#11 -Release Me, Let Me Go

Tone Hole Techniques for Wooden Flute

Have you ever been in a situation where you haven't known when to let go? Creating that clean separation that you need before you can get onto the next big thing. Giving yourself the opportunity to begin anew from the high ground, so to speak. Well, that happens every time you change from note to note when playing a tune. In the last tip, I talked about the three subsections that make up a note: The Attack, The Body, The Release. I'd like to focus on what I consider to be the most ignored of those three points: The Release.

If you don't release cleanly off of a note a couple of things happen. There is no real end to the previous note and you're not in a good position to attack the upcoming note. While you are playing, you want to prepare for the upcoming notes but while thinking of what's coming next we often don't finish the note we should be playing. I know that is wordy (if that's a real word), but I hope you understand what I mean.

Let me put it this way. While sitting at the pub, the barman puts your fresh pint next to the one you haven't quite finished. You reach for the full one, and take a good drink before finishing the old pint. You just played through a release. I used this explaination with a student a few years ago and as I was wondering if it made sence I looked at my student. He just gave me a nod of approval saying, "Beer metaphors tend to make sense to almost everybody."

This is especially true for flute players when we play our last note before a breath. Drive this note to a powerful end, THEN take your breath. This is how you form a release. Next, make the breath you take as powerful as the note you just played. When you come back in on the note following this breath, start it with a little push as well. By clearly defining these three short components (release, breath, note), you've created a great pulse to this section of the tune.

Suggested Exercise:

Take the hornpipe Off to California, for example. Most of us are familiar with this tune. The old style of playing this tune is a DEF# triplet to a G note followed by another G note. Drive the triplet to the first G note, sound the G note and stop. Do this a couple of times. Now, try to stop the G note by cutting off your air and dropping your jaw, so your mouth is open. Work on abruptly stopping the flow of air to the G note by tensing your stomach muscles. Do this several times until it starts to feel natural or at least you understand the concept. Now, add a short, powerful breath (this is why you opened your mouth). Practice this several times. You have now practiced playing a strong release. At this point, add the second of the two G notes with a good, strong attack at the front of this note. You can do this practically every time you take a breath in a tune. This technique is known as "release and attack," and is a great tool for adding form, definition, and swing to your music.

So Release it baby, let it go, there's another note waiting!!