some opinion, some fact.....

about tone....
Each of us can make a decision about what the tone sounds like to our ears. We have many early recordings of classical players and a few of klezmer flutists. My assessment of recordings that I've listened to is that the weak, feathery, "pretty" tone was not the normal, basic sound to achieve. The strength of the wind alone leads the listener to literally hear the speed in the air stream, the power behind the notes. The tone itself is not diffuse but rather quite focussed. The actual sound of the wood flute, be it the simple system, conical variety or the cylindrical version of the Boehm flute, was an earthy, yet pointed sound. Combing through various treatises such as those of Quantz, Tromlitz, and Boehm prove as interesting looks into prevailing expectation and practice.

about the use of vibrato....
For a fairly broad introduction to the subject of flute vibrato and its use, I recommend going to http://www.standingstones.com/flutevib.html.
Here you will read about the ornament of vibrato, the non-pervasive use, who would advocate the "trembling breath," who leaned towards a finger vibrato. Use of vibrato in klezmer, be it in flute playing or on other instruments, is of current interest to many klezmorim. Listening to many performances of Brandwein, for example, already presents the listener with a selection of "trembled" notes, be it with the breath or with the fingers. This will be an ongoing "discussion" on this page and I welcome contributors.

flutes in use....
Photos show the use of multi-keyed instruments, probably around 8-11 key. These are what we call simple system flutes. You can see the barrel especially, that section that divides the flute from the headjoint, the tuning slide. What we can possibly conjecture is that the full-keyed system, the more advance Boehm system which grew in popularity by around the 1870's was also in use. A careful listening to the negotiations of certain note combinations may serve as an insight into the flutes used by our two named klezmer flutists in recording, S. Kosch and I. Chazin. Flutists of which we only have limited information via the Beregovsky research are I. Triplik from the Slavuta region of the Ukrain, and Z. Gularman from Kiev.

There are many modifications that were made by Germans, Englishman, Viennese makers. Again, judging from what was probably available and what was shown, the probable flute used most often was the so-called Meyer (either H.F.Meyer itself or "Nach Meyer") flute, having 12 keys and somtimes an ivory headjoint. The ivory ones are rarely found today in good playing condition as the ivory heads will usually have a large crack that is more difficult to fix than wood. The various makers of flutes were aiming to develop a flute that would allow for good tonal flexibility, intonation, volume and ease of fingering.
European and American flutists used many different kinds of instruments during the 19th century. Flutists that we have recordings of favored a strident, penetrating tone rather than an open, somewhat more diffuse tone sometimes heard today. The embouchure hole and the embouchure itself would lead the flutist to this type of tone.
It is also quite possible that the Boehm system flute was played for klezmer. The flute was certainly around, was sold by prominent German and Central European makers, and can achieve much of the same penetrating tone but with more ease of fingering difficult combinations and more projection of the low register because of the cylindrical shape rather than the conical bore.
To sort of sum up, the flute began as a hollowed-out wooden tube with holes. One key was added, then 3 more, and so on. It is totally likely that families would have kept older flutes, preferring to play what they knew or owned. And so, looking backward in the development of the flute, it's also possible that a klezmer would own and play more than one flute, more than one pitch and style. Pitch was always a problem since the "A" didn't become established at 440 Hz until the 1930's. One will find flutes pitched at 390 to 460 depending on the area. Therefore it is also possible that, if the flutist was using a 1-4 keyed flute they would have had cors de rechange, longer and shorter middle pieces to try. A particularly useful innovation in the 19th century was the invention of the tuning slide, a brass tube placed inside the headjoint that fit into the body with it's brass sleeve so that you could pull in or out for tuning, and fast tuning adjustment at that. Unfortunately, many of the 8-12 keyed flutes that were popular in Central and Eastern Europe were pitched at A- 435 rather than our current 440.

 

EMBOUCHURE WORK - a post from the Krantz Flute ListServe (some intonation issues described are only meant for Boehm flute players):

It has often been said in the flute community that there isn't a magic bullet. Some good news here: For some students, actually, including myself when I made the switch, there was and is indeed a magic bullet. Not for all my students, of course, but most. I personally changed my embouchure in one week. Bingo, done. It was the way it was presented. I've had students able to achieve the same using this method, but admittedly I've also had students take months. It seems to be partly a matter of how one uses the mouth when speaking and just general flexibility of the lips. That kind of thing is surely quite individual. Releasing tension is sometimes the hardest thing to do and it was exactly that that gave me problems. It was like saying to me to hold heavy books midway rather than totally drop them on the floor. Totally dropping I could do, so to speak, but I couldn't do anything well with the explanation of "you're too tense; relax a bit." Going cold turkey - dropping the books to the ground - was what did it for me. So, in college, with Robert Willoughby, I was given the magic bullet. And, because we're always listening for a solid, nice tone - and achieved as quickly as possible - magic was what I wanted and got.

So, I rambled on and haven't given any specifics!
I teach this embouchure you're trying to achieve - a more relaxed one with center of lips now being the focus rather than tightened corners - via the same way I was taught: a magic bullet of puffing out my cheeks and doing tongueless attacks. Whoo, whoo whoo, hold. Slowly so you are getting a feeling each time that you are doing it as best as you can and not hurrying the process without really thinking it through. I suggest first using a finger for your flute; no tone expected from your finger so therefore nothing to really stop you from trying something. Blow, downward as mentioned in other posts, but allowing the air to go right into the cheeks. Tight corners gone, replaced by much more scrunching up in the center of the lips where the focus of the tone will now be. (What I missed in my teacher's attempts to change my embouchure in HS was the fact that he kept saying to relax, be looser, but nothing was being told to me that I was going to replace the area of focus so naturally you either get no tone or revert to using corners.) The stream of air will go directly down with the help also of a slight overbite to direct it. But you will be literally puffing your cheeks. Next try with the flute, but try first a high note to give you a really good "blow", lots of air pressure. What you will find is that, without any use of the corners pulling back at all, a fairly good tone will come out with very little adjustment. Keep trying without tonguing. As was suggested, put the flute up, place, blow. Put it down, redo the process. The higher up you go the less scrunching needed which is why you try the upper register first. The lower you go, the aperture is supposed to get bigger, of course, so therefore more attention to focusing with the center muscles, scrunching, forming the opening, takes place as you get lower. The somewhat ideal amount, being the average, will be around D2. You will find this note to be receptive to little changes as well as will show you what more bringing in of those muscles you need to do. I'm not saying it's tight, by any means, but also don't assume that this relaxed embouchure means that you are going to go limp. I think that's the most common aspect of not getting the embouchure when changing from the smiling one. You ARE focusing with muscles; just different ones.

With the use of the center muscles as your focusing area, forming a rather nice pressure directed towards the center, intonation in the middle register is also a huge improvement and statements such as "You must lower the C#" leave your consciousness altogether. The addition of the frown (although I frowned with my smile embouchure anyway so that wasn't a change for me) in the upper register goes hand in hand as well.

So, I was pretty much all set with my sound all through undergrad - was quite satisfied with my projection, intonation, comfort and consistancy - until Nyfenger made a "final" adjustment of placing the flute lower with the addition of using more bottom lip folded up and around the teeth and the upper lip out more, sort of exposing the under side of the lip. Talk about magic. He was so excited by his own discovery for himself he blurted out right at the beginning of a lesson "You gotta try this!!! Put the flute here, do this, do that, now blow!" I blew - and blew myself out of the water. It was an amazing moment for both of us. So I mention this because you're not going to do it ALL in a few weeks and there will always be experimenting you can do achieve different nuances or dynamics or whatever the little touches can be when developing a colorful playing technique, but the basic change of going from focusing with the corners vs. the center can come fairfly easy if you eliminate ALL the corner stuff first by puffing - no tonguing to interfere - and then, as you get easier with that, add more to it along the way.

Again, so many details probably not quite understood in email form but you're probably getting a better sense as put together all the help you're getting. I do just want to emphasize that I thought it was so much better going cold turkey rather than getting a little more relaxed gradually; hard to hold those heavy books in a middle position....

There have been other discussions in the past that might be in archives, including the use of a smiling embouchure that simply isn't tight. Not everyone uses this no-corner embouchure and they are fine players. But if you're studying with a person who is asking you to change, as often occurs, then you owe it to yourself to try it all and then you can make an informed decision. All the better.

 

....a recent testimony, if you are persistant...

Adrianne - Since the middle of August, I have been practicing the new and improved flute embouchure you kindly showed me at Boxwood. On average, I have been practicing 90 minutes a day, seven days a week.

At Boxwood, as you will recall, you spent about five minutes with me during which you quickly diagnosed the problems with my “old” embouchure and then showed me precisely how to develop a “new” embouchure that would more than eliminate those problems. I am delighted to report back that those five minutes have completely transformed my relationship to the wooden flute, and also the relationship between the wooden flute and the various other wind instruments that I play. The wooden flute (that is, my recently acquired Windward flute) is now unquestionably Number 1. As I continue to practice an average of 90 minutes a day, I am finding that the purity of my tone, the accuracy of my intonation, and my dynamic control (from soft to loud) all continue to steadily improve. Along the way, I am also discovering what an amazingly fabulous flute I have.In those priceless five minutes at Boxwood, you gave me the most extraordinarily “compact” gift I have ever received from any teacher. Your insightful attention to my embouchure problems was, without question, the outstanding highlight of my entire week at the Festival. And I suspect that that moment will remain forever a highlight in my continuing pursuit of flute-ful endeavors. It’s hard to imagine more valuable and more transformative “instruction-per-minute” than what you gave me.

You’re a genius, a star, and a giver of great gifts, and I am exceptionally grateful to have met you and to have been touched so magnificently by your precise and effective teaching. The next time our paths cross, I will look forward to demonstrating to you how your instruction has radically changed my playing for the better. With ongoing gratitude, admiration, and affection -Sandy

HOME