New Project: Moyse Daily Exercises
The end of an audition with no gigs in sight means only one thing: new projects! So far this summer I've already started two. The first is my tiny herb garden. It's really not so impressive, but as a first time gardener it's kind of cool to prune some basil leaves for part of your dinner, and come back a few days later and already see new ones starting to sprout. We'll see if I have enough basil at the end of the summer to make a small batch of pesto.
The second project is actually more of a challenge created out of necessity. It's hot and I do not have air conditioning in my apartment. My goal is to not use my oven until September 1st. I've taken to grilling veggies that can be cooked on my barbeque, and I remember reading a few years back that you can even bake cakes in them. I've had a hankering for muffins this week, so we'll see if I can find a baking technique for the bbq that will work.
I was staring at my music book case this morning to see if there was anything I had a burning desire to work on. I have barely touched my flute since getting back from Detroit, save for teaching, so I'm a little out of shape. Sight-reading sonatas or concerti was out of the question. Then it dawned on me that with the exception of Taffanel and Gaubert, I have never played through an entire technique book the way the composer intended.
I grabbed one at random and ended up with Marcel Moyse's Daily Exercises, which just so happens to have a printed schedule in which the player goes through four exercises each day, going through the full book several times in a 26-day cycle. Each exercise has a letter associated with it from A to Y, running through the scales and arpeggios most commonly found in Western classical music in all their various forms and arrangements - major, minor, chromatic, and whole tone scales; and triads, sevenths, augmented fifths, and diminshed sevenths. In addition to practicing all the keys, the book focuses on interval practice up to an octave.
They forgot the word "torture" in the title.
Day one starts off with the basics in full range. Exercises A, B, C, and D show up most frequently in the schedule, as they are the foundation that all of flute technique is based upon. I thought it would be a no brainer so I put my metronome at 100bpm and got to work. Starting with exercise A on page 12, was major scales, which I practiced first all slurred, then all tongued. The first few were no problem, but as the key signatures became more difficult the bottom register got more complicated with the right pinky finger sliding around. I was surprised by how difficult I found the exercise, but I guess that was kind of the point.
Exercise B was the same as A only harmonic minors. This was more difficult because I was trying to read the music as I played it which messed with my head a little bit. Because this whole book focuses on full range, there were many things I don't have a lot of practice with, parcticularly going down to low C in keys like F-sharp minor. Serious brain and finger work out.
Exercise C had triads in diminished, minor, and major forms. There were many flexibility issues here that would benefit from slower, methodical practice, but I was on a mission to get through the whole thing at the same tempo. I could feel my hands tensing up as I progress through those pages, and my fingers did not want to move where and when I needed them too.
Exercise D was seventh chords, which were fine until the last few (starting on A-flat, A-natural, B-flat, and B-natural). Just the most awkward cross fingerings possible. There were more than a few shouts of frustration at this point and I look forward to struggling less with them towards the end of this experiment.
The additional exercises at the beginning of the book (pages 2-11) featured chromatic scales, whole tone scales, augmented 5ths, and diminished 7ths were fine in their normal form but I'm not looking forward to those exercises in intervals of 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths. It's going to be intense.
Overall I'm glad I gave myself this challenge. I've been practicing my scales the same way for too long and these exercises will give me some of the dexterity I'm missing in my playing. Day 2 is the same as day 1, so we'll see what happens tomorrow!
Maybe I should do this on piccolo...