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Diaphragm to throat vibrato

by Richard D. Billington

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 06:41:14 -0800
From: Robert D. Billington <rdbflute@YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: Transitioning from Diapraghm to Throat Vibrato

First, a faster vibrato should be produced by the vocals cords, located in the larynx. Not in the "throat" per se.

In the past, flutists were taught to use a glottal stop to learn the production of the vibrato. This would produce the goaty sound that you describe.

The Gartner tome, "The Vibrato, With Particular Consideration Given to the Situation of the Flutist," should be required reading for all advanced and professional flutists.

For my doctoral essay, "A Description and Application of Robert Aitken's Concept of the Physical Flute," I relied upon the Gartner book for much of the source material re: breathing, support, and vibrato.

p. 135 - "Experiments by Gärtner place the production of the vibrato in the thoraco^Öabdominal region with some related laryngeal activity for lower frequencies (under 6 Hz)and solely in the larynx for higher frequencies (6 Hz and above). The diaphragm, therefore, does not produce the vibrato. The thoraco^Öabdominal vibrato is produced by the rhythmic contraction and release of the abdominal and chest muscles, which work primarily on the lower rib cage. The laryngeal vibrato is produced by the periodic widening and narrowing of the vocal cords. The laryngeal vibrato tends to be used in pp dynamic levels in all registers and has the widest range of all vibrato types. The normal frequency range of the vibrato for Gärtner^Òs test subjects when performing musical excerpts was from 5-7 Hz."

So, basically, you will want to position the faster vibrato in the vocal cords.

In my paper, I included a very simple pulsed-tone (single note) exercise which starts with the flutist using the lower abdominal muscles to pulse inward - first at 2 pulses per second, then 3, then 4, then 5 (whereupon the lower abdominal muscles firm inward continuously and the pulse should move to the vocal cords), then 6, then 7, then back down again where the lower abdominal muscles start pulsing individually after 5 pulses/second. All on one breath. Kind of tedious, but it works.

After you do this for a bit, you can use a similar approach to the chromatic tone exercises of "De la Sonorite." On the three note chromatic exercise, start with 3 pulses, then 4 on the next note, then 5 on the third note, and add two beats of no vibrato to the final note. This helps keep the flutist honest with re: to support issues and getting a nice full sound withour vibrato. Not just using the vibrato to mask an inferior sound.

Then, on the next group, do 5, 4, 3 - etc.

p. 138 - "The means of producing the vibrato in the vocal cords while keeping the throat open tends to be difficult to control initially. One of the keys to keeping the throat open during this exercise is the anchoring of the larynx in the inhalation position. Once this is done, it becomes easier to keep the vibrato production mechanism from rising too high in the throat.

The pulsed note vibrato exercise shown in Example 4.38 allows the flutist to gain considerable control over the vibrato process by allowing the placement of the vibrato mechanism in the vocal cords. This exercise should also be performed throughout the range of the flute. The flutist must keep the throat open at all times, by keeping the base of the tongue down and the larynx anchored in the position of inspiration, especially in the upper register where there is often the tendency toward closing the throat and jaws."

If you are having trouble finding your vocal cords, open your jaws about a thumb's width apart, lower the tongue in the mouth (keeping it on the floor of the mouth), lower the base of the tongue straight down, take a really deep brath and sing an "ahhhhh." Hopefully, that will be where your vibrato should be produced.

Two thoughts in closing.

1. A mechanical means of learning the control of the vibrato will help the flutist to play more expressively. (As in some of the quieter passages on the Moyse recordings of "Tone Development Through Interpretation," where he actually varies the vibrato from nothing to more in conjunction with the changing moods of the piece.)

2. You have to have a lot of air available to use for this to work. (There's more in my paper re: this, of course.) :-)

Hope this helps.


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