Chiff and Fipple Forums

What is THE flute tutorial?
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Author:  Eldarion [ Mon Oct 29, 2001 5:32 am ]
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I'd like to know which flute tutorials are recommended by you all. The tutorial I am looking for is a comprehensive and complete tutorial that would teach me all about playing the flute in the Irish style, *especially* all the parts that are NOT covered in a average whistle tutorial. eg. ornaments specific to flute, etc.

Secondly, I'd like to know what you guys think about the MadforTrad flute tutorial, and if it can cater to the rank beginner. Thanks!

Author:  gcollins [ Mon Oct 29, 2001 11:42 am ]
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I picked up the DVD flute tutorial from Check it out. Can you imagine learning to play with Seamus Egan and learning some insights into how he does ornamentation? He plays the tunes, with video no less on the tutorial.
Beginner and advanced sections. I think it's the best around.

Check it out on the website. You'll agree.

Author:  Eldarion [ Tue Oct 30, 2001 5:38 am ]
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Hey G, does the MadforTrad tutorial go all the way to how to make a sound on the flute properly?

Author:  ChrisLaughlin [ Tue Oct 30, 2001 6:59 am ]
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No it doesn't. The Mad for Trad tutorial, in my opinion, is little to basic for both beginner and advanced players. It moves a little too quickly for beginners, without covering all the basics as solidly as one might like, and it doesn't offer enough juicy bits to keep an advanced player interested. I'd say it's best for an intermediate player or a beginning player who has no real flute players around to show them how it's done.

Author:  brownja [ Tue Oct 30, 2001 1:55 pm ]
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Is the MadforTrad tutorial on CD or DVD? i'm not nitpicking, it makes a difference for me. I went to the web site and only saw cds. listed.

Author:  gcollins [ Tue Oct 30, 2001 2:44 pm ]
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I think the CDs are DVDs. It's multimedia.

I do agree with Chris that it moves fast for beginners, but with a little work, it shows good habits. I'm an intermediate player, I guess, so I liked some of the advanced stuff a lot. Watching Egan's fingering was quite helpful to me since I'm in China and do not have ANYONE around to play with.

Author:  ChrisLaughlin [ Tue Oct 30, 2001 4:36 pm ]
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Okay, I'm going to elaborate on my statement a little bit. I was tired and grumpy when I wrote it :smile:
The Mad for Trad tutorial is definately a very, very useful tool, especially if you don't have anyone else around to teach you the basics of playing the flute or whistle. The most valuable part of the tutorial I think is the instruction on articulation and ornamentation. This can be VERY hard to figure out if you don't have anyone around to teach you. Figuring it out from a book is nearly impossible I think, at least if you really want to get the right feel for it. So, for a beginner, these demonstrations of ornamentation can be invaluable.
The tunes are a nice bunch, and well selected. Most of them are pretty standard session tunes, That's great for people who don't know them already, but a bit frustrating for those who do. The tunes are taught at a decent pace, and they'll be okay for beginners with some perseverence.
As far as tips on producing the right tone and getting that real Irish sound go, there really isn't anything.
I think a lot of my frustration comes from the lack of anything really special in these tutorials. I'd place myself as an intermediate player, but learning fast. I know all about cuts and rolls and crans and the like. I can hold my own just fine in a good session. I wanted to learn something cool and new. I guess i just don't understand why one would hire Seamus Egan to create a CD-ROM tutor and then just have him teach the basics. I want to learn how HE plays the tunes. I want to know what his tricks are. I want to learn some of his trademark tunes. Sadly, the tutor could have been tought by anyone with decent enough skill on the flute. That's why I'm frustrated with this thing. I think beginning and early intermediate players will enjoy it and learn a lot from it but those who already have a good grasp on the playing and the music will find it a little less than they hoped for.
And it is a CD-ROM. It uses a web based interface and the videos are in Quicktime format and run in a smallish window.
My two cents,

Author:  Eldarion [ Tue Oct 30, 2001 11:03 pm ]
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Hey Chris, thats exactly what I felt about the MadforTrad whistle tutorial. It could have gone deeper than having Brian Finnegan demonstrate the "basic" stuff only. Do you have another flute tutorial in mind that would be better for me?

Living in Singapore, I have absolutely no one to watch to learn from so this tutorial might be useful... I have a friend who is going to teach me how to blow the classical flute, so I'll have some guidiance for the most basic of embouchure. I've also got lots of CDs to listen to, as well as 2 years whistling experience, so that may cover a little bit of playing in Irish style. With a tutorial like this, am I fully covered? What else am I lacking with regards to self-taught flute playing?

Author:  bgull [ Wed Oct 31, 2001 8:46 am ]
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This might be stupid question, but the Madfortrad site does not say if the CD will work on a MAC. Are they just separate quicktime movies, or are the the movies part of a tutorial program that would require a PC to run? I am an absolute beginner on flute, I can get a decent tone from my Dixon polymer, but I need to see some one else who knows what the heck they are doing, and Egan would qualify :smile:

Author:  ChrisLaughlin [ Wed Oct 31, 2001 9:07 am ]
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Hmmm... I really do think the tutor has some value, just not the kind of value I'm looking for. For a real beginner, it'll be very helpful in getting you started I think. It'll show you the proper way to do ornamentation, and that is important. A lot of people play ornamentation really wrong, as if they were playing baroque music or something.
As far as getting the right tone. I really believe that the classical embouchure is not the correct one for Irish flute. There has been a lot of debate lately about "tight" vs. "relaxed" embouchure. Traditionally, Irish flute players use a very tight, thin embouchure, that looks very little like a classical embouchure. Seamus Hernon, the son of reknowned box player P.J. Hernon, and nephew of equally reknowned Galway/Sligo flute player Marcus Hernon told me that Marcus has told him (confusing eh?) that to get the right sound one should pull their lips so tight that the corner of the lips and part of the cheeks hurt like crazy. Keep this up for a couple of months and the muscles will strengthen, the hurt will go away, and one will sound like an Irish flute player. I tried this and it is working. Having examined the embouchures of Hammy Hamilton, Paul McGratten, Colm O'Donnel (Achill), Michael Hurley, Marcus O'Morchu, Harry Bradley, Christy Barry, Laurence Nugent, Joannie Madden, Peter Malloy and asked them questions about their embouchures I find that they all play with very tight, and often somewhat deformed embouchures. Joannie Madden has the strangest embouchure I've seen, probably to compensate for the silver flute, followed by Larry Nugent, who seems to be a lip contortionist.
Now, according to discussion on the Woodenflute list, a lot of people are switiching over a more relaxed embouchure. The one player that is mentioned quite often is Tom Doorly of Danu (who plays a Seery flute, by the way). I really have not seen any evidence of some sort of mass conversion to a relaxed embouchure among top flute players, but I have to admit, playing with a relaxed embouchure would feel pretty nice and makes sense on some levels. However, here's what I personally think is going on with these switches to a relaxed embouchure. Someone like Tom Doorly has been playing the flute with a tight embouchure nearly his entire life. His lips are strong. It doesn't hurt him anymore. He has very, very good control over his tone. Having already built up his muscles and established a good, tight embouchure I think he has the leeway, and the control, to loosen up a little bit and hear an improvement in tonal control. However, I think that if one were going to play with a soft embouchure from the start they'd have a really hard time easily tightening up when necessary. Basically, I think that it only works one way. My theory is that you really have to start with a tight embouchure, establish that, and then, once you've already got a good tone, you can do what you will, but this does not work in reverse. This is just my theory. I may be wrong, but I think I'm probably right.
As for good tutorials. I think the best source for knowledge about flutes is Hammy Hamilton's flute guide. It's not a tutor, per se, but it's darn good anyways. To learn ornamentation and the like, L.E. McCullough's whistle tutorial is probably tme most comprehensive, though don't expect to breeze through it. It starts very basic and ends very advanced.
Another thing is to make sure you're listening to the right kind of playing. I would strongly recommend steering clear of the ensemble playing a la Solas, Lunasa, Dervish. They make for great music and enjoyable listening, but they are sort of misleading for those who don't already have a really firm foundation in the music. There are three reasons that I say this. First, it's often very hard to really hear what the flute and whistle players are doing. Second, this is sort of "rock and roll" traditional music. It's great stuff, but you are almost definately never going to find a session anywhere that sounds even vaguely like that. Third, the tunes are often in very strange keys, in very odd versions. Knowing a tune in a strange key doesn't really impress anyone in a session. It tends to have rather the opposite effect, especially if playing said tune require you to play it on a whistle or flute in a key other than D.
Instead, think about listening to solo flute and whistle players, with very basic accompanyment, a la piano, bodhran or guitar. Try to listen to the older recordings if possible. If you're going to listen to recordings with ensembles, try and find duetes or trios in very traditional settings. Here are some of my recommendations for good listening if you're really interested in playing in a very traditional style:
- Mike McHale - The Schoolmaster's House
- Any of Mike and Mary Rafferty's albums
- Catherine McEvoy - Traditional FLute-Music in the Sligo-Roscommon Style
-Josie McDermott - Darby's Farewell
- Anything with Micho Russel
- Marcas O Murchu - O Bheal go Beal
- Gavin Whelan
-Eamonn Cotter - Traditional Irish Music from County Clare
- Anything from Matt Molloy
- Hammy Hamilton - It's No Secret
- Colm O'Donnel - Farewell to the Evening Dances
- Conal O'Grada - Top of the Coom
- John Whynne- With Every Breath
- Paddy Carty - Traditional Irish Music
-Harry Bradley - Bad Turns and Horseshoe Bends
- Paul McGratten - The Frost is all over
- Kevin Crawford - In Good Company
- Frankie Gavin - Up and Away
- Mary Bergin

- The Wheels of the World - Early Irish American Music (featuring John McKenna on flute)

- The Coleman Archive Vol. 1 - The Living Tradition
- Martin Mulhaire, Seamus Connolly, and Jack Cohen - Warming Up
- Music at Matt Molloy's
- The Mountain Road - A Compilation of tunes popular in South Sligo
- An Historical Recording of Irish Traditional Music from Country Clare and East Galway - Featuring Paddy Canny, P.J. hayes, Peadar O'Loughlin and Bridie Lafferty.
-Folk Music and Dances of Ireland
- A Tribute to Michael Coleman - Joe Burke, Andy McGann, Felix Dolan
- Paddy in the Smoke - Irish Dance Music from a London Pub
- Charlie Piggo and Gerry Harrington - The New Road

My two cents,

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: ChrisLaughlin on 2001-10-31 10:44 ]</font>

Author:  Eldarion [ Wed Oct 31, 2001 9:15 pm ]
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Thanks Chris, for all the advice! I have received similiar advice regarding avoiding listening to the modern super-groups like Danu, Solas and Lunasa from StevieJ and ever since I've been listening to more real trad solo/small group pieces. The list of CDs will be valuable to me. As for embouchure, I don't think I can do anything about it now until I actually have a flute, but I will keep in mind that most Irish flautists play the tight lipped way. Thanks again!

Author:  Guest [ Wed Dec 12, 2001 2:41 pm ]
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bgull - MadForTrad tutorials are cross-platform and work on PCs and Macs. System requirements and sample pages (to test your system) are available at the bottom of the page located at:

Author:  toddyboy50 [ Wed Dec 12, 2001 6:40 pm ]
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Again, for the rank beginner, is anyone familiar with how Mickie Zekley's Irish Flute Instruction video (from Lark in the Morning)compares in value to Mad for Trad? Thanks... Tod

Author:  totst [ Wed Dec 12, 2001 11:46 pm ]
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. My theory is that you really have to start with a tight embouchure, establish that, and then, once you've already got a good tone, you can do what you will, but this does not work in reverse.

I'd like to add that turning the flute in a bit (as compared to the Boehm flute) will help a whole lot on the tone. Try to see how far you can go without getting overly flat in tune. This helped me a lot in switching from the Boehm to the wooden.


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: totst on 2001-12-13 00:47 ]</font>

Author:  mccormackjohn [ Thu Dec 13, 2001 1:27 am ]
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Thank you all, particularly to Eldarion for asking and to Chrislaughlin for your comprehensiev answer. I am a beginner and you have answered all the questions I was going to ask. This site is an invaluable resource.

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