One of the biggest initial challenges in playing the flute is getting used to the amount of air needed to produce a good tone. Although flutists can become accustomed to this within a few weeks of consistent and thoughtful practice, it's still necessary for us to continue to expand our lung capacity throughout our entire careers. One of my favorite exercises for this is breathing scales. Introduced to me by my fomer professor, Amy Porter, this exercise gradually increases lung capacity and helps with management of air-speed.
The exercise is simple: play a 2 octave scale in quarter notes, in one breath, with your best tone, and with the metronome set to 88. Repeat the exercise twice at this tempo, for a total of three times. Do the same thing at 84, then at 80.
The purpose of the exercise is to gradually extend how long you are able to play on one breath. The next week, slow your tempos to 84, 80, & 76. The next week, do 80, 76, & 72. And so on and so forth...
Here are a few tips to help make the exercise more manageable, while still challenging yourself:
~play as softly as possible
~if unable to play the scale in one breath at 88 after several attempts, figure out the slowest tempo you can comfortably go in one breath, and begin 4 metronome clicks faster than that. For example, if 100 is the slowest you can go, then the first week, play 3 scales at each of the following tempos: 104, 100, & 96.
~start with scales that begin in the low range of the flute
~for the first week or two, play the same scale for each repetition at each tempo (so the same scale 9 times) - that way it's easier to stay in the low register
~as you become more comfortable with air management, only change scales when you slow the tempo (play a scale 3 times at each tempo, then change to a different scale)
~as you become really comfortable, play 3 different scales at each tempo
CALL TO ACTION: Figure out what would be a good starting tempo for you, and give the exercise a try. Work on it for a few weeks, then leave me a message and let me know how it's going!