Gentle Warm-ups To Start The Day, Coffee Noodle 7.
This is the last in the current series of exercises, but due to their popularity over the past few months, I have a feeling that at some stage in the future, there will be further ‘Noodles’ trickling down the pipeline in your direction!
This is another one focusing on training our fingers for the demands of flute playing, in particular when the music that we are playing, happens to be on the fast side.
As mentioned before, the muscles that close the fingers or hands are quicker and stronger than those that open them (we tend only to open our hands swiftly if there is something hot or sharp within, so this is more of a reflex action).
In order to establish a solid and smooth finger technique, we need to have strength and independence in all fingers involved. This applies naturally to the downwards or closing movement, but in particular, also to the less easy to control upwards or opening action. Hopefully, this is where Coffee Noodle 7 will come in ‘handy’!
With this exercise, fingers are required to lift and return to the keys rather than simply lift (as they would do for example in Taffanel and Gaubert, Daily Exercises, EJ 1). In this way, fingers are trained to change direction rapidly. This in turn should lead to greater agility, making technically challenging moments that little bit less of a worry.
This is something that we all pray for, but rarely achieve, because to do so requires hours of dedicated work. Whilst scale practice is a healthy way to improve technique, it doesn’t automatically lead to greater independence in our fingers. Coffee Noodle 7, if regularly practiced over a period of time, will.
The minor keys are most definitely more awkward, with that much more chromaticism involved.
As always, this ‘gym’ exercise is to be played slowly at the start, to encourage fingers, rather than to bully them. With greater confidence and agility, the tempo can be gradually raised.
Whilst this is a technical exercise, it should be played with shape and plenty of ‘hills and valleys’ in phrasing.
You might find it interesting to play Coffee Noodle 7, whilst looking at your fingers in a mirror. You might also be quite surprised to see just how far upwards and away from the keys your fingers travel! Of course, for speed and fluidity, the closer to the keywork we can keep our fingers, the more reliable the results. To help with this, I will often play a slow melody (such as No. 1 from Moyse, 24 Little Studies) with all fingers touching the metal of the keywork throughout. It is indeed a challenge, but helps to train in the fingers in the long term.
If possible, it will be useful to play this exercise with the long fingering for either B flat or A sharp. I have mentioned this many times before, but have so often been surprised when giving classes, as to how very few people actually attempt to use the long fingering when playing scales and arpeggios! Of course, in performance, it is always better to use the thumb B flat key as and when appropriate, but as a discipline to establish greater independence/strength in the fingers, practice sessions using the more complicated long B flat fingering, can only lead to enhanced security and co-ordination in the heat of battle of a performance or recording. This surely has to be a good thing?
Although Coffee Noodle 7 is the last in this particular series, please don’t despair! In a couple of weeks’ time, some ideas and exercises on how and what to work on whilst on holiday and when practice time might be more limited, will be winging their way down the wires towards you!