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Lesson Focus: Phrasing smoothly across a leap in register

Find the music for this study HERE.

Another gorgeous one with a tricky key signature and a minor key! At first glance it might be easy to write this one off as pretty easy, especially when compared to the one that came just before it. Rest assured friends, this one comes loaded with a great skill challenge I promise.

Of course it must be mentioned right away that there are C#’s in this study. My advice with the dreaded middle register C# is to never let it get away without some attention. If you missed the study guide for Caprice No. 8, dedicated to working on the C# you can revisit it HERE.

I believe the most valuable challenge to focus on in this melody is learning how to manage the phrase that jumps from the middle/high register to the low register at almost every bar line. This is challenging because the flute naturally increases in volume as you ascend so it becomes very easy for the three slurred notes that lead to the downbeat to become much too loud, losing balance with the arrival on the downbeat, obscuring both the phrase shape and the sense of pulse.

STEP 1: Get clear on the phrase shape.

Although there are long crescendos that stretch over many bars it is important that you take the time to define what exactly this means. A long crescendo like the one we see here is not meant to be literal. If every single note increased in volume over four bars at this tempo you would be out of air and extra volume long before you played through it all. It is vitally important to shape each bar with respect for the rhythmic hierarchy, meaning that beat one is the most important. Creating the illusion of one long crescendo means that each bar leads into the next and each arrival at the subsequent downbeat is stronger than the one that came before.

STEP 2: Accommodate the register change

It is important to recognize that as the leap between registers grows, the tendency for the higher notes to fall out of balance with the downbeats increases. In order to balance this out it is necessary to soften the higher notes so that they come into balance with the rest of the line. A recorder is essential to this work as the goal is to create the illusion of a crescendo even though it feels as if you are softening the upper notes. It is all about the final result and a recorder will help learn to recognize how it feels to make a balanced crescendo with this added challenge. You don’t want the listener to actually perceive a diminuendo so be patient as you learn to find this delicate balance.

Skillsets like this are invaluable in creating nuanced, tasteful and controlled playing. Skills such as the one I have outlined here form the difference between amateur and professional playing. The subtlety involved is often perceptible to the listener sounds so much better yet it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how or why. Once understood, this can easily be accomplished and you will be more engaging to the listener for it.

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