Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Hi all:)

Just finished practicing on the flute and now I’m giving it the evil eye - although it’s not poor Feochan’s fault but mine entirely. You see the problem with me is that since I started playing - and it’s not very long - I have a huge problem separating two notes of the same value:-/.

At first my teacher made me aware of how I huff and puff into the flute sounding like a German tuba player, and then I ended up ‘k’-ing into the flute as if I had a had a bad bout of the hiccups which was followed by me sounding as if I was doing the classical concert ‘t’-ing … unfortunately my painful metamorphosis or creation of odd sound effects didn’t stop here because last week I went into the other extreme ie my attempts of separating notes of the same value turned inaudible….. mhm… so off I went and tried again…. for days now and I’m getting nowhere…. grrrr… it’s so bad that ‘m going completely nuts over it because now I either end up grunting into the flute as I try to separate the notes - and you can really hear that grunt in the vocal cords - and if I’m not grunting I’m couging into the poor flute and if I do neither I’m back to puffing like a German tuba player… I just can’t get it…. since March I’ve been working on this and I just don’t get it :-(… so is there anyone out here who can put me straight… someone who could explain to me in simplistic terms what it is, I am supposed to be doing…. I am really desperate here… so I am in urgent need of help… SO PLEASE… PRETTY PLEASE…. anyone out there who can put me straight before the friendly men in white coats arrive and stick me into a ‘huggie’ jacket :-O

Thanks,

Vanessa (a beginner’s flute player in the throws of desperation)

PS I did google and I did the session search but I couldn’t find anything that helped me… all it did was leave me more puzzled and confused :-)

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

PS Oh, and I’m not at a stage yet where I can separate notes using ornamentation…. so it’s just the plain kinda separation I’m trying to get a handle on… and it’s just as slippery as a fish to me

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Vanessa
Lighten up, this skill is just one of many involved in flute-playing. Focus on something else for a while … ?

Coughing ( sometimes referred to as Throat Cuts ) is one way to articulate notes and to seperate two notes of the same pitch, another might be to tongue it slightly.

Personally I’am not in favour of breaking up the air-flow,
to make music……. So i’d suggest a fingered grace note as opposed to a throat action.

Just my taste I’am not fond of that huffinpuffin ( McKenna ? ) style.

So ………. |eaag bgag| ……….could be fingered with a grace note in between the two a’s making it … |ea "c" ag bgag| …
You’d finger this zero-timevalue c as 0X0 000, and it might help sound those a’s as two seperate notes.

I realise you don’t consider yourself at a stage where you can use the fingers , ( think thats what your saying ) but I don’t accept that. NOW, this time, its the only time you’ve got ! Don’t hold off developing ornamentation till "later" .when’s that gonna be ?

Good Luck and hope that helps.
Pat

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

I started out as a classical flute player (elementary and secondary school band/orchestra) and so used the very sharply defined "t" tonguing technique for years. Since I’ve gotten into Irish flute, I’ve almost eliminated tonguing entirely to break the old habit (I simply didn’t separate notes at all. I’ve now started sparingly adding tonguing back in (but as a softer "d" sound). My opinion is that this music is open to experimentation. Try some different things and see what works. I have been using finger ornaments to separate some notes as well. Another thing you might try is using some of those doubled notes as strategic breathing places. Breathing is my hardest hurdle at this point. There is no good place to take a breath without breaking the continuity of the tune! But I’ve listened closely to pros like Frankie Kennedy and they just skip a note for a quick breath and then continue on. I’m getting it slowly, but surely. I second Pat’s advise, if you’re getting frustrated, focus on something else for a while. You’ll get it!

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

venessa, i just picked up my flute and i gave some thought as to i accomplish this feat: seperating two notes of the same value. although alot depends on the phrasing of a tune, as far as i can tell i almost always *slur into* the first note and then tungue the second while giving the second note a little push with the air stream. the combination of the slur and the emphasized tongued note seems to help contrast the two notes well. it works for me at least.

i should add that the tonguing should note interrupt a steady and well-supported air stream.

good luck. you’ll get it. you’ll how you ever couldn’t do it.

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Have you looked at Brother Steve’s Tin Whistle pages: http://www.rogermillington.com/siamsa/brosteve/index.html
He has a useful section with examples of ‘t’ ing or ‘k’ ing, using cuts to separate notes etc. As for me, sometimes I use a ‘k’ sound (small cough) and sometimes a cut to separate notes of same pitch.

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Roland Kirk made grunting and humming along with the flute into an art form.

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Thanks everyone for your advice:)… I really appreciate it:)!

Re ornamentation, yes I know of cuts but my teacher wants me to learn the basics first which make a lot of sense to me… anyhow if I did put in a cut in my case it would be a cover up of that which I cannot do… so I’d rather stick to the basics and when I’ve mastered them, then I’ll move on to ornamentation because then ornamentation will have it’s place and wouldn’t be a ‘Vanessa cover up’.

Re taking strategic breaths - I’d rather use a breath stop as a rhythmic aid rather then using it as another cover up for my inability to separate notes.

As to ‘t’ ing and ‘k’ ing - my teacher doesn’t want me to ‘t’ or ‘k’ - anyhow ‘t’-ing or ‘k’-ing would be yet another cover up - so it’s back to basics for me :-/

And yes, I have to admit that somehow I find this part of learning the flute the most frustrating one right now…. I can live with my embouchure coming and going… i can live with my lack of dexterity and coordination in my fingers… I can live with forgetting bits of tunes I’ve learnt… I know these things take time and practice and plenty of it and I gladly put in the hard work but in all these cases I have something far more definite to go on… however separating two notes of the same value barebone-style without resorting to cuts, t’s, k’s, puffs and grunts seems far more elusive:-/

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Vanessa - You’re very hard on yourself. But it just shows your determination to make a good job of learning the flute. I should be following your example.

I wish you success in your mission - you deserve it.

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Have a look at this discussion - http://www.thesession.org/discussions/3753
Hard to find because of the typo in the heading, but interesting discussion of the dynamics of flute playing.

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Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

wrt ‘t’-ing or ‘k’-ing.
I don’t think it’s as clear cut (excuse the pun) as saying "do" or "don’t". Surely the tongue moved in the mouth all the time as you play, and although you don’t want to be doing the classical note separating hard tonguing unless it’s for a deliberate effect, the movement of the tongue is one way that the mouth cavity changes shape and controls the flow of air as you play. A bit of tongue at the start of a roll can make it crisper, maybe like tapping your bow when doing a roll or triplet on the flute(?)
I think what I’m trying to say is that playing the flute doesn’t neatly break down into using or not using certain devices - what matters is the sound that comes out, and finding the best way for YOU to make the sound that YOU want to produce.

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Sorry, I meant ‘doing a roll or triplet on the FIDDLE(?)’
Duh!

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Spoon, well it could turn into a ‘mission impossible’ the way I’m going;-)

And thanks for the link, Harry, it was a great read:)

And Ottery, thanks… I never actually payed any attention to what my tongue does, so after reading you, I played and payed attention, and do you know the strange thing is that my tongue doesn’t move at all but what I seem to be doing is pushing my tongue down including the throaty part almost as if a doctor asks me to say ‘ahhhhh’ to look at my tonsils and I keep it firmly anchored in that position… not sure what that means though… mhm :-/

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

I read a post somewhere, it may have been the flute forum. The poster came upon a breakthrough that the glottal stops used in fluting are the very same that one would use while separating notes whistling (with your lips that is). I checked how I break notes while I whistle and sure enough it’s the same for fluting. This has helped me a great deal.

I use glottal stops instead of tonguing, to me it sounds more like human speech, or singing, and gives the music a dynamic that I like.

Good luck, time and "effortful practice" will wash away these problems.

MC

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Glottle stops are what I use. A slight block of the airflow from the back of the throat/mouth. Try concentrating on what’s happening in the back of your mouth when you say Uh Oh. Yes, there are some changes up front to form the different vowel sounds - but the separation between the syllables is done with a glottle stop.

It’s a subtle thing. And I think I get it more by thinking the break rather than cociously cutting the airflow — sort of like holding a small pendulum and changing the shape of the oval it swings in by thinking about it rather than deliberately moving your hand. (By the way, if you haven’t tried it the pendulum thing makes a great party trick with kids — or sufficiently uninhibited adults).

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Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

…So, learn to play with a Cockney accent, then?

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

KateG, the "Uh Oh" description is perfect. That’s the best way I’ve heard to illustrate glottal stops.

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Thanks, Kate and Otto:)

Re: Coughing, puffing and grunting into the flute - HELP

Hope you’re getting on well with this Vanessa. When I first learned it I thought of it as "holding your breath between the notes" - though "uh-oh" is more accurate.

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