I’m currently in the pit with the Laurel Little Theatre production of 9 To 5, and I was just thinking about how this challenge is different from my other types of musical challenges, and how much I enjoy it – and especially how much I learn from it. This show is a particular challenge for me, because I’m juggling both reed books and doing the best I can to cover the most important parts from each one. This means I’m frequently leaving a saxophone hanging while I pick up and flute or clarinet and jump in 7 or 8 beats later. Going the opposite direction is not such a big deal. Sax is my first instrument, and I can switch to it quickly without really thinking about it. But picking up clarinet or flute and quickly getting all the fundamentals in place for good pitch, tone and articulation is still a challenge for me. As the show goes on, I am constantly analyzing my own playing, my own entrances, crescendos, decrescendos, etc. etc. and thinking about what went well/wrong, and how I can preserve/fix those things in my future playing. 

So as I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that I never practice like this at home. I never really put myself under the gun for quick changes. I just did my final Masters recital 10 days ago, but it was a completely different type of challenge, with plenty of time between instruments. The main issue there was simply fatigue – playing for an hour straight on four different instruments. In the pit, there aren’t many long blows like that – but there are plenty of frantic switches from one horn to the next. 

So my take-away from this is that I need to practice switching more often. My normal practice session is to have only one horn out, and to play it for 45 minutes to an hour. This is great for getting a good warmup, practicing scales, and working on an etude or piece of music. But it’s also deprives me of the opportunity to reinforce the most basic skills, such as bringing the flute up quickly to the right place on the lips, or quickly making the breath support changes from a resistant instrument (say oboe or clarinet) to a less resistant instrument like flute (or vice versa). 

What does this mean for my practicing? Well, mainly it means that I need to start putting some instrument switching into my practice routine. When I can, I set aside several hours and practice two or three instruments in a row – but each segment is entirely for one instrument, and then I put it away and pull out another. There really is no reason why I couldn’t set all those instruments up at the beginning of the practice session, and then occasionally switch to another instrument. In fact, it might be helpful to make some of these switches essentially at random intervals. Perhaps I could get my girlfriend to stop in randomly and pick one for me to switch to. Or maybe I could put the instrument names on paper tags in a hat and set an egg timer for every 15 minutes, at which time I have to grab another instrument out of the hat? I’m not sure exactly how to implement this, but I think it will pay big dividends for me in the future. My feeling is that this will not only help me with fast changes, but should also help me solidify the fundamentals, so they are more automatic, all the time, on all my instruments. 

As always, I would love to hear how you practice, and what you think about my ideas on this blog. Let me hear from you!

If you’re a member of the FLUTE mailing list, but things have gone strangely quiet for you in the last few days, then you may have been unsubscribed, due to some changes with the way Yahoo is handling their email. The good news is, you can resubscribe. 

For the record, back in my days as an I.T. guy, I spent many hours pulling my hair out troubleshooting Yahoo email problems. The reason they have so many problems is because they simply have no regard for standards. They are constantly changing things in ways that provide minimal benefits, but inflict maximum pain on users and administrators. My advice, get out while you can. If their problems haven’t affected you, it’s just matter of time.

Okay, so here is the official info on this from the FLUTE list administrators…

Date: Tue, 15 Apr 2014 21:09:30 +0100 
From: John Rayworth
Subject: Flute List email problem – subscribers deleted and email bouncing 

Dear All 

We apologize for multiple messages to Flute, but unfortunately, this is a developing and hard to understand problem. Here’s what you should do: 

– EVERYONE 

We have no indication of when a fix may be available. Please be patient, and we’ll try to keep you informed. [John is working really hard and really weary] 

– If you were deleted from Flute, Note that anyone with ANY kind of email address could have been deleted (yahoo, gmail, Hotmail, etc.) and it was not been your fault. In more popular terms, an email deletion was “collateral damage” from the real problem. You should not be deleted again, and unless you are a yahoo subscriber, you should be able to post and do everything on Flute you normally do. We have sent emails asking people to resubscribe. We hope to have reached them all, but probably missed some. 

– If you have a yahoo email go ahead and resubscribe, too. However, we have turned off your ability to post because (I’m sorry to say this) your posts from yahoo addresses are causing the problem. You can receive posts, you just can’t send. If you truly want to post, you might want to subscribe to flute from a non-yahoo email (if you have one). If you REALLY REALLY need to post something to flute, send a request to… 

flute-request@listserv.syr.edu 

… and we will accommodate *IF WE CAN*

Longer explanation 

Here’s our current best understanding of the problem. About a week ago, in an attempt to handle spam, Yahoo made changes to how they handle email. This change had unintended consequences that affect ONLY email lists such as Flute (as far as we know). 

As you well know, it’s not possible to send email without logging into a mail program or server. This is an authentication process to keep others from reading your email and from sending email that appears to come from you when you didn’t send it. In addition, authentication occurs at various points in the delivery process (email is not sent directly from the sender to the recipient, but goes through a number of intermediate servers; in Flute’s case it goes through Listserv, and then on through other servers to the final recipient). 

For complicated technical reasons, the changes that Yahoo made broke the intermediate authentications that occur after Listserv distributes the email. Those failed authentications generate error messages that are sent back to Listserv, and unfortunately, are linked to the *recipient* of the email, not to the sender. So if SomeFlutePlayer@yahoo sends toflute@listserv.syr.edu, the email proceeds fine until it heads off to the Flute list members. Let’s say one of the recipients is HappyFlute@gmail.com– then authentication fails as it gets close to HappyFLute, and the error message comes back to Listserv as being related to HappyFLute, not to the original sender (SomeFLutePlayer.) Whew! Yahoo caused it, but everybody else pays the price. 

Continue to send questions to flute-request@listserv.syr.edu (THANK YOU THANK YOU for not flooding Flute with questions. You folks are great!) 

John Rayworth and Nelson Pardee 
List Managers