Once you have started your students on playing with vibrato and they are starting have some control over the speed of the vibrato, you will want to introduce other exercises to help with control of the speed and amplitude of the vibrato.
After you students have learned to pulse the air column in eighth notes, triplets, sixteenth notes and sextuplets, introduce this exercise. This way they have to repeat each pair of notes at different speeds before going on to the next pair. This sample has only a few pairs, but be sure to continue up at least an octave.
The choo-choo train exercise links the parts of the exercise above so students learn to accelerate and decelerate their vibrato within the span of one breath. Pick a low register note. Make sure to take a full breath. Over eight beats at mm=60, start out slowly, accelerate to around 6 pulses/beat and then decelerate to approximately eighth notes.The point is to seamlessly get faster and slower without a definite number of pulses per beat.
Vibrato in the high register requires some extra effort beyond what it takes to incorporate vibrato in the low and middle register of the flute, especially at the fuller dynamic levels from mezzo-forte to fortissimo. Because of the higher frequency of the sound in the third octave, you have to engage the abdominal muscles more to make the vibrato noticeable. You could even say there is an additive quality to playing forte with vibrato in the third octave, meaning you have to physically push into the pulse from your abdominal muscles. This is different than lower on the flute, where you are letting up to generate the vibrato. The extra push is needed to widen the amplitude while maintaining a faster speed vibrato. If you don’t pulse with the abdominals, you will get an essentially straight tone. A light, shimmery vibrato for piano and pianissimo playing is created more similarly to vibrato in the other registers by letting up, very fast and with a shallow amplitude.
You are going to want your more advanced students to learn to incorporate vibrato on sustained notes. In band literature, there are numerous examples of the entire flute section hanging on a pedal point in the middle of the texture or floating above the ensemble. You will want to have them play with more than just a steadily pulsing vibrato through the duration of the note. This isn’t very interesting for either the flute players or the audience, not to mention that is isn’t very musical. See if you can have your flutists vary the speed and amplitude of the vibrato through the duration of the note to match the phrasing in the other sections. That way the flutes can provide more support for the other sections and help the rest of the band shape their phrases with more sensitivity. It will also help your flute players feel like they are making more of a contribution how the entire ensemble sounds.
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