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Lesson Focus: Low register flexibility

Find the music HERE.

Upon first glance this study does not look fun to learn, that’s the honest truth. This definitely means that there is something important to explore and that it will provide a good challenge to your technique and musical sensibilities. Even though it looks a tad boring and tedious I urge you not to skip this one! Low register flexibility is a hurdle we all face at one time or another and this one goes right for your Achilles heel. Time spent on this will reduce frustration later when this skill will undoubtedly show up in a piece on your bucket list, or even more likely, you will see it in the next thing you learn because it is everywhere.

The goal here becomes getting the low register to speak readily and easily enough to create a melody out of the quarter notes. (Same idea with the melody as Caprice 3 and 4.) If your lower register is inherently weaker than your middle register it becomes very difficult to draw the listener’s attention to the melody line. Rather, the 16th notes stick out and the study doesn’t make much sense as a piece of music. Lets discuss the characteristics of a healthy, responsive low register.

  1. The airstream is slow! Don’t make the mistake of blowing hard to get a loud low register. Blowing too hard usually just results in the note cracking to the upper octave or not sounding at all. In fact, blowing too hard can make the sound quieter!

  2. The sound is resonated and stabilized in the mouth and the chest cavity. Use a large, “Ah” vowel in the mouth and lift the rib cage to enable the chest cavity to stay open. Avoid arching the lower back to accomplish this.

  3. The front teeth are open.

  4. The jaw is relaxed. A relaxed jaw enables it to move into the various positions required to get the correct angle of air for the low notes. This is especially true as you descend from the upper notes that come before each note of the low melody in this etude.

STEP 1: Practice the low melody without the 16th notes

Take the time to find the sound you want to create in the low register. Find the jaw position, vowel, relaxed posture and angle of air you need to create a beautiful, full, rich sound. This can take a while and it is well worth the time investment because you will need it as a point of reference when you go to add in the upper notes.

STEP 2: Add the upper notes, taking time to practice the transition between upper and lower register.

Practice moving from the upper 16ths into the low register, ensuring the low register speaks more strongly than the preceding notes. You could simply play the first of each group of 16th notes, moving into the lower note to practice the movement without the hassle of all the extra notes. When you are comfortable and able to produce a consistent result, add all the notes back in aiming for the same sound quality.

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