Taffanel and Gaubert practice tips

My battered copy of 17 Daily Exercises. The cover is around here somewhere...

The book “17 Daily Exercises” (or 17 Grands Exercices Journaliers de Mécanisme) by Paul Taffanel and Philippe Gaubert is the flutist’s bible. Since its publication in 1923, it has become a standard method book for all flutists. Taffanel began writing this book, and it was finished by his student, Gaubert, after Taffanel’s death.

I start my students in this book at a young age with the expectation that they will use it for many years. Even if they initially move at a slow pace, they are still developing technique and will use the book throughout their musical careers.

Some practice tips:

– If you are just starting in this book, work at a very slow tempo and be sure to use a metronome.
– Establish a tempo where you are able to play through the exercise comfortably (and write that tempo down!), then work on increasing the tempo.
– If you run into any problem spots, stop! Work out those isolated areas until they’re as comfortable as the rest of the exercise.
– When the exercise is moving along fairly comfortably, start using the different articulations listed at the top of each exercise.
– Try to work through one of these exercises each week. If that’s too much for you, divide it in half and spend two weeks on each exercise.

Eventually, you will want to work your way through this entire book. However, I prefer that my students tackle exercises 1, 2, 4, and 12 before moving on to the others.

* A note about breathing: Make sure you are breathing in places that make sense. For example, in exercise 4, place a fermata on the first note of measure 5. This is halfway through this key. Then place a fermata on the first note of measure 9. This is the switch from C major to its relative minor. After pausing on these notes, take a breath, and then begin the next section, repeating the note that you held under the fermata.

With diligent practice, you should see nice results in just a few weeks.

Have T&G practice tips of your own to share? Comments welcome!

Summer Practice

For me, the summer means working on flute technique. With a substantially pared-down teaching schedule, I transfer the time I would normally spend driving, preparing lectures, and grading exams into practice time. And while I do explore repertoire during this time, I primarily focus on technique. I normally don’t have recitals scheduled until the middle of fall semester or later, so my repertoire practice is limited so I don’t wear those pieces out.

So what do I practice? I keep a lot the same from summer to summer while adding in some new. Lots of Taffanel and Gaubert. I try to play through T&G once a day. Ok, maybe five days a week. It’s a lot of work, and it’s intense. No – I don’t play every single articulation pattern every day. Those are alternated throughout the week. It’s still a good technical kick in the pants.

I’ve also started playing Moyse’s Daily Exercises for the Flute. I try to stay a little more reasonable with this one; I follow the prescribed practice schedule outlined in the front of the book. It’s still a good workout.

This summer, I’m looking at the Jean-Michel Damase 24 Etudes book. I’ve played through a few of these before, but never the entire book. I’m not exactly going in order; yesterday I looked at number 20 and finished it up this morning. This afternoon, I’m looking at number 19. So far, the two are fairly similar. There’s a lot of double-tonguing and patterns that don’t quite match up with nice, clean double-tonguing patterns. There are also the occasional chromatic run and runs that are mostly chromatic but include just enough non-chromatic pitches to cause trouble. It isn’t a huge challenge, but I’m not sight-reading them perfectly, either. If these etudes prove to be very similar to each other, I might throw in the Piazzolla tango etudes for variety.