Mapping Movement – Expanding Dynamic Range

March 17, 2011

Movement is the foundation to all that we do.  Technique, dynamics, and sound all emanate from movement.  Body Mapping has allowed me to approach performing from this perspective and  has unleashed a whole new range of possibilities in every aspect of my playing.

Movement enables me to overcome plateaus by helping me to understand & access the movements I need to make a particular sound, articulation, dynamic in order to play a phrase the way I want to.   This replaces my old approach, which was to dedicate sufficient practice time to learn to play the way I desired.  Today, I map the movements I am using, look for more efficient and easier ways to move as well as other movement possibilities.

Lately exploring movement has allowed me to expand my dynamic range.  I enjoy Trevor Wye’s Practice Book No.1: Tone for this.  I use the various exercises in the different ranges, to explore the movements needed to produce different colors & dynamics throughout the flute’s range.  The first step is to play the groups with a consistent mf dynamic.  While doing this, I examine air speed, air volume and air direction, looking for the perfect combination of these factors as I release unnecessary effort that I used to think I needed.  I remind myself that the movement of the air has to do with the movement of my ribs, the support of my bone structure, and that my lips can move to change the size of the aperture and the direction I am blowing.   I suggest to my students that they need to be familiar with where the notes “live” in their flute.

Once comfortable at the mf dynamic, it is time to start having fun throughout the dynamic range. To increase the dynamic requires an increase in air volume and speed.  To initiate this, the ribs need to move at a quicker pace on their decent down and in for exhalation.  Air direction may need to be adjusted slightly to compensate for intonation changes.  This can be achieved by pivoting the head at the A-O Joint or moving the upper lip.  I have found it easier to play dynamics on short notes at first, so I separate the groups by tonguing each note, each pitch is a lively sphere of sound. When I am satisfied that I have the balance of air volume, speed & direction, I play the groups slurred as written.

For softer sounds, the air factors need to be adjusted again.  Air speed needs to increase,  while air direction is adjusted blowing higher across the lip plate.  Here I like to enjoy the movement of my lips from neutral embouchure to a place forward in space, as if the lips are kissing.  As the lips move forward, the direction of the air stream  gently rises so that less air is going into the flute but at a faster speed.  These movements decrease the dynamic level.  I like to practice these phrases until the sound disappears or as I like to say, “evaporates.”  I am mindful of the entire excursion of the lips from neutral to forward, enjoying the subtle changes.

Practicing tone and dynamics has helped me to find a new placement for the lip plate on my chin and a more fluid relationship between the flute & chin.  With the flexibility that I have gained intonation adjustments are simply movements.  These changes offer access to a wider variety of color choices & dynamics for my playing, giving me more options to create expressive phrases.  I hope you enjoy exploring your dynamic range!

Vanessa Breault Mulvey


One Response to “Mapping Movement – Expanding Dynamic Range”

  1. Laura Lentz Says:

    This article has been mentioned at

    thank you to Horn Matters author Bruce Hembd!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: