and ask them to repeat mentally what you say. Steer them away from music that is too difficult and help them to fall in love with the right piece. their repertoire will be at. Don‟t forget yours. and not above.length away. It is important for you to make it clear to your students that while they are working on LYROS. finding Lyros in their warm-ups. When your students have reached a place in their development where LYROS is automatic and their natural voice sings through technical exercises. They will smile more and you will see that they will return to grounding before each segment of the lesson begins. Ask your students to do this . My rule personally is never push a student to perform when they are not ready. then they will be ready for repertoire. etudes and Bach. When all of the elements of Lyros have been integrated into the musical life of your students you will see a delightful change in the flow of their lessons. Ask them to bring a yoga mat if they have one. try the following sequence and see if it works as well for your students as it does for mine. encourage your students to seek out those which speak to them. When choosing a piece to work on within this centering modality. like sweatpants and tee shirt. When they are ready. This is a key element in rapid development and imprinting which must take place in learning. Remain in this deeply relaxed state for several moments.
centered in silence.exercise every night as they fall asleep. Habituation is very important. Students are not afraid of what they are accustomed to doing. even a website visit can help with imaging. they will experience Lyros.3 weeks prior Following the deep relaxation exercise above. Remind your students to disconnect the day before a performance. ask students visualize themselves on stage. playing with Lyros in centered modality. Encourage them to treat mistakes as a part of human learning and refrain from criticizing themselves. . Grounded in the earth. Visualization exercise. Therefore I suggest that you give students the opportunity to do three warm-up performances prior to sharing work in public. If they will be playing from memory suggest that they look over their scores beforehand. at the audition or whatever. Ask your students to do this before they fall asleep at night. It is helpful if the student can actually visit where they will perform this early on but since this is often not possible. their natural flute sound.
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