Jen Cluff ~ Galway 2005 Masterclass

Canadian Flutist and Teacher

Galway Masterclass 2005

  • Galway's warmup of embouchure exercise done on headjoint only

Report on March 2005 Galway Masterclass, Vancouver

First, Sir James is using a video-camera and camera person who projects his image up on a larger screen at the back of the stage, andis able to zoom in on embouchure, hand-position and other pointers. He also uses an overhead projector to demonstrate the way a study is written, or a warmup exercise (the ones that are online) is done.

That was an EXCELLENT addition, because many of us need to see these things really close up to understand.

He began with a demonstration that you need to see "live" in order to
It's a headjoint only exercise that he was taught by his first professional teacher:See video of Galway presenting this exercise. And/or See drawings above.

First: You fold your bottom lip up over your top lip, place the flute (or a
finger) in the crease of the chin, and then bring the lower lip loosely down and blow the open-headjoint.
Then while you continue to blow you move the center of your lips forward to change the embouchure to allow you to blow up the octave.

He said that even though he was playing Chaminade at the time, his first important teacher had him do this simple headjoint, lower lip up and down exercise for about 10 minutes to create flexibility and practice the "frown" type of lose lips; he warned against the "smile" embouchure, which, of course, is death to flexible lips.

In the group warmups on the overhead he mentioned that's it's crucial
that you change the embouchure to focus, tune and hone in on every note of the flute.
If it's an arpeggio going down from A# to F# to C# (open tube) then the C# is definitely going to need a flexing of the lips to hone in on it.

After warmups Galway then went on to describe how he came to do the Moyse Sonorite longtones, and how much like a singer we should be when we start with these each day.
He made us laugh by playing them just like we hear bored students play them; all wimpy and unmusically, with no singing sound, and no actual air moving from the upper chest in the singing style.

Then he played the longtones full, rich and involving the "singing and projecting upper chest and throat area", the same support used to sing in full voice, and it was really inspiring to witness this live, the body holds itself differently and the tone opens up, just like an opera singer.

He then put the Moyse scales (up to high B and down to low C each one---from Exercises Journaliers) on the over-head and said: "How boring to play scales this way. No wonder not even *I* want to do it", and then invited an audience member to play scales up on stage with him (the audience all had their flutes out from the warmup exercises at the beginning).
They played back and forth doing five-note patterns, and low-end-only, and high-end-only, to iron out tone and finger problems.
They then did short-long, long-short (dotted-rhythms) and all the other tongued methods of changing rhythms to even out fingers.All the above were done on ONE chosen scale.

He mentioned that the good scales are played fast (the ones you find
easy) and the hard ones played slow with changing rhythms and patterns created to overcome problems with finger unevenness.

It was great.
Sir James demonstrated a zillion bits of scales found in all sorts of repertoire and admonished the audience:
"Don't give your students repertoire that is too hard for them!!!!!!
No!!! Give them SCALES!!!"

We all admitted that the interesting self-teaching and self-exploring, self-solving patterns that the individual creates to solve his own problems are WAY more engaging and interesting than just printed scales from tonic-to-tonic, or even extended up to a given high and low note. They just don't stir the imagination when they're formulaic, and non-interactive.

Next he had a volunteer come up and 'sight-read' (I think the student KNEW them) a few lines of the Taff/Gaubert etudes in the big T&G book ,which Sir James really likes.

He said "Yes, these look sightreadable...but they contain infinite difficulties that can be worked on in myriad ways".....I'm not quoting exactly, but that was the point.

Sure the first one is in C major, and you can sightread it, but are you singing it? Are you playing it in a musical way regarding phrasing, etc.?

After this there were some fun stories about various aspects of teaching and rehearsing, and his recording engineer of the past 30 years and some 50 albums came up and answered questions about micing the flute, and recording sound quality.

The answers were all about using live acoustics, rooms with good balanced, ringing flute sound, and placing the mics where the human
ear tells him that the best sound is reached (not always in front of the flutist, but often to the flutist's right side.). Sometimes, the engineer advised, you place several mics.
But NEVER does he use a dead space, and then add reverb etc. when re-mixing.
They always used live rooms with WOODEN floors to get real flute sound.

Then the students, one at a time, performed for Sir James (I only could stay for the first student who played Demersseman.) Sir James taught her how to make each phrase more "opera-singer" like and less flutey-imposed.

You seriously must sing each phrase, not in a little, composer's voice
(barely audible with no breath support) but like Pavarotti, with full diaphragm support, in order to hear how to phrase it.

Sir James stopped and sang all kinds of phrases, and indeed, it's the singer's style he uses to decide what to do with the flute line.
We should never just play "staccato" like a flute, when we can play longer staccatos like a great singer. We should never put the emphasis in the wrong place (easy for a flute) because a singer wouldn't emphasize a phrase opening like that...etc. etc.
Oh yes, and one more important point Jim the big Sir made:

He said that flute teachers are doing their students a HUGE disservice by not playing their etudes and pieces FOR them, during lessons.

He really believes we all need to model our playing on famous players, great recordings, and great teachers who demonstrate constantly in lessons.

He believes that pianists, violinists and other instrumental teachers demonstrate constantly.
What foolishness is stopping the flute players?

 He doesn't believe it will create copy-cats slavishly imitating the greats...he believes that that is NOT what is going to happen. "You say that all the little monkeys will then play the same? Well, no. Every monkey is different". he says.
Lots of other good sensible points were made.

I had a blast!!!

Hope this helps.
Lots of what was said is online at

Listening to various topics he speaks about, esp. the warmups and the description of Sir James' background in singing will surely be helpful.

Jen Cluff

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Copyright © 2007 Jennifer Cluff