Pop, pop, pop

Carol is about 9 years old and determined to learn to play the flute. She practices every day and plays the flute whenever she can. This can also be heard in her sound. Soon she had a well-blown, full-bodied tone. The technique is also excellent and progressing well. Only tonguing the notes costs her a lot of effort. Nothing to worry about in the beginning. It is actually good for the sound to wait a little while before starting to use articulation. That is often the point where students easily lose focus on blowing. That’s why I mention articulation, but I don’t mind focusing more on blowing than on articulation in the beginning. To the point where legato playing is introduced. From that moment on (after a few lessons) I put more emphasis on articulation and we really start practicing on the start with the tongue. Usually that goes well, but Carol couldn’t manage to actively use the tongue, she kept playing those tones on ‘hu’. We kept practicing. Periods I kept pointing out the articulation and sometimes I let it rest for a while. In the meantime I got the impression that she really doesn’t want to put any energy into learning. After a while it was still not self-evident for her to articulate the tones properly. “I find that very difficult” was her defense most of the time.

I decided the point had come where we really had to get through it now. I learned her to play tongue stops. A technique in which the mouth piece has to be completely covered and has to breathe / blow through the flute. Then you increase the airspeed and you launch the tongue with great force into the flute. If you do it right you will hear a ‘pop’ as if you are pulling the cork from a bottle of wine. This technique works best on low tones. Carol caught on quickly. We had a good laugh at this funny technique. I had her perform this technique a few times and asked her to pay attention to the movement of the tongue. Then I let her play the part she had just played on ‘hu’. Not only did she play the melody with great ease and full tone, there was also a clear articulation with the tongue!

By using tongue stops we exaggerate the movement of the tongue, making ‘normal’ articulation suddenly very easy. In addition, you need a lot of air to be able to perform a tongue stop, which makes it easier to make the link with blowing through while you articulate.

Carol returns to class on Wednesday. Hopefully she practiced the tongue stops.

Pop, pop, pop.


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