I've been having a hard time with my flute playing lately. In grade 9 I had a gorgeous tone which i was very proud of but i always got a really sore mouth and jaw. When I started taking lessons i found out i was playing improperly and I could start to develop tendonitis in my jaw... Soooo it was back to square one, new embouchure new garbage tone. I'm now in grade 11 and i still haven't overcome this obstacle and my jaw gets sore and my tone sucks, and I'm losing my interest in practicing. Any suggestions on how to improve my tone? and to avoid tightening. *sigh* sorry to be so whiny...
Re: :( 02:49 on Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Account Closed (3248 points)
Posted by Account Closed
I ran across this article and I think that you should read what Patricia George has to say about embouchure changing. I thought this was very interesting. I hope this helps.
I think it is pretty well documented that most women, when applying mascara, will open their mouths. It seems that opening the mouth makes the distance between the lashes and the eye brow a bit farther apart. This means that you won't smear mascara all over the place.
It would be interesting to note how women shape their mouths when opening them. I would imagine that there would be quite a variety of shapes. Is one better than the other? Probably not, as long as the mascara goes on in the right place and doesn't smear. Each woman is doing what is natural to her face.
My point here is that we look so different when we are doing the same sort of task. I think this applies to teaching flute embouchure also.
Basically, I was self taught when I was growing up in Texas. My first teacher (less than 6 months) was a Kincaid student. However, the next several teachers included a violist-conductor, clarinetist and oboist-conductor. All these teachers were excellent musicians, so lessons were spent on playing musically and I was on my own about playing the flute. I evolved into a left centered, corners down embouchure. I do have a
tear drop in the center of my upper lip so as it turns out, this was an excellent choice for me. The evolution of my embouchure was based entirely upon sound and musical ideas I was trying to express.
During my high school years, I attended one music festival (contest) after another, auditioned for district and all-state organizations and attended summer music camps. At each place, some judge would say to me---your embouchure----it is not centered and the corners of your lips are down. You should change it.
I guess I was stubborn because (like many teenagers) I thought I sounded pretty darn good and I always won the 1 rating and scholarship money. I am so thankful that I WAS stubborn and left my embouchure alone to evolve naturally. When I went to Eastman, I noted that Mariano looked much like I did when he played. The same was true of Kincaid. What a relief! Both teachers let me be and worked on my musicianship. My embouchure continued to evolve to meet the musical challenges.
At Kincaid's summer teaching retreat in Raymond, Maine, there were usually several other students there with me. These flutists attended colleges and conservatories from across the country. (Many times there were only two flutists studying with Kincaid, but in the middle of the summer the number could grow to about a dozen.) I think that the time when we had a bunch of flutists in attendance was the most interesting to me because I could observe them practice and perform. In the late evenings we might play
chamber music and discuss the mechanics of flute playing.
One of the students was undergoing a massive embouchure change. I wondered why because this flutist had a wonderful ringing sound. I asked why he was changing and he said because his teacher wanted him to look a certain way when he played ( actually with the same embouchure that I had evolved into). I inquired---maybe you can't play the flute like me because of the way that your facial features are shaped. He shrugged and continue to make the change. I always thought that he looked very uncomfortable in his new embouchure because it didn't take into account his "natural" face. Over
the summers I spent in Maine there were several others who were undergoing embouchure changes. I have no way of knowing if Kincaid endorsed these changes or not, as he never said anything to me about it. And, I don't recall the student ever sharing that Kincaid wanted this or that. It seems to me that the idea of change came from their year-long teachers.
Now almost 40 years later, it is interesting to see what has happened. Most of the ones who underwent major embouchure changes are no longer playing. Several who did undergo the changes and are still playing are having sound issues. I just heard from one of these flutists who is undergoing a very stressful time at work because the conductor wants to fire him because the tone is no longer where it once was. I wonder if this player would still be playing great if he had not gone with the new embouchure and stayed with the embouchure of his "natural" face. Hard to say. But generally, the best players seem to look and sound natural when they perform.
So, as you reread the posts about changing the embouchure, I would encourage you to think very seriously before you make a drastic change. I don't think we should look the same when we play. Enjoy the difference. You MAY be using your muscles exactly as your "natural" face intended. If your embouchure works, then leave it alone. Changes should be made gradually. Everytime you change flutes, there will be subtle changes. I think this is fine. Just don't contort your face to satisfy some vague
statements about no smiley, corners down, frownlike etc. embouchures.
I have been playing the flute now for many, many years and my embouchure is working well for me. I practice octaves on just the headjoint (what a winner from Galway). I do lots of harmonic work for strengthening and getting the sweet sport. I work on agility. I work on soft tapers and attacks in the entire range. I work on using "clown lips" rather than "lipstick" lips. I use my air stream to do the most of the work rather than just my aperture (this is often a big problem in brass players and the reason so many have pain). My total body is part of my embouchure and I use my "natural" face. Whistle tones are great among other things.
Over the years of teaching many, many students, I have changed less than a dozen embouchures. Most of my students are still playing and are playing well.
This has turned out longer than I anticipated, but I did want to balance off the idea that if you don't look a certain way, your embouchure must be wrong. Do check out the pictures from Roger Stevens' ARTISTIC FLUTE on Larry Krantz's web page. I think that these pictures, when published in the 1960s, did more to enhance the art of flute teaching that about anything else. They should continue to influence us today in our playing and teaching.
Be comfortable in your skin---love your natural face---figure out what you want to achieve and your brain will help you get there. A special thanks to all who posted on this interesting subject.
Patricia George, 12/10/2005
Re: :( 22:27 on Friday, April 07, 2006
Account Closed (3248 points)
Posted by Account Closed
Your welcome Lera. Don't worry about spelling my name right. I am just amazed how well you do since English isn't your first language.