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Lesson Focus: Light supported staccato

Find the music HERE.

I grew to absolutely love this study as I learned it. The challenges were very real and I was humbled to learn how much work it took to marry my musical vision with my skillset. The study is light, articulated and long! As much as it challenged my articulation technique it challenged my ability to focus enough to get a clean take from start to end.

Firstly, before you begin defining your ideal staccato, take a moment to evaluate where you technique is at regarding the notes themselves. Does the key signature and non-stop triplet writing seem daunting? If so you may need to employ the lessons of the earlier etudes where you work a reliable process to get the notes and rhythms happening consistently and correctly with ease. Revisit the study guide for the third etude HERE.

Let’s begin by defining what should be done about the articulation. I find that staccato articulation at certain speeds becomes more about the quality of the support and sound then creating a distinct space between the notes. They simply go by too quickly to make them short enough to hear a clear space between them so I aimed for more of a bright and brilliant detached quality.

STEP 1: Evaluate your support.

Brilliant, clean, fast staccato needs to have a strong and steady support behind it. This is what enables the notes to sound clear and ring with resonance rather than being kicked out the flute by an overzealous tongue. The latter can sound very short but with low quality sound that lacks projection.

Playing the piece slowly with no tongue at all is a good way to discover and activate your support system. It is important to understand that this does not translate exactly at higher speeds. The support required when playing short notes quickly is more constant with less of a relaxation of abdominal muscles between notes. This is not to say that the abdominal muscles remain hard and clenched. Rather, the movement and support of the notes happens exactly as it did at slower speeds but on a smaller scale and you may not be able to physically perceive it the same way.  Going back and fourth between no tongue and quick staccato provides you with the ability to perceive the intensity of the support and that should be similar. Do not look to recreate the bounce of air exactly or you may hyperventilate.

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