How to Develop your technique on the Flute
Proably the most important book in your/our arsenal for developing your /our finger technique on the flute is the absolutely essential “Taffanel-Gaubert 17 Big Daily Exercises” book . Every flutist should own this book…….And in this classic flute book…. out of all of the 17 exercises which you will find there … the very first excercise is the most important one of all.
I frankly find it quite amazing that even though about 100 years have past since this Book was first published , that this very simple but effective scale excercise number 0ne is still the most important and essential scale excercise we should do on a daily basis to develop our finger technique!
so……although there are countless ways to practice this excercise. Here is the first and most basic way that I recommend ……
1. First of all….Memorize this study! It is essential to memorize this study so that you do not have to look at the notes and can listen to yourself as you practice. ( and be able to watch your fingers in a mirror while you practice it). The pattern is really quite easy to discover: it is a five note pattern starting on low D in D Major repeated four times and then it progresses to a five note pattern in Eb Major but still starting on low D…. but on the fourth repeat the pattern changes and resolves to Eb Major. This pattern continues up the entire compass of the flute into the third octave all the way to high B natural (we can extend it of course even higher).
2. Julius Baker used to make me (and all of his students )play the entire first two lines in one breath and hold the resolution note of the third line for at least four beats. Then he made us start again on the resolution note ( in this case that aforementioned Eb) and repeat this process throught out the entire study.
3. It is important to play this excercise with as big a tone as you can on all the notes and with with a healthy virbrato on each note.. In addition, it is also important to make every note clear and your fingers very even. You may find intially that this is quite a challenge but in time you will see results!
4.Once you can play this excercise slurred try it in the same manner but double tongued.( no virbrato in this case of course except on the very last held note.)
Now on to the second way…….
5.While slurring as you did initially try repeating the first two notes as if you are trilling them….. that makes the pattern into D,E,D,E,… D,E,D,E, ….D,E,F#,G,….. A,G,F#,E……. and on the next line it would be D,Eb,D,Eb… D,Eb,D,Eb,….D,Eb,F,G….Ab,G,F,Eb etc. Now you are specifically practicing the finger combinations of the third finger of your right hand and your pinkie etc…. make sure your finger every note absolutely correctly so that you are working your fingers as much as possible while at the same time keeping your hand as relaxed as possible.
6. Next vary the top note…. in this case the A and the note which is not indicated in the music above the A (which is a B) …. that is play D,E,F#,G,….A,B,A,B,…..A,G,F#,E……..Now you are working a completely different set of fingering combinations!
7. Pracice these two variations as you did the intial two ways… that is first slurred as indicated in step number one and then double tongued as indicated in step number four.
8. Start at whatever metronome indication you can in which you are playing with an even finger control…. no fast fingers in places which are easy for you and slow fingers in places that are not. And all the way through the entire excercise all the way up throughout the entire compass of the instrument up to at least the high B which is indicated in the printed edition( it is claimed that Taffanel hated the high C so he left it out…. but that doesn’t mean we should!!) at the same metronome mark! The slowly increase your tempo to at least a quarter note to 120. Later when you can do this excercise well you can increase it up to perhaps even 160 ( or at least 140-152).
This is best way I know to get your technique up to snuff and onto a virtuosity level. In fact…. believe it or not there is an added benefit to this…..because when you practice this study you are actually also developing your tone…. because in the slurred variaitions you are also practicing virbrato …. and you are also listening….. assuming if it is memorized…. to every note for pitch, tone color matching between notes , even virbrato on each note and dynamics to be the absolute same on every note on the flute!! And of course you are at the same time developing finger eveness througout the entire range of the instrument.
There are many excercises we can practice and many books of scales which have been published since this little 17 excercise study excerpt of the complete Taffanel-Gaubert Method for Flute was published about 100 years ago …. but this book and this particular study still remains the very most important one….. in my humble opinion …..for us to do on a daily basis in order to develop your/our finger technique.
Doing it daily with all the variations …. should rapidily help you improve ……. So………Have fun fluting and enjoy getting better at the same time while also doing your daily excercises!