I recently came up with this exercise as a way to work on several different aspects of tone at once, without having to go through the hassle of playing long tones.
No offense, Moyse, but De La Sonorite doesn’t do it for me on a daily basis anymore (and never really did, to be honest).
The point of this exercise is to play my major scales in octaves, and focus on one element up to four different elements regarding tone production. The elements are as follows:
Like any good tone exercise, you should of course focus on your tone quality. A good tone is homogenous and beautiful throughout all registers; the color should never change in the middle of any register unless you are intending for it to change. I generally go for a dark tone color (I think of it as a “black” tone) when I first begin to warm up, for a tone that will serve all forms of music well. I then trade that out for a light tone color (“gray” tone) that helps bring out the characters within French and more contemporary music.
In this exercise, you can practice good tone in these ways:
I’m a stickler for smoothness in my sound; the one thing that sticks out most to me in recordings (besides intonation) is hearing “bumps” in my sound. To eliminate “bumps,” your air must be continuously moving as you change notes and registers, even as your embouchure moves to compensate. As you ascend in register, the tendency is to blow faster; as you descend in register, your tendency should be to blow ever-so-slightly slower, or to just relax, as I think of it. Now, if you’re blowing too slowly, that will affect the pitch and the overall tone quality. You just need to relax enough that the lower octave comes out smoothly and effortlessly.
Vibrato is a tricky thing to discuss, because everyone seems to have an opinion on what constitutes a good vibrato. For me, a good vibrato is a vibrato that is integrated into your sound and does not function independent of the sound. If you’re thinking of vibrato in terms of the depth, my vibrato is generally not too deep or narrow unless the music calls for it.
Here’s how you can practice vibrato with this exercise:
Believe it or not, your ears are likely better than you think they are. My flute professor at UNL, John Bailey, had a habit of making us start our etudes, then stop them and start them again by playing the scale of whatever key we were in and the tonic/dominant arpeggios. From there, we noticed an immediate difference in our intonation: it was much better because we were orienting ourselves in whatever key we were in.
This exercise is GREAT for intonation! Here’s how you can improve it:
Tips for this scale sheet:
Download and print my Major Scales in Octaves and let me know how it works for you!