The following are some thoughts Sir James Galway posted on his Flute Chat list. Posted with permission of the author.
This has to be the longest article ever posted on this site and very interesting it was too.
--- In Galway-Flute-Chat@yahoogroups.com, "Court Gettel" <cgettel@...> wrote:
> Bottom line, I don't think there's any approach to doing scales which is without value. >However much one knows, however well one knows fingerings and notes and sounds, >there's always more to learn, there's always new and different ways to come to >understand them and their interaction.
I liked your bottom line and agree there is no approach to scales which is without value even if it is minimal in value. It is surprising how many players waste so much time by playing scales without love and care. They play scales with the attitude that it is a chore when in fact with a little care and attention to detail they can be building a system which will let them play music
in a way beyond their dreams.
Let me pose a question here.
When practicing scales what do you do to give to them the care and attention which makes them come alive, makes them different and worth listening to? Different from the next guy? What do you do to make your scales come alive and contribute to the music you play? We could ask this not only of scales but of all music that we play.. What do you give to the scales and the music to make it outstanding? What do you do to make it come to life and imbue the music with the spirit of life?
Are you happy to play just notes of the scale? If you are happy doing just this it will let you sound like many other flute players when in fact you are striving to be out standing amongst your friends and colleagues.
I would say there are many things one can do to play scales and music better and here are a few hints for you all to try.
Introduce the Sonorité into your scales. I can already hear a chorus of "What do you mean Sir James? ".
Well, in the Sonorité you practice to get a beautiful sound, good flexibility, a good dynamic range and smooth fingering. The smooth fingering helps you play with a really good legato which is required in a lot of the music you play.
A good sound is quite easy to acquire when you have it in your ear to begin with. Look at how many string players have a good sound simply because their teachers had a good sound and showed them how to do it. There are also tons of great string playing Cd's out there to influence you. When I was young there were not so many flute recordings to be had and I listened mostly to violin playing, specifically the playing of Fritz Kreisler and later to Heifetz.
Flexibility is another matter one should deal with from the word go. Once again I can hear the choice again faintly in the background.
On page 15 in the famous de la Sonorité you can begin to practice your flexibility. The flexibility concerns getting the embouchure to deal with large intervals on the flute. Not only will you learn to play these intervals but you will learn to play them with a diminuendo and perfect intonation. By repeating these exercises you will gain a flexibility in you embouchure which will serve you very will in your music making. While practicing your flexibility you want to be using your best tone from exercise 1 in the Sonorité. After all you do want to have a good flexibility with a good tone, do you not?
There is a rule I follow concerning the fingering on the flute and it is as follows. When you have to play something at a moderate pace or slowly, as in a beautiful adagio or andante you use a special soft touch in your fingering. This is a type of fingering devoid of the striking action you would use when playing something very fast.
This is the theory of it all so let us begin with a famous G major scale to be found in the Sonata in G major for flute, violin and keyboard BWV 1038 .
Here we have a G major scale in a moderate tempo. Let us take the scale as it is written. For those of you who do not have the music it is starting on G1 and goes like this in 8th notes, g,a,b,c,d,e,f#, g 2, a 2, c 2. Hold the c 2 as a half note. The reason for this is we are going to use our flexibility to get it smack in the middle in tune. We are going to use this beautiful little scale as a template and play it in other keys. First of all let us see what we have to do to get it to sound great. We have begun to teach the embouchure to remember where things are on the flute, on any flute.
Play your first note G 1 and get the best tone you can with it. Don't hold it as a long tone trying to get it to sound good but try it in quarter notes each time adjusting your embouchure to get the best tone you can. This is very important as this G is going to influence the notes in the rest of the scale. The speed of this is around 54 to the quarter note or crochet.
Suppose you have found a really good G to begin with. The next thing you have to try to get perfect is the fifth and octave in the scale. That is you play your G 1 followed by D2 and G 2. In doing this you will notice that you have to change your embouchure slightly to acquire perfect intonation. Having found this you are now ready to play your scale. You will begin to notice that the C 2 needs special attention to correct any pitch problems. You will also notice that the C
2 and D 2 have different colors and you will need to use your flexibility to obtain the same color all the way up the scale. This little exercise should take about 5 minutes.
Now having got this as good as you can you are now going to use the same little scale pattern, or template, a semitone down. Here you will be amazed to find that what goes for G major certainly does not go for F# ( or G flat for Court) major.
Let us take the tonic, fifth and octave, F#, C# and F#. Here you will notice there is a great difference in the embouchure requirement. again, try to train your embouchure to remember where these notes are to be found with good and solid intonation.
Try it in A flat. Take the tonic, fifth, and octave. Here again you will find that you are required to use a different embouchure to play in A flat.
This brings us to ask the question " Do we need a different embouchure for all keys " and I am sure the answer is yes. I move around on all flutes that I have ever played. Having acquired this flexibility I can play practically any flute in tune. Here again I hear the chorus saying " That is because you are James Galway" when in fact it is because as a child I practiced the Moose de la Sonorité. I practiced it till it became a built in feature of my embouchure.
Some advanced players do this automatically and without thinking. I personally do it most of the time consciously because I feel that certain pieces need more attention in the embouchure department than other pieces. Two that come to mind are the B minor suite and the Nocturne from the Nocturne and Allegro Scherzando by P. Gaubert.
The reason the B minor suite is so difficult and tiring is that you are consciously or unconsciously correcting C# 2, for twenty minutes. The Gaubert is wandering in and out of A flat and you have to do a lot of correction in order to get the whole thing to sound good; that is with all the notes in tune and related to each other in colour, timbre and intonation which all add up to a fine interpretation.
This brings me to the conclusion that when playing scales you have to pay attention to your embouchure, getting good intonation and the best tone you can have at the moment.
You will notice in the little Bach template in just these three keys you have to adjust your embouchure to get the best out of it. Why not apply these principles to all your scales and playing. It will certainly make a difference to you, as it has done to me over the years and it has kept my interest alive in just trying to get it right every time.
Now I have to tell you all something. It has been very difficult for me to type this as I fell down the stairs in my home, at 6 AM, on the 23rd of December and broke the radius in my right forearm and had some little fractures in the wrist of my left arm. I am recovering very well and am hoping to be able to play in March. Now I have a lot of time to read all your comments on the GFC, so let me know what you think.
I want to thank you all for sending me greetings and cards on my birthday and for Christmas and the New Year. I cannot possibly reply to you all personally but would like you all to know that it meant a lot to me to hear from you all.
The last word is for our dear Sarah Osbourn who fell and broke her wrist. I am
sure she would like to hear from you all.