In this lesson we are going to add some new techniques to your flute playing. Remember, to master these techniques requires a certain amount of repetition. Don’t let yourself fall into the practice trap. Keep a sense of lightness and play in your heart. Then even the effort needed to attain proficiency will seem easy and even enjoyable. With that said, we will start with Pitch Bending on your flute.
Pitch bending means to change notes slowly. You glide upwards or downwards in pitch with a sort of continuous shift of tone. This is much different in feel than the abrupt shift from one note to the next which you have done so far. When you do a bend correctly the pitch slides up or down. It doesn’t jump or have any abruptness. You do a pitch bend on the Native American style flute by lifting or lowering a finger slowly. This is done with either a sliding or pivoting motion of the finger. Personally I prefer to slide my finger forward across the flute (away from my hand) to bend up. I slide the finger backward (towards my hand) as I slide down. You raise the finger gradually as you are sliding it across the hole bringing the tip of the finger up and off the hole. When you do this correctly the hole of the flute opens gradually instead of all at once. It takes a little experimentation to get it right so play around with it until you start to hear it happening. Then, practice with it until it becomes refined. A great variety of changing pitch patterns is possible. Try some faster, and some very slow. Pitch bending will add a highly effective tool to your flute playing repertoire.
Next we will learn to do Trills on the Love flute. Trills are done by very rapidly lifting and lowering a finger over a particular hole. You are opening and then closing the hole in rapid succession several times. Some of your fingers will be more adept at this than others so that not all trills will sound the some. The index finger is usually the most dexterous with trills. You must work a little on the slower fingers to bring them up to speed. When you feel confident add some trills to your improvisation. Listen to yourself - you are becoming an actual Native American style flute musician.
Now let’s take on the Vibrato. Vibrato is difficult to describe in words but you recognize it when you hear a wavering in the intensity of a note. Some singers have a natural vibrato. If you are unsure as to what I mean listen for it on your favorite CD of Native American style flute playing. You create a Vibrato on the flute by using the diaphragm muscles to rapidly vary the air pressure entering the flute. For me the vibrato also requires a slight tightening in the back of the throat. Some people find this easier to do than others. Don’t focus too much mental effort on it – let your body discover the vibrato. When mastered, this technique gives an attractive pulsing sound to a note.
The next thing you can learn to do with your flute is a Glissando. The glissando is not a difficult effect. It consists of playing several notes on your flute very quickly in succession. You can gliss either up or down. On a piano a glissando can be played by running a finger over the white keys. On a flute you must raise or lower your fingers in rapid succession one at a time to play the note sequences. The trick with this is more mental than physical. Just tell your fingers to do it and get your mind out of the way. It takes some repetition to perfect the glissando. But it’s fun too. You must no longer perceive the technique as playing the notes individually. Rather, the entire gliss "feels" like just one note sliding up or down the flute. At the beginning just try this with the bottom three holes. (right hand only). Please note that there is a single note followed by a four note ascending gliss and then a single note followed by a descending gliss. To do it correctly the single notes have the same time value as the entire following gliss. So the fundamental note of the flute sounds and then the following three notes sound for a combined period of time equal to the fundamental. This all sounds more complicated than it really is: actually it’s neither very complicated nor very difficult.
Let’s try volume changes. By changing breath pressure you can change volume through a considerable range on your Ancient Territories flute. Controlled slow volume changes or sudden ones are important in practically every sort of music. They are essential for expressive Love flute playing. Remember you are using your diaphragm to produce volume changes. Holding a single note force air into the flute with greater and then lesser pressure so that you can get a feel for what your flute can do. If you blow too hard the flute will break (or jump) octive.You will intuitively discover where that break place is and learn to avoid it. You can try a few scales increasing and decreasing the volume. Now you are ready to add this touch to your improvisations.
Tempo is the rate of speed at which a series of notes on the flute are played. If you know what a metronome is you are familiar with tempo. The metronome can be set to fast or slow tempos or beats. Once the beat is set it continues at a regular pace. Improvisational Native American style flute music often changes tempo so freely that it’s sometimes hard to pick out a regular beat at all. Sometimes a single note is held for an incredibly long time. This holding of the note will often include a slow pitch bend and/or tremolo. Appropriately interspersed patterns of fast notes, trills and glissandos along with very long slow notes and volume changes creates a very dramatic and powerful feel that helps to make your Love flute such a uniquely expressive instrument.
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