FCNY Flutist Highlight: Paul Edmund-Davies
July 1st, 2020
Next up in FCNY's Flutist Highlight series, Paul Edmund-Davies gives us a glimpse into his practicing routines and shares what is on his music stand!
Since the arrival of Covid-19 our daily routines have been turned upside down. I would normally be leaving early in the day to get to Abbey Road or Air Studios to play in a freelance orchestra on movie soundtracks, or going to Heathrow to fly off to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Europe or the USA. Almost overnight, everything has changed.
Of course, it’s not all for the worse. Having spent so much of my professional life working, in this new age in which we now live, I have found time to practice again and in particular focus on technique. For this opportunity alone, I am immensely grateful.
Now, I have never been a huge fan of the ‘Moyse, de la Sonorité’ exercise that we have all been told to play on assembling our instruments. My mind wanders rather too easily and I find myself thinking about a mug of coffee all too quickly! If it works for you, I am delighted, but it most definitely isn’t for me.
I like to start a session engaging with a longer melody. Music is a journey and whilst it is possible over two notes, I find that it’s not exactly an easy or particularly engaging one.
As a result, I decided to write my own exercises (as I would urge you all to do). So, first up on my stand will be Breathing and Phrasing exercises (encompassing Sonority) which are to be found in ‘A Consequence of Sequences, Book 1’ (available from Rose Music). They are also easily memorized. Increasingly, I find that playing without music in front of me the whole time is beneficial for the brain and the soul!
With lips, breathing and air in good shape as a result of the above, it is now time to work on fingers. Sadly for flute players, our fourth fingers and ‘pinkies’ in both hands might just as well be the property of Satan. Whatever we tell them to do, he tells them more or less to do the opposite, so we have to work hard to win this particular battle.
Over the years, I have written numerous exercises to gain better control of unruly fingers and the one that I am currently working on is only available at the moment in the Köhler Study Programme, on my flute education website www.simplyflute.com
With fingers gradually becoming more under more control, it’s then a good time to make sure the tongue is working well. For double tonguing, I have realised that the secret to a more fluid and relaxed tongue is to alter the vowel sound after the consonant. With TK or DG, the tongue constantly returns to the same places in the mouth, is quite rigid (tightening up the throat in the process) and as such is incapable of moving that swiftly, becoming exhausted easily. By making it dance on the roof of the mouth, it can be more agile and carry on longer. Try different vowel sounds and with a softer consonant, along the lines of the following: DOO-GUH, DEE-GAH, DOG-GUH, DAG-GAH
To practice this, I use Taffanel and Gaubert Daily Exercises with a twist at the end of each pass, to give the tongue a chance to recover each time, thus making it increasingly stronger and more agile
Finally, I then like to move on to intervals, which I refer to as the gymnastics of flute playing. They are difficult to control and require thought and anticipation. Initially, I will play an exercise from my book, The 28 Day Warm up Book and follow this up with a few studies from Berbiguier, 18 Studies in all Tonalities.
The above has turned out to be my go to regime to both maintain and to improve my technique. Of course it is to be regularly varied to avoid automatic pilot syndrome, but I have found it to be positively structured and beneficial.
Exercises out of the way, it is time to have even more fun by playing a piece or two. I am in love with the music that was gifted to us out of 19th Century Italy, much of which has disappeared from shelves in music shops in the past 100 years or so. Gradually, we are now realising its worth and more and more of it is coming back into circulation, with new publications, or reprints of the original. One such work is the Concerto in G Minor by Ernesto Köhler (many people think that with an umlaut in his name he must have been German or Austrian, but he was in fact from North Italy). Along side this challenging work, I have been reviving the works of Giuseppe Rabboni (principal flute of La Scala Milan from 1826 to 1856) and my practice session will end by playing a couple of his gorgeous melodies from Sonatas, Book 2 (also available from Rose Music)!
After all of the above, it is most definitely time for that mug of coffee!