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 Post subject: Extending practice time
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 5:38 am 
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I'd like to practice longer at home every day but am conscious of loudness for extended periods of practice.

I can (and do sometimes) go seclude myself and my flute away in a field but that's often not practical due to our weather.

DIY 'sound booths' seem a bit Heath Robinson and a faff (I'm not that keen on playing under a duvet!). What are the techniques that folks have come up with to extend practice time and avoid disturbance at home? Is simply playing very quietly a good idea or is this likely to build in bad habits in regard to tone and embouchure?


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 5:50 am 
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I tend to play/practice when my neighbours are out.

(I don't think you can quieten a flute like you can a whistle).

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 6:09 am 
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I have often practiced in the car. When I have to pick up my daughter I get there half an hour early and practice in the car.

Otherwise yes it's hard to find time when you can practice without annoying others


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 9:47 am 
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My chief concern is protecting my own hearing. I use industrial hearing muffs when I practice. My hearing is pretty badly damaged as is, but I do think if one is practicing a fair amount hearing protection is prudent.

As to dampening my own sound, playing quietly (IMO and that of others) strengthens one's embouchure. I have never heard of any bad habits resulting, nor experienced any. There is, actually, considerable control one has over volume, including playing the high notes (which need to be addressed with some finesse). One of the advantages of flute over whistle. If one lets the flute soar in the second octave, one is playing less well.

I live in a rooming house, there are seven rooms. I am blessed with tolerant house mates and I've negotiated with them hours that limit my playing. If I go in my room and shut the door, I seem to be
quiet enough.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 10:20 am 
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mendipman wrote:
Is simply playing very quietly a good idea or is this likely to build in bad habits in regard to tone and embouchure?

I think it depends on what tone you're going for, and how your particular flute responds. I've heard that it's a good idea to practice playing as softly as you can in the second octave for embouchure development, and I do work on that sometimes. However, some flutes need a good push of air in the first octave to get a reedy, "hard" tone. Or to pull up a flat-ish low D by blowing it hard into harmonic overtones. I think Terry mentioned something about this in a post a while ago, about how there may be a link between the somewhat flat D note, and the "hard" timbre characteristic of Irish flute players.

The individual flute can make a difference here. My Pratten-ish Windward flute doesn't require much "push" on the lower end of the first octave for a good reedy tone. My Ruddall-ish Aebi does benefit from fairly aggressive playing in the lower half of the first octave to get some dirt and edge in the tone. I actually prefer that tone to what I get with the Windward. Anyway, that's one area where I think it might be a bad idea to practice too quietly, *if* you're going for that particular sound, and *if* you have a flute that responds this way.

I don't have much to offer as far as ideas for the practice space, other than the obvious stuff like heavy carpet on the floor, lots of absorbent material on the walls -- bookcases, blankets, mattresses, depending on how extreme you want to go with it. I'm fortunate in having a house on a corner lot, thick lathe-and-plaster walls so sound isolation from the neighbors is good. My S.O. is a fiddler and no kids in the house, so interior sound isn't a problem. We might move to a different location in a year or two, and the ability to practice or have musician friends over, will be a big consideration. Some of our friends are pipers... we just had a kitchen session with two of them playing border pipes, along with some fiddlers. We're gonna need a big lot, or some very thick walls in the next house too. :wink:


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 10:30 am 
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I use a little blue pill.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:45 am 
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Akiba wrote:
I use a little blue pill.


That would be the non-musical ailment 'jelly-flute': a material rigidity issue with your instrument. Thankfully mine is wood. My musical issue is how to lessen the disturbance to my neighbours if I prolong the enjoyment of it.

Different forum, but an understandable confusion. I wish you firm fortune in your pharmaceutical-enabled quest. :D


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 7:47 am 
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Akiba wrote:
I use a little blue pill.

You cad! A gentleman never tells! :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2019 5:53 am 
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Conical bore wrote:
mendipman wrote:
Is simply playing very quietly a good idea or is this likely to build in bad habits in regard to tone and embouchure?

I think it depends on what tone you're going for, and how your particular flute responds. I've heard that it's a good idea to practice playing as softly as you can in the second octave for embouchure development, and I do work on that sometimes. However, some flutes need a good push of air in the first octave to get a reedy, "hard" tone. Or to pull up a flat-ish low D by blowing it hard into harmonic overtones. I think Terry mentioned something about this in a post a while ago, about how there may be a link between the somewhat flat D note, and the "hard" timbre characteristic of Irish flute players.

The individual flute can make a difference here. My Pratten-ish Windward flute doesn't require much "push" on the lower end of the first octave for a good reedy tone. My Ruddall-ish Aebi does benefit from fairly aggressive playing in the lower half of the first octave to get some dirt and edge in the tone. I actually prefer that tone to what I get with the Windward. Anyway, that's one area where I think it might be a bad idea to practice too quietly, *if* you're going for that particular sound, and *if* you have a flute that responds this way.



Interesting to read that playing softly can help with developing embouchure. I was concerned the opposite may be the case and it would be detrimental. I'm up for trying this and see if I can extend practice time in this neighbourly way.

I have a boxwood flute that does seem to need less air or 'push' than my Lehart. I'm still reaching for consistent tone and discovering what is my own sound rather than 'going' for any particular sound that I've heard elsewhere.

Practicing acoustic stringed instruments doesn't seem to present this issue. Playing softer is an obvious, easy option. By comparison flute is more 'out there' in terms of volume.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2019 11:11 am 
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mendipman wrote:
Conical bore wrote:
mendipman wrote:
Is simply playing very quietly a good idea or is this likely to build in bad habits in regard to tone and embouchure?

I think it depends on what tone you're going for, and how your particular flute responds. I've heard that it's a good idea to practice playing as softly as you can in the second octave for embouchure development, and I do work on that sometimes. However, some flutes need a good push of air in the first octave to get a reedy, "hard" tone. Or to pull up a flat-ish low D by blowing it hard into harmonic overtones. I think Terry mentioned something about this in a post a while ago, about how there may be a link between the somewhat flat D note, and the "hard" timbre characteristic of Irish flute players.

The individual flute can make a difference here. My Pratten-ish Windward flute doesn't require much "push" on the lower end of the first octave for a good reedy tone. My Ruddall-ish Aebi does benefit from fairly aggressive playing in the lower half of the first octave to get some dirt and edge in the tone. I actually prefer that tone to what I get with the Windward. Anyway, that's one area where I think it might be a bad idea to practice too quietly, *if* you're going for that particular sound, and *if* you have a flute that responds this way.



Interesting to read that playing softly can help with developing embouchure. I was concerned the opposite may be the case and it would be detrimental. I'm up for trying this and see if I can extend practice time in this neighbourly way.

I have a boxwood flute that does seem to need less air or 'push' than my Lehart. I'm still reaching for consistent tone and discovering what is my own sound rather than 'going' for any particular sound that I've heard elsewhere.

Practicing acoustic stringed instruments doesn't seem to present this issue. Playing softer is an obvious, easy option. By comparison flute is more 'out there' in terms of volume.


I would say that practicing softly also helps one to learn to use the least amount of air and get the maximum amount of sound and tone, even volume. Critical to Irish flute players who are required to play non-stop for minutes at a time only getting snatch breaths.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:58 am 
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Playing quietly is usually considered to be a more difficult and advanced technique-- the mark of a good musician-- on flute as well as MOST instruments. It requires more restraint-- or, well, ideally you learn to just be relaxed and not have restraint involved in the first place-- it requires more subtlety to focus a good tone. My quietest playing develops only after I have fully warmed up, whereas medium loud playing comes easily and immediately; however maybe thats just because I dont practice quietly enough, ans if you did it would cause problems! Who knows! A rare case indeed!

Playing quietly is usually not practiced enough.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:10 am 
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And dont fall into the trap of thinking that tone must suffer if playing quietly. In other words, when playing quietly dont go thinking "oh this lackluster tone is just because im playing quietly." Not at all. Instead strive for the quietest, sweetest, darkest, whatever, tone. Flexibility and variety of tone at the softest levels! Find the tone, its in there.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:29 am 
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Soft and slow practice makes a difference after a short time.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2019 4:46 am 
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It seems that the simplest advice from experienced flute players is the way forward. And really nice to be able to feedback with such noticeable improvement.

Following on from the guidance above I've had the reassurance and confidence to practice playing significantly more quietly. It's been a real breakthrough not just in solving the issue of quietness and extending my practice time at home. Playing more softly has also helped me to make a big leap forward in breath control while still maintaining tone. Without changing anything else that one shift means that I suddenly have the air I've been 'missing'.

Thank you all for your help :)


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