Practicing Above High C
A FLUTE e-mail discussion list member wrote:
I currently play my scales, thirds and arpeggios from lowest C to highest B (C4 - B6). My flute professor has suggested I extend them to lowest B and highest D (B3 - D7). I have been working on this over the summer, but I am finding it very difficult to get around gracefully up there. It's frustrating to be stymied by "just adding a couple more notes." I would appreciate any help you could offer on this.
Below is my reply, originally sent to the FLUTE listserv on 21 July 2004. © 2004 by Dr. Shelley Collins
- Minimize pinky movement. For example, if you are playing B-C-D, don't bother with the gizmo. This gives you time to get your pinky over to the C# and C keys (right hand 4) for the high D and is one less "fussy" step to get in the way. (Purists might be horrified, and I'm sure you'll get responses from folks who CAN play all of the so-called "real" fingerings...but I'm just sharing what worked for me, and what SOUNDED fluent.)
- Identify "anchor fingers." In other words, which fingers "stay put" during difficult finger combinations? I find this approach very helpful from high C to D, focusing on "anchoring" L3 and R1. Somehow it ads a little stability to those awkward finger combinations.
- Build your stamina. Sometimes the difficulty is in the sheer effort required (at first) to get out those altissimo notes. I sometimes give my students my dreaded "Taktakishvili Etude." I have them play the series of high C's (last 10 measures or so of the 1st movement of the Taktakishvili Sonata). Then, after a moment of rest, they do the same exercise again, now transposed to C-SHARPS! We try to play this mini-etude up to high E—or even up to F. (Suddenly that high D doesn't seem so difficult!)
- Save your hearing. If you are doing a lot of high note practice, I urge you to wear earplugs. It's LOUD up there, and you don't want to damage your hearing.
- Fluency of new fingerings takes a lot of time. This is normal. A few years back, I took a baroque flute class and was often frustrated by how slowly my fingers "remembered" the correct fingerings. I'm glad I went through the experience of learning a new fingering system, as it made me much more aware of what my students are going through as they learn new notes. You might try practicing the new notes SLOWLY, as relaxed as possible, even without the flute (to give yourself a rest and to let you focus on your fingers). Whatever you do, don't slam your fingers on the keys! Keep them relaxed, and they will eventually move more easily.
- Quoting Trevor Wye, remember the statement he uses (for double-tonguing, if I recall)..."little and often." That might be good advice for those high notes as well, so you don't get tired out or tense up on D7!