This is one of the most important étude books for flute players. I am going to write a series of blogs with practise tips for all of the études, which will enable the flute player to get the most out of each one.
- 3/4 not 6/8
The most common mistake made in this étude is playing it in 6/8 instead of 3/4. Because of how it is written with the highest note falling in the middle of each bar (measure), players often accent this note and we hear two dotted crotchet (dotted quarter note) beats instead of 3 crotchet beats.
So, in order to make it sound in 3/4, we must play the high note softer and show 3 beats (give stress to the first beat, the low note).
Here is how I would practise it:
a) Bell tones for the first beat of each bar
Try to give each note a good initial attack and allow the sound to decay. Lip movement for each note: lower lip aim the airstream down and then lift gradually as you diminuendo. Think of striking a bell “Dummmmmmmm, Dummmmmmm”. Vibrate at the beginning of the note and less towards the end.
b) Add the 3rd note of the bar.
Use the same lip movement so that the 3rd beat doesn’t pop out, but is simply part of the diminuendo. The first beat should be louder than the 3rd.
Think of the word “Paradise” Stress the first syllable and then release the 2nd and 3rd. PA-ra-dise. The same lip movement is required. When you rearticulate the E and F, don’t let the 3rd beat sound stronger.
d) Use the last four semiquavers to get back to the bass note
e) Practise lifting the high note so that it doesn’t sound louder
The high note should be equally soft in every bar (i.e. don’t let the C or B be louder than the A)
f) Put it all together, slowly! Play in 3/4 (top) not 6/8 (bottom)
Once you have mastered the “micro” phrasing of each bar, work on the “macro” phrasing or longer phrase lines. Follow the crescendo which leads to bar 9, so the musical tension is not lost. Listen to the implied harmonies to give you an idea of colours and harmonic progressions.
Breathing is difficult in this étude. I would aim for every 4 bars after the first note. If you breathe after the first note, make sure you don’t start the 2nd note loudly or with an accent. Try not using the tongue and using a soft attack.
Thanks for reading and happy fluting!