Tag Archive: vibrato


Quite a lot to write about what with yesterday’s trip up to London and class today, but now that I’ve spent a while on my review of the LSO concert it’s late again. I’ll try to keep things brief, get a good night’s sleep, and then write a longer post tomorrow!

Yesterday’s masterclass with Emily Beynon was really interesting, as much for just hearing some different musical opinions and ways of explaining things. It reminded me that I’m probably suffering a bit from Trevor fatigue, as in such an intensive environment his is the only voice giving feedback week after week. Emily Beynon talked a lot about musical story and character, and was adamant that every performer have a strong narrative in their mind for a piece. She wanted to be convinced by every note they played, and encouraged them to express their musical ideas verbally. I found her description of dynamics, vibrato and colour as being totally separate sliding dials quite useful.

Class today was back to Trevor, and as always had its ups and downs. As usual, I had a ‘solo’ turn at the warm-up tune, which Trevor made me play again and again asking me to ‘make a crescendo’. I was so tied up in the notes (yes, I got nervous again) that it took me several goes to get a suitable crescendo going. The thing that frustrated me was that he could see I was nervous, that that was the reason I couldn’t get notes and expression happening together, and yet he kept pushing. Clearly it’s all good training for more stressful future situations.

My rhythms in the first two movements of Dvorak 8 weren’t quite as solid as I’d though, and I earned a telling-off for totally re-composing the start of the solo in the second movement! Once I’d sorted the rhythms, though, I played expressively and eared some ‘very good’s here and there. Of the two repertoire pieces, I ended up playing the Gaubert Madrigal, which was also pronounced “some of the best you’ve played recently”. I still felt like a nervous wreck afterwards though, so calming down in class is very much a top priority.

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After gearing myself up for a tough day playing contemporary music for Trevor, I was pleasantly surprised how things turned out. I still didn’t fare too well in morning warm-ups – though my Reichert exercises were actually quite good, I wasn’t able to pick up on the pattern of a new scales exercise very well, nor play it at the speed Trevor was already setting! Looks like I’ll be adding that one to my practice list for the weekend.

To my surprise, Mei went quite well; Trevor could see that I mostly understood the music and had worked on it, and as a result I ended up having a really productive and rewarding lesson. There was one fundamental thing with the piece that I hadn’t thought about, and that’s the use of vibrato. We’ve been playing ‘standard’ repertoire for so long now that it didn’t even cross my mind to think about playing senza vibrato (and I had deliberately not listened to any recordings), which was a silly mistake. The piece mimics shakuhachi playing, and so “of course” should be played without vibrato, as in the Japanese musical culture it’s an ornament. Lesson duly learned.

From there, however, Trevor kept pushing me to play the music with sharper grace notes, more convincing pitch bends and a greater intensity of direction and dynamics. I enjoyed myself, and when his final comment was “some very good things happening there, but you need to do a lot of work playing without vibrato” I had to stop myself leaping for joy. His praise is so rare that it really means something when it does come!

We went to a nearby pub for dinner, and have just got back. It was a nice place – The Five Bells – and the food was yummy. Everything is starting to feel very Christmassy, especially since we head out into ‘civilisation’ so infrequently.

First full day of normal lessons, and I can’t say that I enjoyed myself too much. After the exhilaration of yesterday, as well as my practice over the weekend, I was hopeful that my playing might please Trevor a little more than on Friday. Fat chance – today’s theme seemed to be ‘let’s point out all Naomi’s flute failings’, which can be summed up as follows:

– “You play with absolutely no expression”

– My vibrato sounds like a goat

– I don’t have an innate concept of musical line

– I can play neither loudly nor quietly enough

On the other hand, my intonation has been pronounced ‘not bad’. That is still quite a list to be starting with, and certainly not aimed to improve my self-confidence. And this entire list was based on my performance of warm-ups and three lines of the Andersen Op. 15 Study No. 1!. Considering that this is only day 6, I think that the question is not whether all this is as bad as Trevor makes out (I know I need to work on aspects of my playing, that’s why I’m here), but how to deal with his teaching methods themselves.

I’m not for a moment saying that I was the only one to cop it today, criticism was dealt out to all in some form or another, but I did seem to get something of a special treatment. So, here are the things I’m keeping in mind for the moment:

– I do come across as quite self-confident, which I’m not sure is the done thing here. Both that and the fact that I’m a bit more ‘settled in’ that some of the others (language and culture-wise) perhaps means that Trevor thinks I’m ready for the weightier criticism straight away.

– I’m into new music, which is not Trevor’s cup of tea.

– Trevor’s motto as listed in his practice books is that one must “play in time and in tune with a decent sense of line” to get through orchestral auditions. If my intonation is ok and he has yet to pick on my rhythm, then the decent sense of line is clearly what he’s going to go for big-time.

– Hopefully I can only improve from here! Tomorrow is a new day with plenty of hours in which to practise (and now a clearer direction), I’m a hard worker, and I want to play the flute beautifully.

Otherwise, we had a lovely walk across the fields to class this morning before the rain set in. I think it’s going to be wet for a while to come…