Tag Archive: running


I got a bit more done today than yesterday, and enjoyed my practice more, which was a relief. This coming week of classes is thankfully going to be a bit of a break for me. Trevor heard so little of what I’d prepared (not brilliantly) last week that I’ve been able to sit back and consolidate on the same studies over the last few days. Andersen No. 14 is now sounding quite good, which is exciting!

After a short run in the afternoon, I headed over to the Hastingleigh village hall again for fish and chips, and a film. The fish and chips were yummy and top notch, though with not one but two pieces of fish I’m still feeling rather full! Then they showed the film Mrs Brown with Judy Dench and Billy Connolly, which I rather enjoyed. It was lovely to get out, do something a little different, and take a bit of a break from my flute.

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I feel like I spent most of the day practising articulation! Both the excerpts for tomorrow are quite heavy on the tonguing, and then we’ve arrived at a patch of Moyse studies that are all about tonguing as well. On the one hand, I’m quite pleased that my articulation has come on in the past months, particularly in the realm of double and triple-tonguing. On the other, tonguing fasted dotted and double-dotted rhythms is still something of a minefield.

My approach with the excerpts today was not to spend ages on them but to play through them just once a couple of times per practice session. Since Trevor has been critical of my wrong notes of late, the goal was to get rid of them at all costs.

The St John Passion excerpt is mostly about getting through the passage without making any mistakes, and so this approach worked quite well. The goal was to play it perfectly the first time through, without any restarting or fumbling around. By the final practice hour of the day, I made it through several times without error, though it earlier sessions I noticed that I tend to make a mistake in the bar directly following a breath. My solution was then to mark in each and every breath (allowing for nerves in class) and really make sure that I learned them in as well. It seemed to work.

By contrast, the Thieving Magpie excerpt is about just getting through it all triple-tonguing, with a preference for dynamic contrast as well! I found that once I’d got through the first bar or so, that the tonguing wasn’t so bad, but that I often made mistakes when starting because I was still getting comfortable. So then I played just the first bar every ten minutes or so to get it really nice and clear. While the final build-up is still a little bit hairy (my tongue gets tired), I’m happy with the expression in the rest of the excerpt. I played Thieving Magpie with an orchestra only last year, and still am having conniptions about it!

I also went for a run this morning, the first in a while. It wasn’t amazing, and I’ve definitely got out of the habit over the last month. Hopefully Friday will feel a bit better!

In many ways today was very uneventful. This morning was both wet and windy, and I practiced all my scales and technique to an accompaniment of wild weather sounds from outside. I was really happy with how quite a bit of it went, particularly on the memory side of things. My Reichert exercises felt easy, even when I pushed the tempo, and compared to where I was a month ago with them I’m really happy with how they’re sounding. Some of the other exercises were also feeling good, and I’ve finally got the first page of Bach’s E minor sonata (half of the first movement) from memory.

There are still things that are frustrating me though, one of them being the Maquarre exercises. Given they’re written specifically to make us play the unexpected, but it feels like I can’t get them into my fingers! I’ve finally got the C major version of exercises one from memory, but can’t then transpose it to any other key with any ease. I think these could be the next candidates for mental practice.

The Moyse 25 Melodic Studies are quite a bit harder than the 24, and all of a sudden I need to spend time learning the notes as well as working on the meaning of the study. No. 5 is particularly frustrating, as it looks like easy arpeggio figures, but some of them don’t sit under the fingers well and then I tie myself in knots. Hopefully most of them will be unraveled in time for class on Monday!

I went for a run just as the sun was setting, and though it was still ridiculously windy made it round my short 2-mile circuit in almost record time. I felt like I could have run further, but forays off into the Kentish Downs probably aren’t a good idea when it’s getting dark.

After feeling a bit lethargic yesterday, today was really quite wonderful for a whole combination of things. Rather than trying to convince myself that running was a good idea in the dark, I went at the much better time of 9am after my first hour of practice. I ran a long way, right round to the church then up into Hastingleigh the back way and coming back to Elmsted in one big loop. Alas, I didn’t manage to run all the way, as the road was really icy down by the church and then the final hill up to our dairy was a real killer. Still, it was a lovely time of the morning to be out, and I had a great time despite the sore legs.

Muffins - not my prettiest baking creation but still quite yummy.

Muffins – not my prettiest baking creation but still quite yummy.

In the afternoon, I finally got round to baking some muffins, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Grandma gave me a rather nice flexible tray at Christmas, and so I made dark chocolate and raspberry muffins with the hope of taking them to class tomorrow. I’ve got slightly mixed feelings about the result – they taste nice but didn’t come out of the tray terribly well and have misshapen bottoms – but had lots of fun in the process. There is something infinitely relaxing about rubbing butter into flour!

I still managed to fit in a good five and a half hours of practice around all this, and it was much better than last week. It’s my turn to propose a warm-up tune tomorrow, as well as directing the exercises that follow. I think I’m ready! My warm-up tune is the opening flute solo (2nd passing to 1st) of Ravel’s Ma mère l’oye, since I’m currently writing a program note for it for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s 2015 Discovery program.

Then there’s all the rest of the things to prepare. Our repertoire for tomorrow is Schubert’s Trockne Blumen Variations, which are monumental as flute works go. While yesterday’s practice on it was rather average, today went quite well. I’m not sure whether it’s my fingers remembering the work I did on it three years ago, all the scales we’ve been doing or a combination of both, but it all felt quite comfortable and I’m not too stressed about playing it in class tomorrow. I just need to remember to be expressive and play dotted rhythms correctly!

Finally, I spent an hour before our walk doing some of my listening project for the week. My chosen topic is the American flautist (or should I say flutist since he’s American?) William Kincaid, and amoung Trevor’s CDs I found an absolute gem. It’s a retrospective of Kincaid’s career with the Philadelphia Orchestra, originally for radio, with lots of really old recordings of him playing orchestral, chamber and solo works. Despite the presenter being awful (something of an old recordings collector by the sound of it, but really needed a script), the musical snapshot was fantastic, and the background information helped to put it all into context. Kincaid’s playing is stunning, particularly in the orchestral pieces. There was the Entr’acte from Bizet’s Carmen, Debussy’s Après-midi d’une faune, a really rather delicious rendition of the Daphnis and Chloe (Ravel) flute solo. I can easily say it’s the best CD I’ve listened to so far from Trevor’s collection.

Now I’m sitting here with a cup of chamomile tea, listening to David Francey’s Belgrade Train (it’s awesome!) and thinking that it’s days like today that really make the experience here at the flute studio. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a time and space like this again, so need to make the most of it. And of course practice scales!

Up at seven, My uncle David and I decided to tackle the Humber Bridge on our run this morning. Though we made it both across and back, I have to admit that five and a quarter miles still feels like a long way.

We had my aunt’s Auntie Heather and cousin Paul round for a jolly lunch. More wine, more flute carols, then an afternoon of scrabble with grandma. We each won a game, though I was a little miffed to loose became I couldn’t get rid of both the Q and J at the very end of the game!

Back down to Kent and flute practice tomorrow.

Today I alternated being really productive and really unproductive, both with flute practice itself and with writing my assignment. My practice sessions were generally good, though I’m not doing a great job of memorising the pattern for Taffanel and Gaubert-style minor scales. Reichert No. 2 is sounding quite good now though, I just need to trust myself and not start questioning what the next note is!

This afternoon I went for a run, which was definitely procrastinating about writing. The day was stunning though still cold. At 2pm, the sun hung low and glaring in the sky, casting long shadows but rendering other objects lush and green. Some fields had not seen the sun at all, and still sat under a layer of thick glistening frost. By the roadside, some of the puddles had a thin coating of ice, and the little English child in me took great pleasure in the crack of my foot on the surface. The winter air at once caught in my throat and tasted delicious.

As for studies later in the afternoon, I’m becoming better at learning things at speed. The prospect of playing almost eight pages of music on Monday is no longer scary, and I’m not able to zone in on the bits that need work without feeling the need to repeat the easy parts just to feel more comfortable.

Tonight is supposed to be the coldest so far – I’m hoping for a lovely thick frost tomorrow morning!

It continues to be rather cold in a very wintry sort of way. I put off my morning run because of the rain, but even when I did finally head out at 2:30pm it was brisk and chilly. Overall I quite like the cold – properly rugged up, I really enjoyed our walk this evening – but am not sure how much longer my morning runs are going to last!

One of the thing that Trevor has pointed out a few times now is that I need to relax and trust myself with the warm-up exercises. I think part of the problem is a fear of letting my fingers go onto autopilot, which applies equally to pieces where I have to play things at speed. Today there were moments where I surprised myself with the Reichert exercises – I could genuinely get through two or three keys at speed without dropping any notes. Then suddenly I would be back to thinking about what comes next, and so would fall apart. The only way I can see of resolving it is to keep pushing the threshold. If I can get through three keys without a slip today, then maybe tomorrow I can do four, and I can do them a bit faster. I’ve definitely improved at this since being here, and I can do things now that I couldn’t have two months ago, but it’s still an area that I’d like to feel better about.

Also on the topic of speed, I did my Moyse finger exercises at crotchet = 124 today, which is getting pretty brisk! Interestingly, it actually felt easier than crotchet =122 yesterday, and I’m not sure whether that’s because I’m nearing the end of a two week cycle, or whether I was a bit more focused today.

Tomorrow we’re playing Fukushima’s Mei in class, or at least I’m playing it. Some of the others haven’t practised it, and all seem to be assuming that I’ll go first, Trevor will talk about the piece, and then they won’t actually have to play. I’m rather dubious about this plan, as I have a feeling that no matter how well I play, Trevor will dig into me about my penchant for new music and declare that I’m no better at it than anything else. I have, however, taken the time to practise the piece, and really like it. Hopefully I’ve done enough work to have a constructive lesson, and will be able to return to it at some point in the future.

Sheep and a sunset from my run this afternoon.

Sheep and a sunset from my run this afternoon.

After a busy day yesterday, there seemed to be a general consensus that today was a day off, or a day off practising at least. Even at the best of times, I’m not good at doing total relaxation, and so still managed to fit in a long run, baking flapjack and doing some of my written project. This evening, we all snuggled up in the ‘old dairy’ for a session of knitting and sewing accompanied by some well-earned bottles of cider. It was great to have a day (the first in a while) that didn’t involve playing, and I have to credit the others for suggesting it. I would probably just have plowed on regardless! Hopefully the rest will make for some renewed vigor in practice tomorrow.

As for yesterday’s class with Juliet Edwards, I feel like I learned a lot from the experience and from working with her in such an environment. We had been preparing our pieces for a few weeks, but had mostly chosen works that we hadn’t studied or performed before. Mine was the first movement of Poulenc’s Sonata, and others prepared movements of the Burton Sonatina, Schumann’s Three Romances and Enescu’s Cantabile et Presto. Trevor warned us that Juliet would expect us to know the piano part very well, and I had spent quite a bit of time on it as a result. Some of the class struggled getting their work together with piano, and a lot of Juliet’s feedback was on rhythm and understanding why rhythmic integrity (and occasionally flexibility) was important.

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Somewhat hazy, but I’m still in love with these Kentish sunsets!

My main point was also on rhythm, as I’d decided to play the opening demi-semiquavers of the movement with quite a bit of rubato. Fine, said Juliet, if that was a conscious choice, but I need to do it in a way that allows me to arrive at the next bar in a clear tempo. We worked for a while on setting up the tempo, and arrived at an interpretation that involved slightly less rubato as a result! We also talked about the semiquaver rests in Poulenc’s score, which are almost like a comma in his phrases. Juliet asked me to take more time with them, allowing for some breathing space rather than always plowing on. I have to admit that, after so much pressure and criticism (mostly constructive) from Trevor in recent weeks, it was good to be told by Juliet that she thought me a good performer, and that I was communicating my musical ideas well. I really enjoyed playing with her, and it was good to get another opinion on how things are going!

After yesterday’s lull in motivation, I ended up having a really productive day today. Partly, I think this was spurred on by the feeling of how much I need to prepare for class this week, but I also had a lovely Skype chat with some friends in Australia this morning and ran four miles (my legs will hurt tomorrow), so was generally in a much better mindset.

After Trevor’s comments on both Monday and Thursday last week about not playing either very loudly or with a full tone, I have been really focusing on this in my practice. I’ve generally tried to up the dynamic level of everything I play, but am also trying to be conscious of dynamics from the very start in everything I play. Andersen No. 4b and 5, which I’ve prepared for tomorrow, are both good examples, though employ dynamics in very different ways. In 4b, the challenge of the study is certainly the articulation and leaps, but I need to remember also the larger dynamic plan of the music – most lines crescendo to mf/f and then decrescendo back down to p. Conversely, no 5 have very few marked dynamic changes other than an f and con alterezza (with pride) at the start. Though there are a few crescendos and decrescendos to make a feature of, the main focus is instead (I think) maintaining the dynamic throughout and still being expressive within the realm of forte. 

Another thing that I’ve been preparing for tomorrow’s class is the traverso (Baroque flute). For the moment, I just need to play a scale, but will be working up to the required slow and fast movement of a sonata by the end of the month. To be honest, I’m not finding the fingering too bad so far, maybe because I’ve played the recorder a lot, though I’ve only attempted scales and tunes in D, G and C major so far. Since the natural scale of the flute is D major, this key requires so awkward cross-fingerings, though some notes on this particular instrument are incredibly out of tune. Once I start the foray into flat keys, though, I’ll need to get my head round all the awkward fingerings.

I made it to the end of my first month! It at once feels like I’ve been here a long while and no time at all, and it’s still a bit strange to think of this little dairy and village as home. Now seems a good time for a bit of reflection on what has happened so far, so here goes:

– Trevor’s major criticism of my playing a month ago was that I didn’t play expressively. This has been a point of quite a lot of tension, as I was struggling to realise just how much I needed to project my musical ideas and dynamics, while Trevor was often insisting that I failed to understand the music. I had a turning point with Andersen Op. 15 Study No. 3 almost two weeks ago, and am now slowly counting up the classes I go without negative comments on that front. Hopefully it will continue that way!

– I’ve changed my posture somewhat to have a bigger space between the flute and my right arm/shoulder. This does feel more natural, and I’m not sure how the more closed posture had crept into my playing.

– Along with aiming to project musical ideas more, I have had to push my dynamic range out to a much bigger ff and a pp that is almost nothing. These extremities still need a lot of work, and I still have a tendency to go flat when playing very quietly. I am, however, now happy to play with a pp that is almost nothing, whereas earlier this year I would have sacrificed the dynamic for feeling safe with intonation.

– I’ve learned the importance of ending notes beautifully – essentially every one needs a diminuendo, they just vary in length.

– Thanks to all the hours of scales and technical exercises, I can certainly feel a different in the agility and precision of my fingers. Looking in the mirror, there is so little movement now when I play scales. It’s quite amazing what focused practice can do!

– I think that one of the big focuses of the coming month is going to be articulation, aiming for a really clear, short staccato and well-articulated beginnings to notes. This will be a lot of work, but also something I’m really keen to master.

– For the first time in my life, I feel like my body has finally become comfortable with running! I’ve got into the habit of going out about four mornings a week, and am slowly increasing the distance with an aim of five miles by Christmas. I’m really enjoying running (this still seems so strange to say), and am sure it’s doing some good for my playing as well!

I still need to keep reminding myself that I’m here for me and my flute playing, to go with the flow even if it’s not what I would choose myself. I need to take Trevor’s feedback on board, no matter how harsh (or occasionally bizarre) it seems. Yes, there are some things that he doesn’t need to know about, but he is a great teacher and I can feel the difference that this past month has made.

Today was Halloween, and while I’m not particularly into the idea of celebrating it as some sort of festival, I did contribute a yummy vegetarian chilli for dinner. I’m much more excited about bonfire night next week!