Tag Archive: studies


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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Not much to report today, as it was a rather confusing class. Having prepared a whole lot of studies, Trevor only heard five of the Drouet. They weren’t note perfect, and while I agree that they should have been, they also weren’t terrible. Trevor then went on a long rant about playing written dynamics and accents, then said that was enough and he didn’t need to hear any more.

While I know that I could have playing with greater dynamic contrast, once again, I didn’t think I was doing a bad job. The class has left me feeling rather frustrated and deflated because I’d done a huge amount of work over the week, and it wasn’t acknowledged at all

Not much to report today other than that I practised a lot. Six hours playing flute and then some time listening and studying scores. What with two trips to London in the next few days and Trevor’s zeal for more studies, I felt like there weren’t many options but to knuckle down and really do as many hours as I could manage.

Compared with yesterday, I felt like all the practice sessions were productive. The Reinecke Ballade isn’t terribly difficult note-wise, and I could focus on the music, which was nice. As for studies…they’re happening. Andersen No. 14 is a lovely piece of music but being in D#/Eb minor makes it a bit of a minefield for notes!

In the afternoon, I took myself off on a long walk across the fields and round the back way to Bodsham. The fields were still half-covered in snow, and the air was crisp and delicious. We’re heading up to London tomorrow, and to be honest I’m glad of a day free from playing!

One of the big things I’m learning as part of this course is how to prepare a lot of music very quickly. Last weekend up in London I was telling a friend about all the studies we have to play each week, and then added that Thursday is repertoire and excerpts. She almost fell off her a chair!

While it’s not normally comfortable preparing this much music each week, I’m definitely getting much better at it. This week, however, is another step up again. Not only is Trevor applying pressure to me in particular with studies, we have the Fauré Fantasie on Thursday and then different repertoire for the masterclass on Friday. I’ve played the Fauré before, and so my main worry this morning was the Taffanel for Friday – the Scherzettino in particular needs to be fast and fluid despite some tricky finger passages.

This afternoon, though, I spent 45min working quite solidly on the Taffanel and already feel a lot better about it. I think that I’ve learned to isolate the passages that really need work, and also the type of work that’s needed, rather than assuming I need to spend hours on every last corner of a piece. In the Scherzettino, I need to spend more time on articulation in the theme, as well as some fingering bits at the end. The Andante Pastoral isn’t as hard as it looks – there are a couple of demi-semiquaver flourishes at the end that need a bit more time, but otherwise it’s basically counting and making sure that my ornaments in the poco piu mosso stay in time.

The other big factor in learning all the music quickly is definitely all the scales and finger exercises – my fingers fall into the patterns so much more easily now! The studies, though, are another story. They’re meant to be hard, to challenge both our technique and our musicality. Looks like they’re what I’ll be working on after piccolo class tomorrow!

Though Trevor was kind enough to take us to Tesco this afternoon, he still sounded very croaky and class has been postponed until at least Thursday. Shopping was a good reason to get out of the house, and I’m also glad that we’ve now replenished the stock of fruit and veggies – we’d got to the point of the fridge being rather bare!

On one hand, a break from the relentlessness of classes has been good, and allowed me to spend a little more time on technique without worrying about all the studies to prepare. On the other hand, it means that I’ve ended up working myself really hard now for five days straight, and am rather in need of a bit of down time that doesn’t involve flute playing! On the days that we have class, there’s a bit of a mutual agreement that we don’t practice, and often there’s a bit of a group dinner. I’m not sure what’s happened in the last few days – maybe everyone’s got a bit of the January blues – but nobody was keen to play chamber music yesterday evening and everyone has kept to themselves all of the time. It felt like our little outing today was the first conversation I’d had in a while, and even that was rather subdued!

Looking on the bright side, I have the perfect remedy lined up for tomorrow evening when I’m off to see The Theory of Everything with wonderful Sue from Hastingleigh. I’ll certainly be packing tissues, and am looking forward to it immensely. Beyond that, I need to remember that reading, knitting and even watching TV are perfectly acceptable ways to spend the evening when my lips and/or brain gives out!

I returned to the Eb scales and thirds today, and am pleased to say that they’re maybe 5% better than yesterday. A small improvement, but hopefully if I keep chipping away at it they’ll be flying along in a week or so. The Taffanel and Gaubert-style regular scales certainly are, though majors are still a bit faster than the minors. Another exercise that I’ve been practising a bit lately is the Perpetuum Mobile studies at the back of Trevor’s Complete Daily Exercises book. He’s taken a devilish little orchestral solo from Strauss’s work by the same name and written four studies which transpose the pattern of the excerpt through all the keys. Apparently one year he had two students who memorised the whole thing in a week and played it flawlessly at a really fast speed! I’m not up to that yet, but have been slowly edging the metronome up and the fluency is slowly increasing.

Though our piccolo masterclass with Patricia Morris was cancelled on Sunday, Trevor’s hopeful that it’ll happen in the next week or so. He asked us to prepare a few studies and some excerpts but left it open as to how much we work on – I’m assuming because there will be vary levels of competency with the piccolo in the class group. For studies, I’ve chosen no. 8 from Moyse’s 24 Melodic Studies as it has quite a broad range and requires seamless movement between the registers. I’ve been working on a few studies from Patricia Morris’s Piccolo Study Book, and will certainly be ready to play no. 3 (Furstenau) but am not so sure whether no. 7 will be ready by the time she comes.

In terms of excerpts, I’ve set myself a bit of a challenge. Though my excerpts in regular class are far from perfect, they’re usually quite good, and I seem to have a pretty decent knowledge of the orchestral repertoire. So rather than preparing one or two excerpts, I though I’d have a crack at the audition list for the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Piccolo job which was up for audition in December. There were eleven excerpts on piccolo, to which I’ve added the Ravel Ma mère l’oye piccolo excerpts (there were also flute ones listed). Looking down the list, I was pleasantly surprised that I knew most of then, and had played all but two before in various contexts. A couple of them – the dreaded Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 for example – will need a lot of work to get them up to speed, while others seemed to fall back under the fingers very naturally. Perhaps an ambitious goal considering everything else that I need to work on, but it feels like a good one and for the moment I’m quite enjoying it.

Right now, though, it’s time for a cup of chamomile tea, a book and bed!

Bit of a funny day today. I accidentally turned my alarm off this morning rather than hitting snooze, and so it was a bit of a scramble to be ready for Trevor’s Tesco pick-up at 8:42am (on the dot). Composer and repertoire listing was slow going as usual, but I’d learned quite a few more than I listed so am happy that I’m getting plenty out of the exercise.

My daily practice started out quite well, and while the three hours on technique weren’t amazing, they were also far from awful. However, the final two hours on studies and repertoire felt like wading through treacle. Despite having played Schubert’s Trockne Blumen Variations before, I could not get my fingers to move the way I wanted them to. I’m hoping that it was just a bit of an off day (to match the rather gloomy foggy weather) and that I’m not getting a cold or anything.

I’ve taken advantage of a walk-free evening to get a few other jobs done. Most importantly, one of the things I’m keen to do as part of my ArtStart grant from the Australia Council is attend the Bang on a Can summer festival in Boston, USA in July. I was on the reserve list last year, and am hoping that everything I’ve done since then will bump me up to being accepted. Who knows though, I just need to put together the best application I can!

I need to get motivated about running again, and am planning on heading out tomorrow morning even if it is a bit wet.

Everyone was a bit slow to get going this morning, I think as a result of the fondue last night! It was wet and rainy for most of the day – perfect weather for good solid practice sessions.

Once again, I need to keep reminding myself to look at what I have improved on over the last three months. Though all the various Reichert and other warm-up exercises aren’t perfect, they’re definitely faster and more fluent that even just a few weeks ago. Though the minors with lots of sharps and flats continue to frustrate me in Taffanel and Gaubert-style scales, on the whole they’re faster as well. I’ve been trying to spend less time on each individual exercise and jump around a bit more, in the hope that it will encourage me to play from memory more spontaneously. So far it seems to be helping, and I’m playing things correctly the first time through rather than making silly slips.

My feeling of achievement today was that I managed to get through all the Moyse finger exercises at crotchet = 128. The experience wasn’t exactly comfortable, but all the notes were there and even. The Boehm study, which I’m trying to memorise with the aid of a lot of mental practice, is getting there. Eb, Ab, Db and F# are still a bit hit and miss, but the others are sounding alright. Now it just needs to be faster!

As for studies for this week…all of them need to go very fast. Andersen no. 10, which I’m playing again, has an awful lot of accidentals but needs to sounds easy with four in a bar. At the moment I can do that for all the bars with few or no accidentals, but then I’ll hit a wall of D, E and F double sharps and it will fall to pieces! Today I practiced only the hairy bars with the metronome set to where it just felt uncomfortable. Hopefully I can still maintain the same speeds tomorrow. As for the Altes studies, they’re less scary and more just an awful lot of notes to get under the fingers.

I was rather hoping that we have at least some sort of New Year celebration at the flute studio, but Trevor has decided to go for routine instead! So New Year is “cancelled” until Friday, and we instead have class tomorrow with Roussel’s Joueurs de la flûte and the flute solo from Beethovens Overture ‘Leonore No.3’ on the menu. I’ve played the Roussel before, and we’re each only required to prepare two movements, so I’m feeling a bit more relaxed about tomorrow than in some previous weeks. Though I haven’t worked on the Beethoven in years, it’s not too bad as excerpts go, and hopefully I’ve targeted the things that Trevor’s most likely to pick holes in!

That left me freer to practice a lot of technique and studies today, and I feel like I’m making some progress with the notes in my two Altes studies for next week. The main criticism of the two I played on Monday was that they were too slow, and I’m keen for that not to become a theme. I am noticing some big improvements with speed though: my Taffanel and Gaubert-style scales this morning were much quicker and more even than a few weeks ago. When I think about the phrase shape rather than the notes, I tend to make fewer mistakes.

Mental practice today was focused on the dreaded Bohem study no. 1 (from Trevor’s Complete Daily Excercises), which I am trying to memorise. The problem now is that I know the pattern quite clearly, but tend to forget to make the descending half of the second bar diminished, and then fall over myself when it becomes a dominant 7th in the third bar. Once again, it’s about getting it into the fingers and not thinking too much about it. I’ve been trying to really focus on the physical sensation of playing the arpeggios, and am even imagining myself doing it in my usual place in the studio room as an extra barrier against nerves. I’m hoping that slow and steady will get there eventually – I can play it slowly from memory on my own, but it needs to be faster and more secure.

Since it’s the final hours of 2014, I feel like I should take a step back and reflect on the year. I’ve crammed quite a lot in:

Way back at Easter, I competed at the Aussie marathon kayaking championships, winning a bronze medal in the ladies open K1 and coming fourth in the ladies open K2 with my lovely sister…

…submitted the final copy of my thesis to the Melbourne University library…

…finished off my Masters degree with an epic recital in late June. A new commission from my lovely friend Andrew Aronowicz, Jolivet’s crazy flute and four percussion concerto and much more besides. For the music, but most importantly for the people I was honoured to be able to perform with, it’s a concert I won’t forget in a while! …

…packed up my lovely flat and life at St Mary’s College, and headed off to Europe with a very big backpack…

…spent an amazing two weeks at the SoundSCAPE Festival in Maccagno, Italy playing wonderful music with fantastic new friends…

…traveled round Europe for ten weeks, visiting seven countries, attending the wedding of my wonderful friend Lucia, catching up with friends from my year in Helsinki, visiting my grandparents, hiking barefoot up mountains, cycling in the Loire Valley, trying to speak Italian and German, eating wonderful food and sleeping in nineteen different beds in two and a half months! …

…and arrived here in Kent to Trevor and his flute course.

So 2014 has been a busy one. At the beginning of the year I had no idea where I’d be at the end of it, and I still can’t believe just how much I’ve managed to fit in. As 2015 dawns, I’m still not totally sure where I’ll be in three and a half months time, let alone the end of the year. But I have many musical dreams, some of which are becoming clear goals, and wonderful friends and family who believe in me even when I err. Bring it on.

I’m not sure whether it’s the cold or that everyone’s been around each other a bit too long, but things are starting to feel a bit uncomfortable here and there. I was the only one in my dairy that practised today, and for myself was feeling energised and excited to be back into it after the Christmas break. I’m not sure what’s up with the other two, though do wonder whether they might be struggling a bit with the winter weather. Trevor was certainly in a bad mood this evening, giving a stern talk about signing books out properly (one that he wants has gone walk-abouts), and then declaring that he didn’t want to walk and would just drop us home. Decidedly odd.

After a chilly shopping trip this morning, I had quite a productive day. My new goal is really getting to grips with mental practice, as I think it’s the key to improving my memory and confidence for all the technical exercises. The plan is that for every hour of practice that I do with the flute, I now do 15 minutes of slow mental practice – visualising myself playing through a passage or exercise. It’s quite tiring, especially since I haven’t been in the habit of doing it regularly. For now, it’s very slow, but I hope that with a couple of weeks it will really help me to get things going a bit faster and more easily. I managed three lots focused mental practice, but by later in the afternoon was loosing concentration.

On January 11th we have a piccolo masterclass with Patricia Morris, and so today I also started work on some studies and excerpts for that. Trevor has suggested a couple of the Moyse 24 Melodic Studies, a study from Patricia Morris’s book, and a few excerpts from the Piccolo Practice Book. I’ve chosen some good studies, but am still deciding which excerpts to do.

Only a short one, as we’ve just got back from dinner at Trevor’s (walking). It was to celebrate Yi-Yin’s birthday, and we had a type of Asian fondue which became mushroom, noodle and veggie fondue for the vegetarians. It was a nice dinner and we ended up watching quite a few episodes of Mr Bean and Fawlty Towers, I think because Trevor has realised that TV shows are easier than trying to start conversation!

Overnight there will be a transformation: the friendly, jovial Trevor of tonight, plying us with food and wine, will turn into a dragon who will find holes in all my studies tomorrow no matter how much work I’ve put in. Oh well, c’est la vie…