Practice Log #2

This is the second post in this practice log. Following the first post, I continue to practice Charlie Parker's "Anthropology" in all keys. Today I recorded this tune in the key of C (one step above the original key):


Anthropology - C major


And for something completely different... Lately I got back to playing my baroque flute, also known as the traverso. I started playing this flute about 15 years ago, and at some point left it altogether. Moving to Paris somehow helped me rediscover this beautiful instrument, and for the last few months I manage to practice it more or less on a daily basis. The flute I play is a copy of a one-keyed Stanesby flute from 1730, made by Boaz Berney. The tuning of this instrument is quite different from the tuning of the modern flute. First of all, it is tuned in A=415 Hz, which is half a step lower than A=440Hz on the modern flute. This means that when I play an A on the baroque flute it sounds like an Ab on the modern flute. More crucially, unlike modern instruments, the baroque flute is not meant to play in equal temperament and some of its intervals may be larger or smaller than the same intervals on the modern flute. In addition, some of the notes in this flute are inherently out of tune, most notoriously F, which is very high in pitch. Unlike the modern flute which spans more than three octaves, the baroque flute's range goes from first octave D (no low C or B) to third octave A, which is very difficult to produce (on a good day I can play a high Bb with a F fingering). Third octave F is hardly playable. Mastering all of this takes quite a lot of work.


An approach that I began to use lately for getting to know the baroque flute better is to play with a drone (an accompanying sustained tone). My purpose in this is not only to to be more in tune with the drone note, but to hear the quality of the intervals formed against it. Because the baroque flute is not tuned in equal temperament, different keys sound very different on it and have different characters. Some are considerably more difficult to play than others (typically keys with two or one sharps - D major, G major and their relative minors, are most common in the literature). Today I practiced the key of C major which is not so easy to play on this flute. Especially, the F has to be kept reasonably flat. Another interesting note in C major is E, the major third, which resonates better with the drone when played lower than its tuning in modern instruments (in equal temperament major thirds are deliberately too sharp). Each tone has its own beauty and its own difficulties. Here are a few minutes from my practice session today, trying to stay in tune with a C drone (actually a B drone, equivalent to C on the baroque flute) with partial success... I began by paying long notes quite slowly and gradually moved to faster passages:


C drone - Baroque Flute





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