Do THIS to Easily Improve your Flute Ear

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This is the Learn Flute Podcast Episode 120

You’ll learn:

  • The importance of training your ear.
  • How Rebecca came to love singing and matching pitches.
  • A fun new way to practice using your ear.
  • Other skills and tips that will aid in your learning at Learn Flute Online

Learn Flute Podcast 120

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Podcast Transcript

Today we’re going to explore something specific and not too crazy difficult in order to be a better musician. Are you ready? Do THIS to easily improve your flute ear! – let’s find out what it is!

Ahhhh, here we are again. It’s so nice to take a moment and do something for ourselves, isn’t it? I hope today’s episode will end up feeling therapeutic and uplifting to you as we explore yet another way to improve our musicianship.

I’m Rebecca Fuller, your host and flute expert of this podcast, and In these audio episodes, I like to take a sideways angle at what we’re doing, because these things matter just as much as getting your flute out and fingering the exercises from the learning modules here at Learn Flute Online. 

You may already know, but we have what’s called the Gold Level first, which is our foundational level and where you get all of the goods to help you into a pretty decent intermediate level. 

Then, we get to move into the Intermediate Level which consists of intermediate and high intermediate levels before we move into the Advanced Level.. Which also includes material that I consider flute standards and pieces of literature that you should NOT miss in your musical life-time.

In these levels we learn all the ins and outs of flute playing including instrument care, history, technique, and tone… besides a host of other things, and in these podcasts, we get to take a step aside and think about the other areas of musicianship that move us forward in our quest.

There are many different aspects to being a musician. One particular skill seems to escape many usually because they may have only learned with a traditional way of education.. Which would be to learn about the note on the page and then find the fingering on the instrument. 

Well, that’s definitely a large part of it, and kind of the first part of it, but… in order to really sound musical, emotional, and on tune, we have to exercise another part of our body we’re going to talk about today. You all have the ability, whether you think you do or not.

Now… We all want to play confidently and with beautiful sound that stirs the soul, right? Well great, that’s exactly what we’re doing here. And today is no different because like I said, we’re going to get really specific and I’m going to basically just tell you to do this to easily improve your flute ear. And that is, to use your VOICE.

Your voice? Yes, your voice.

Now I’m going to just preface this with what we’re NOT going to do with our voice, and that’s grunting or talking while we’re playing the flute, or even singing while playing our flute. Nope – but if you have this issue, then no worries, I can help you fix that right up.

Today, what we’re doing is using our VOICE to enhance our abilities on our instrument.. By using singing techniques.

It’s alright, now I’m going to tell you right up front here before you turn me off that you CAN do it. There are so many people that like to say they are tone deaf or can’t sing for the life of them.. And well, that might very well be a valid point right now. But, everyone can improve this skill, and there are a hundred and one reasons to sit up, pay attention, and do what I say today. 

Your musicianship skills will thank you for it.

Okay, so today we’re going to be singing. Yeeep! 

Now, I don’t expect you to be a professional that sings on stage and neither should you.. So don’t worry about this either. We learned from Will Farrell in one of my favorite Christmas shows “Elf” – where Buddy the Elf says “Singing, It’s just like talking, except louder and longer and you move your voice up and down”. 

That’s all there is to it.

I also know that you may be one of those who probably chose the instrument flute because it’s very much like singing, except the flute does all the talking instead of you, right?

Well, that’s also just fine. I like that idea also.

I’m not sure if you’ve had this moment in your life yet, so I’ll tell you that I vividly remember the day I decided I wanted to learn how to sing… kind of well, you know.

Although I never have had formal singing lessons, I did spend some time with myself on the skill of pitch matching. What I did way back when has ended up being one of the most important musical skills I’ve used over my entire lifetime and career… and today, you get to also find and focus on this.

I’m betting you’ll improve also in the process.

So, the day I decided I wanted to sound better with my voice was the day I decided to learn to match pitch – you know, on purpose.

I was kind of a professional babysitter back in those days, and after I put the kids to bed and cleaned up the house and the kitchen (by the way, I was a way good babysitter), I’d find something to do while I waited for the parents to come home. Some of the families had pianos, and I used to sit at the piano and practice matching pitches with my voice… just like you’re going to today.

Whoa wait. We’re going to do it right now? Yep!
But if you’re in a public place, just remember that you can come back to this episode, and skip to this portion of the podcast to do it with me.

Alrighty, let’s start by reaching out and just Laaaaa with any note within your speaking voice. The reason I say your speaking voice is because some people think you have to squeak way up high to be singing.

It’s not true.

How to Practice: 

Let’s just use your speaking voice.

First Say your name… outloud.. Right now. What is it?

My Name is Rebecca. Rebecca. Reebecca.

The first part of my name Reeee is a natural note for me to sing easily. I say it all the time. Reeebecca.

So now, you can try it with part of your name. Just stretch out part of your name and hold it long. This is singing, believe it or not.

Okay next – let’s move up and down a note.

Start on your name, like in my example: Reeeeee.

And then let’s go up: Reeee Reeeeee Rreeeeeee Reeeeeee Reeee.

It does not have to be beautiful, really. Can you do it?

Just start with your beginning note, and move up- doesn’t matter where. Back to the start, let’s go down a ways, and then back to the start.

I promise I’ll show you a better example of singing at the end of this episode.

Now, I’m going to move to my tuner now, and also find out what I’m singing. So, I’m going to turn it on here.

Looks like I was kind of starting on somewhere between an A or an Ab for my starting note. I’m looking at my cleartune app that I have on my phone right now. Do you have a tuner app on your smart phone? I hope so – they’re easy to find. 

I like the cleartune app. I’ve had it for years, and it works beautifully for watching my flute tuning.. It does use battery though, so if my practice session is long enough and I have my cleartune app open all the time, then I kind of end up with a pretty dead phone by the time I’m done. But, that’s okay – it’s what it’s for, right?

Now, I’m going to move to the piano I have sitting right here and try, lets say that A note and see if it’s about the same as what I was singing. Well, I mean that’s close, right?

Okay, now I’m going to make sure my flute also matches that! Let’s try again.
(plays F)

There it is again. This is really just the first easy little step to noticing that these pitches are all the same. It’s their timbre and their texture that’s different because they are different instruments, that’s okay, it’s just the pitch we’re listening for.

Now, if you have a piano you can play this, and if you don’t have a piano, it’s okay to just use your flute.

The goal in this little game we’re going to play right now, is to find out if you can match the pitches you hear quickly.. First, just by singing.
Let’s start – do it with me, match this:

Lower A
Middle C
Hmm, alright. That was just a good start, wasn’t it?
How about two notes at a time? If I play two notes, can you sing them back to me?
1. B, C
2. E, G
3. Eb Db
4. C G
5. Ab E

And a motorcycle just went by outside, maybe you heard that, and it gave us a whole different pitch, didn’t it?

Now we’re going to do those same two exercises, well actually just one of them, the first one where we find one note. But this time, we are going to end each one by finding the actual note on our flute also, so I have my flute in my hands. And no, I’m not going to write it down, or even say it out loud for you. 

You might have to flounder around a bunch before you find it.. But do this with me. You might have to hit pause also, and learn how to make this exercise for yourself.
Just note that this is an exercise that you can work out all by yourself or even with a friend. And, it’s simple and doesn’t really take too many times before you improve a ton.

Now let’s go ahead and sing- we’re going to listen first, sing, match the pitch with your voice, and then match it with your flute. So I’m going to reach out to my keyboard without looking, and grab a note:

Lower A – I’ve heard that note so many times, that’s our tuning note.
Middle C – Find it in your voice first, now match it with your flute – can you find it? There it is, did you find it? It’s our C. Okay, next note. Let me punch one out here, try to get a weird one.
F# – Let’s see if I can find it… And I did. Interesting thing to note is that when you can sing the note, you tend to play it more on tune when you go to play it on your flute. Interesting hmm. Okay let’s find another one, are you ready?
E – Find it on my flute. Oh, I almosted tried a note just lower than that but then my ear caught it, and I hurried and switched. That’s our E. Okay, let’s do anyother one.
B – You can just hum it, now find it on your flute. You might end up playing several notes first, like this. As I’m silly demonstrating for you, mhm. Okay good, now that’s a B. Now let’s go to our very last note:
D# – Sing it, hum it. Where can we find that on our flute? My ear wanted to start right below it and then swing up to it. That’s how I knew exactly where it was, that’s a D#.

We also have some specific exercise videos similar to this in the Learn Flute Online area – and if you’re a part of the Jazz House then you’re going to see even more fun with learning to improve your flute ear.

Great, we are really on our way now. Now let’s realize that this singing skill can be moved up a WHOLE bunch of levels as we learn to sing songs and listen to our pitch at the same time… and then we can start to incorporate other skills like dynamic range, and some textures in our voice. 

We can play more softly and wispy like when we’re trying to draw out more emotion in certain phrases, get kind of dramatic with our music, right? Just like we can learn to do that on our flutes as well, we can get very dramatic.
Hmmm… ever think about this?

Well, one of the really good ways to improve your musicianship on flute is to do this to easily improve your flute EAR as well.. Just sing. Sing all the time. Sing while you’re cleaning the house, sing while you’re driving, sing as you walk the dog. 

Listen to your voice, and start paying attention to what you’re doing. Then later when you’re at your own practice session with your instrument, you can work on using some of these same skills in your music.

Now, I do have an example for you today that I think you’re going to like. And again, I’m going to preface this with the fact that I am not any type of broadway professional singer. In fact, my voice sounds best in the folk genre, I found this out quite a few years ago, and I really like it too. 

I’m not using a big boisterous vibrato or anything, just keeping it simple and making sure the pitches match as I form the words and think about the delicacies of how the notes and the words are placed in the air.

I have some really great musician friends that I’ve done a lot of performing with, and one day we had a recording session planned, but I caught a cold a couple of days before. So I kind of had my husky voice on right then and recorded this one in a take for an Irish wedding album demo thingy that I was doing right then.

My only focus at that moment of singing this was to match the pitches and give special voice inflection to each note so that it drew out emotion in the melody.
I really liked the results and I thought you might enjoy hearing it today as I play you out. 

This is the Skye Boat song that is so touching and beautiful, anyway with its meaning. And yes, I can already hear you asking me… yes, you will find my special flute arrangement of this in Learn Flute Online sometime. Perhaps by the time you’re listening to this… maybe.

I’m going to perform this one as closely to the way I sing it as possible.
Then this month and year, it’s your turn to find more music inside of you – it’s already there. 

Use your voice. 

You have one. 

Train it. 

Teach your ear to hear the pitches and know where they are on your flute also. It’s totally okay to be a beginner again in a skill. It’s really the only way to learn this.

I would also love to know how it’s going for you… are you doing this? On a scale of 0 to 10, how good are you naturally at it? Don’t be afraid to say zero or one, because I know that’s where I was.

It’s normal.. Especially if you’ve never thought about it before. But, I know you’re going to enjoy the challenge. And, don’t make excuses.

Just go for it.

No one has to hear – work on it by yourself.

You got this, and then we’ll use this new found skill to make all sorts of better music. Okay?

So what was it when I said to do this to easily improve your flute ear?

Great, you got it – it was to sing and learn to match pitches.

Alright, we’ll see you next time

Thank you for Tuning In!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about how to easily improve your flute ear.  Join us for the next episode!

Have any questions? Comment below and I will help you out.

Rebecca FullerRebecca Fuller
Get Flutie with us! Learn and enjoy every musical minute.

2 thoughts on “Do THIS to Easily Improve your Flute Ear”

  1. Wow, Rebecca. What a podcast! I love everything about it, and including your voice. I will try this and see what happens.
    I have always loved to sing, so it should be fun!
    Thank you so much!

    1. Rebecca Fuller

      Thanks so much for listening Melissa! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed this :). I hope you have a lot of fun improving your ear! – Rebecca

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