· Physical endurance
· Understanding the music
I would like to share with everyone my view and understanding of the process of playing the flute. There are a ton of daily, weekly, monthly methods which are focusing on technique, tone production, intervals, etc. There are thousands of video how to practice, and how to play – but all that is showing is someone else’s interpretation of a given piece or an exercise. Will it make us sound as amazing as Mimi Stillman or Sir James Galway? Ease of Emanuel Pahud, Jeffrey Khaner or Claudio Barile? Probably not. These players are stars which we can learn from, but how can we get close to their level of play? I would like to talk in this blog about what mostly no teacher talks about at the early stage of the educational process. This discussion will be focused on Physical Endurance. Nobody will probably think of the correlation between physical endurance and playing the flute. In my opinion, that is the most important aspect of playing the flute is physical condition and physical endurance. I would like to list a set of muscles that we use while playing the flute:
1. Muscles of Respiration (muscles involved in breathing)
2. Muscles of Embouchure
3. Muscles of Shoulders
4. Muscles of Upper & Lower Back
5. Muscles of the Wrist
6. Muscles in the Palm
Taking into the account that students do pick up the flute at an early age of 10-12 years old, and I would like to stress that even at that age, the education must include the process of the proper physical education. Parents and families must support these exercises to help the young player flourish and avoid potential injuries to muscles due to poor preparations.
I do see and hear about a lot of “how to” lectures, sites for players who are in college, and, for some of them, the transformation process to correct the posture or eliminate the shoulder or back pain might be impossible. Thus, an early stage routine is highly recommended. By utilizing the workout routine, a player will be able to play longer, will protect the body from repetitive muscle injuries such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or tendonitis on hands, arms, shoulders or the neck.
What are my recommendations?
Most of these muscles are used while you are swimming, and here are what swimmers do daily before they jump in the pool (pool for us, flute players – are these exercises I mentioned earlier).
Cardiovascular exercises (running, swimming) are extremely important, please start early and slow, and move up gradually.Also, the following exercises are advised:
1. Squat with Arms Overhead (source: livestrong.com)
Holding your arms up by your ears as you squat which engages the stabilizing muscles of your back and works your shoulders' range of motion.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart. Raise your arms up by your ears, elbows straight. Keep your arms in place as you bend your knees and hips to send your seat back into the squat. Rise up to complete one rep.
2. Plank Shoulder Tap
A strong core helps you maintain a streamlined position on the body.
HOW TO DO IT: Get into a push-up position with the arms right under your shoulders — wrists, elbows, and shoulders make one line. Stay in the plank as you lift your right arm up to tap your left shoulder. Replace it in the floor and repeat with the left arm tapping the right shoulder. Move swiftly, but with control, as you continue to alternate sides.
Supermans strengthen the supporting muscles of the spine that also contribute to a strong core.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your abdomen with your arms outstretched overhead and your legs extended behind you. Inhale and lift your arms, face, legs, and thighs up off the floor. Pause for breath and lower back down to complete one rep.
Pull-ups facilitate the proper swim stroke by mimicking the extension of the lats, shoulders, and wrist.
HOW TO DO IT: Hang from a pull-up bar with an overhand, slightly wider-than-shoulder distance grip. Bend your elbows and retract your shoulder blades to pull your collarbones up to the bar. Straighten the arms back to the hang for one rep.
5. Alternating Dumbbell Press
This simple shoulder exercise builds strength and stability in the shoulders individually. If you don't have a set of dumbbells at home, use water bottles filled with sand.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on a workout bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Bring your arms up and bend your elbows. Your upper arms should parallel to the floor and your forearms perpendicular. Push the right arm straight up and then lower back to the bent elbow. Repeat with the left. Continue to alternate for the duration of the set.
Please try to incorporate this routine and practice it 3-4 times per week. That will help the student in a long run, prepare them for a healthy lifestyle, and will support the aspirations to play more and, possibly reaching the Carnegie Hall state, as you know, the easiest way to do it is “Practice, Practice, and Practice”
Until the next time, KEEP FLUTING MY FRIENDS. J
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