Sequence 18

with Paul Edmund-Davies

I have never been a ‘fan’ of the (Moyse) semitone (half step) exercise, which starts in the middle octave of the flute and makes its way gradually to the bottom of the instrument. For sure, on its own, it is a reasonable enough exercise, but I have to confess that I find it difficult to be musically motivated by just two notes! I know there are people who love this exercise and I am very, very happy for them, but I feel it is important to work on phrasing as well as sound, so I prefer an exercise that takes me on a longer journey.

On some days, we are also very limited with the amount of time that we have to spend on practicing the flute. By combining, phrasing, sonority and breathing with such an exercise as Sequence 18, I am able to free up more time for other flute related activities. I am also mentally and emotionally engaged with such an exercise, which will in turn put me in a good shape of body and mind for the other flute tasks of the day ahead.

I realise that by now, with at least two newsletters a week landing in your ‘in’ tray, I might be verging on the repetitive, but I feel that with music and the learning of an instrument, we are constantly evolving and finding ways of improving, so a little repetition here and there shouldn’t really cause much harm!

I find myself increasingly questioning my responses to some forms of musical notation.

For example, a crescendo means ‘to get louder’ and likewise a diminuendo ‘to get quieter’, but is it all really as simple as this?

Increasingly I am interested in the various ‘intensities’ of a phrase. We might well get louder in a crescendo, but surely, we also need the sound itself to become more intense.

Equally, in a diminuendo, whilst becoming quieter, we also need to maintain the intensity of our sound, both for interest (keeping the sound alive) and to avoid gradually getting flatter.

A phrase should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but on such a journey, there should also be some gentle hills and valleys of intensity.

Sometimes we need to release intensity in order to gently grow it again.

This is something that is easier expressed in conversation (with examples!) than in print, but I very much hope that with Sequence 18 you might be able to explore this concept.

For maximum benefit Sequence 18 should be played at a similar tempo to the one that I ended up with on the demonstration video. Crotchet (or quarter note) = 54.