gracegrey: (Default)
2017-07-09 06:39 pm
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Backup flute decided!

I had thought I could use my alto as a "backup" but 2 problems with that: 1) the alto is too different and 2) if I really need a backup for a performance, the alto is in the wrong key so I couldn't use it, anyway!

After intensive play-testing of 2 potential flutes, I decided to buy the little Trevor James 10XE student model from Judi. It was rented by a prospective student who gave it up after just 3 months.

Pros:
  • My headjoint will fit on it - loosely, but we can probably wrap some teflon tape on it to snug it up if needed.
  • Smooth key mechanism.
  • Split E mechanism = easier to play said note
  • Basically brand new
  • A good brand that will keep resale value
  • Great sound for this level of flute
  • I wouldn't feel bad if I didn't play it very often
  • I wouldn't feel bad playing it in cold weather, or taking it on trips where it might get damaged, lost, or stolen
Cons:
  • Since it is so new, it's more than I'd prefer to spend on a backup flute
  • Might be mean of me to buy it when there's a student somewhere who would like to have a great starter flute at a great price
  • It has an offset G, which my flute doesn't have (although switching back and forth should be fine no more than I'm going to be playing it)

The other flute I looked at was an Amadeus 700, solid silver w/ open holed keys; just too nice for a backup. It was much beloved by a very talented, serious flute student of my teacher for many years. However, her mother found an Altus 1207 on Craigslist that was apparently a STEAL, so she has had to part with this one.
 
Pros:
  • It was a lovely flute!
  • The cut is somewhat similar to my headjoint (closer than the TJ, anyway)
  • My headjoint fits the body of the Amadeus like it was made for it
  • There's a possibility I could use it as a cheap upgrade for my flute since it's solid silver and mine isn't
Cons:
  • I wouldn't play it enough to really do it justice.
  • Older instrument
  • Higher price; I could put that $1000 toward a true upgraded body for my current flute instead
  • I wouldn't want to take it out in the cold any more than I would my own flute
  • It would definitely be rotten of me to buy it as a backup when it's an excellent quality, reasonably-priced step-up flute that some high school student might really be grateful for the chance to buy and play...
 
I could've kept shopping around, but I really cottoned to the TJ, and I like to have decisions made, so there you have it. Not to mention I like and trust Judi. If she says it'll play like new after sitting in a case for ?? months/years, she'd be the one to know. It makes me feel a little fuzzy inside that she approves of how I care for my instruments, too! <3
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2017-07-03 11:28 am
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10 minute flute update: Workshop, repairs, improvements

The alto workshop was AMAZING. I have photos, I have videos, I have lots of new music, and I have gained a tremendous dose of knowledge!

Highlights include:
1. I can and should use the straight head on my alto! This is HUGE and wonderful and makes me SO HAPPY. I did have to kind of start over since I've been working hard on the curved head. :/
2. My alto is a particularly fine instrument! Despite being a base model, it has a fabulous sound that repeatedly impressed folks at the workshop! I lucked out BIG TIME.
3. I've been doing the harmonics exercises All Wrong. I now know how to do them right!

I have been working on long tones/breathing exercises this past week or two - every other day I'm going through a series of exercises from the Alto Method book. My times are improving a little.I am seeing definite improvement in my ability to "taper" notes, and I'm wasting less air by starting phrases more softly.

I have begun working on 2 of the audition pieces for the alto contest. BLECH. Today was one of those "I suck at everything forever and will never make progress" days. I know that is not true, but we all have those days... I need to pick up the 3rd piece. I keep forgetting to order it, no idea why.

In less happy but important news: I learned not to take my instruments to Dr. Note. He used GLUE to put in my cork on Mercedes (C flute)! Poor baby! Plus, he didn't use the right cork (which probably explains why he needed glue to keep it in place). And he did something untoward with Caroline (my alto), sanding the headjoint or something? Ugh. Thankfully, Judi was able to fix everything and get me back up to snuff.

For Caroline, she did a few adjustments that seem like magic to me... she adjusted my footjoint keys that makes rolling to low C more smooth/comfortable. Fixed a slight leak in a G/F key? And did something to the embouchure hole that improved my ability to get a sound out, too. For whatever reason, the curved head embouchure plays more clearly and easily than the straight head; slight differences in the hand-cut, I believe. And she suggested a lafreQue sound bridge for Caroline that demonstrably improved playability (responsiveness/clarity of tone), so I picked up a set (silver plated red brass). Very Nice.

I'm auditioning flutes to find a back up flute - any locals with a spare flute hit me up! At present, I might be buying a used Trevor James student flute from Judi... plays easily and is being offered at a nice discount.

Out of time!! more later!
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2017-06-01 07:46 pm
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Whole30 progress report: Days 28-30; reintroduction

Yesterday, I ate non-gluten grains - bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and rice with my dinner.

Back to W30 till Sunday to give myself time to observe if this had any noticeable effect on my system. Thus far, I can't objectively say. Work has been increasingly stressful (projected break in July/August though!) and I'm teetering on sleep debt, so it's hard to say. I see the wisdom in waiting 3 days before moving to the next reintroduction step.

I did not do a Sunday cookup this past week. Did that Monday/Tuesday instead, and lost sleep because of it. Also lost some sleep time last night cooking. Lesson learned: Cook on Sunday or eat eggs and greens all week. The food was not worth the sleep sacrifice.

Lesson of the week: when a recipe calls for 1/2c fresh parsley &/or cilantro, packed, don't pack. This message brought to you by the (dairy-free) Dump Ranch Dressing recipe, which resulted more of a parsley-and-cilantro-puree. (Apparently when I pack, I reeeeeeeally pack!)

Sunday, I'll try dairy. Haven't decided what, exactly. Probably cheese and yogurt? I have no interest in milk, and if I never eat dairy ice cream again it will be a glorious evolution of comfort for my digestive system.

Movement-related news: Yesterday after work, I scored a Schwinn Airdyne bike for $8 at a church garage sale fundraiser.

No, that is not a typo. Eight. Dollars.

EIGHT.

The electronic readout pad thingy appears to be dead (pretty sure it got rained on sitting out on the church lawn), but otherwise the machine is in excellent condition. SO STOKED for an instant-workout with a small footprint and no impact. A similar bike at my local CrossFit gym is what helped me rehab after CFS and build the strength, stamina, and enthusiasm for weightlifting. The hopes, they are high!
gracegrey: (Default)
2017-05-27 04:35 pm
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Whole30 progress report: Days 15-27

Kinda dropped the ball on these posts, didn't I?

Only 3 more days to go! So far, so good. Eerily enough, I haven't experienced any cravings. I get hungry, but since I know I basically can't eat out, I don't eat or I eat whatever I have on hand that is compliant.

The strongest emotional eating urge I've had to date was after I very intense, difficult meeting at work. I wanted a sweetened coffee for comfort.

Doing the W30 together has been wonderful. We're spending more time together because of all the cooking at home. We love to cook together. If the W30 doesn't do anything else for us, it will be worth all the hassle for that gift alone.

Last night, we made our own BBQ sauce! It is a spicier recipe than my general preference for BBQ sauce, but quite tasty nonetheless. In theory, we'll be using it in a "BBQ Chicken salad." There was an emergency project at work that required my entire QC team & as a thank-you, we got lunch from a local BBQ place. Happily for me, I was able to get plain burnt ends & a half-chicken w/ no sauces or sides. Takes care of our meat needs for a few days!

I've already marked the calendar for my reintroduction. The book says legumes first (well, actually it says to do alcohol first, which is pointless for me since I don't drink). I don't want to eat legumes for a variety of reasons, so I'm skipping them and introducing non-gluten-containing grains (rice/corn) for a day instead. 3 days back on strict W30, then I'll try dairy for a day. Another 3 days on W30, then gluten-containing grains (wheat, so pizza & sourdough breads because I already know about anything else is a Bad Idea).

I should be all reintroduced & able to resume a more normalish diet in time for our Colorado trip June 13th!
gracegrey: (Default)
2017-05-27 04:06 pm
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Flutes are back!

Since the KCFC performance season has ended and my alto workshop is a few weeks off, I took my flutes into Dr. Note for a look-over. Word on the street is he's good for minor repairs/basic maintenance things, where as for work requiring more expertise (intricate work, flute overhauls, etc) Judy is the place to go. The cork in my C flute needed replaced, and the B key on my alto needed adjustment. Just under $50 for both. Nice!

I'll be spending most of my summer focusing on alto flute, starting with the Alto/Bass Flute Retreat in June! Looking forward to that! Already have my music, and working to set up my lesson the day before. I had a long lesson with Gina this past Wednesday. We made more progress on my balance issues. I wish I could just use the straight head, darn it.

A friend encouraged me to go to the International Low Flutes Convention next year, and to enter the competition. Don't know how I feel about that right now. Part of me is all GO FOR IT!!! while the other part is hesitant. Like I need another thing to do, y'know? We'll see how this first workshop turns out. :)

For now, I'm going to log a little bit of practice time w/ my newly cleaned & adjusted alto!
gracegrey: (Default)
2017-05-15 08:18 pm
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Whole30 progress report: Days 7-15

Lesson of the Week: Do not use an immersion blender when making vinaigrette. My raspberry-walnut vinaigrette turned into some kind of spreadable butter.

We got through an overnight stay out of town & to my knowledge did not violate any W30 rules! Our B&B host seemed to enjoy the challenge and made us a fabulous breakfast where he worked some kind of magic on kale. We also successfully navigated a Mother's Day cookout! Took that opportunity to grill up extra meat for the week.

Rin is about a week behind me... he made it through the first few days of horrible soda withdrawal and is now experimenting with adding balsamic vinegars to sparkling water. Sunday, when J was teasing him by drinking a soda in front of him, he joked that he was past the point where he would murder J and drink his blood because it contained soda...

Interestingly enough, the biggest thing we've noticed so far is how much less trash we're generating as a household! Mostly due to less take-out. I did order a steak recently; LongHorn has always been incredibly accommodating about special dietary needs. They'll cook things on tinfoil if needed to prevent cross-contamination of sauces/oils/spices.

Eating W30 really forces us to cook. Takes more effort to locate a W30 compatible eatery and communicate all our restrictions than to make food at home. This is not a bad thing! I'm less organized/planned than I'd like to be, but given some of the recent challenges in life, that's ok. (Even food failures are fun - a failed Larabar-alike made a marvelous cereal.) I like cooking. I bought a meat thermometer but I think it might not be very good; the "magnet" for hanging it on a fridge is so weak it slides down and falls off! Considering getting a lemon juicer gizmo, and a meat tenderizer.

Next week, I'm planning on making some Asian-inspired dishes. This week, we're chowing through grilled meat leftovers and I'll make some sweet potato soup w/ homemade sausage for a hearty, savory twist. Still not tired of eggs. Not sure I'll ever be tired of eggs. Hot damn, we like eggs around here. We should invest in chickens.
gracegrey: (Default)
2017-05-07 12:16 pm
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Whole30 progress report: Days 1-6

Prior to day 1, I scoured my kitchen for non-compliant foodstuffs. Those I could part with I donated to a local church program. Those I wanted to keep are stored out of sight, or if in-sight, clearly labeled/segregated so I don't grab them by accident. Did some shopping and food prep last Sunday so I'd have lunches for the week.

Observations/successes from the first week include:

1. Proscuitto is delicious. Why do we even have bacon when we have proscuitto? (Probably $$$. Bless Costco for carrying this in an affordable bulk package, btw.)

2. I FINALLY FIGURED OUT HOW TO MAKE MAYO!!! 100% thanks to Foolproof Homemade Mayo, my long history of failed mayo is OVER. Immersion blender + better egg-oil ratio = NOM NOM NOM. I already have an (ancient) immersion blender, and a large stockpile of that exact size of wide-mouth glass jars.

3. Coconuts are miracle foods. Coconut butter is so damned delicious.

4. I made my own clarified butter - kind of fun, super easy, cost-effective, and a fantastic cooking oil! Never tried it before; last W30 I bought ghee, which was ok but expensive and has its own unique flavor that didn't always work with what I wanted to use it for.

5. Instead of rewarding myself with food, I bought myself some music-related items (stand light, portable multi-instrument stand), a fun nightgown, and a new kitchen gadget to help with my increased cooking! I don't know how others will think this looks, but for me, this is tremendous. I'd buy myself expensive sugary treats without hesitation while actually needed, useful, and/or highly coveted non-food items of lesser value went unpurchased.

Reflections from the first week and expected challenges ahead for the second )

Week 2, here we go!
gracegrey: (Default)
2017-05-06 01:43 pm
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Guns and me

I'm halfway through reading Gunfight. It is well-written, appears "balanced," and is an engaging read. I don't always like what I'm reading right at the moment, but that's often the case when my world view gets expanded. =)

I do not own a gun. I had one briefly, but the person who gifted it to me wanted it back, so back it went. I have taken a Hunter Safety class, years ago, and found that I liked shooting. Rifles appeal to me because of physics. Shotguns appeal to me because of their general-badassery in RPGs of my youth. I have practically zero experience with handguns, and probably somehow less-than-zero experience with big-game/military-class firearms.

I'm not a gun enthusiast, by any stretch. I think wearing guns at the dinner table is foolish, although I am fine with target practice after dinner. I think I prefer open-carry to concealed carry, but I am made intensely uncomfortable by open-carrying persons in the vicinity.

I think guns are pretty neat. If I didn't have 3,457,882 other things I wanted to spend my money on, I'd have one and use it often. I'd have more than one, in fact (although firearms make my husband so uncomfortable we might have to work out a compromise on the details of any new gun-hobby).

I think gun control is necessary and wise. We as a country should have more of it, and more consistency across states and municipalities in the development and execution of laws. Laws that are neutral, equitable, and supported by a majority.

I dream of an America that can have its cake and eat it, too. The right to keep and bear arms is not the opposite of gun control legislation. These two things can coexist. I am encouraged as I read this book because it is gradually demonstrating how America has successfully utilized both concepts in our early history.

Like every person advocating for a "middle way" I imagine if I were to engage in any kind of public statement/debate on this (more broadly public than Dreamwidth) I would be attacked from both sides and painted as deceitful traitor to all Americans. That saddens me. The polarized, irrational responses to important issues like firearms is depressing and frightening. Smarter bears than I have weighed in all over the world. I believe we as a country will tear ourselves apart if the quieter voices advocating for moderation and compromise continue to be ignored.

Anyway, that's where I'm at with guns. Thanks for tuning in.
gracegrey: tiger's eye and bronze tortoise sculpture (sculpture)
2017-04-28 08:08 pm
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Not practicing flute: headache

Wow, I haven't practiced in 2 weeks, really closer to a whole month. In part due to a finger injury. Mostly due to a headache that will not stop. 3 weeks solid. I've had chiro appts, massages, seen my optometrist, tried several painkillers, ice, heat, it's been relentless!

Monday, I was prescribed a painkiller that actually helped a little! YEAY! Today, I saw my GP, who laid the blame squarely at the feet of muscles-skeleton-tension stuff. I'm badly inflamed. She prescribed an anti-inflammatory, which I am to rotate with the painkiller. Ice, stretching, continued massage/chiropractic.

So, good news: not likely anything terrifying like a tumor or some new sinus-related-horror.

Bad news: I'm soooooo not practiced up for rehearsal Sunday, or our upcoming performances.

I did take the opportunity to have a music theory lesson instead of a playing-the-flute lesson with my flute teacher this week! I learned about stacked chords, what the hell a "minor third" and "diminished fifth" is... VERY COOL! I want to learn more about why music works so I can understand playing better (and playing in an ensemble - now I know what it means when "2nds have the root, basses have the fifth, altos have the 3rd").

Less positive flute choir stuff )
gracegrey: d20 kittens (d20)
2017-04-11 06:25 pm
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Master Class w/ Dr. Sarah Frisof (KU)

Just a couple of notes from the flute master class... 6 students were selected to perform; 4 showed up.

1. To open up the sound, open the body! Root feet firmly, let jaw hang loose (think like a skeleton dangling) and form an embouchure with that looseness and space in the back of the jaw. Blow more air inbetween notes to help with intonation. Practice playing one note and open-close-open-close the jaw while playing.

2. Support the sound past the end of the note. Like when a runner runs past the finish line; don't stop until after the note is done. When playing intervals, think of a teeter-totter or seesaw. Give enough support on the low notes to "flip" up to the high notes. If pitch drops, it is an air thing, not an instrument thing.

3. Move flute in the direction you want a line or phrase to go. Vibrato should be rounded, with equal (or more soun) below and above the pitch. Feel or imagine vibrato coming from the chest instead of the back of the throat. Count out a measure or two before beginning a piece to set the tempo and clearly show where to start.

4. Sing and play at the same time to open and relax the throat. Use faster air, not a smaller embouchure - use the diaphragm, imagine a glissando. Squat and raise (plie) to aid in learning how it feels to blow air from the solar plexus.

Openness seems to be a common flute theme. And oh-so-difficult to master! As performer #3, I represented the Flute Choir well. I'm glad. <3

There are a ton of flute workshops, retreats, and master classes this year. I don't know if there's more than usual; probably just me seeing them now. One of my fellow KC Flute Choir members is strongly considering attending one in Ponoco, Tennessee. It sounds wonderful, but I'm not sure I want to do 2 week-long flute workshops in the same year... Not to mention spending all my vacation time on them.
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2017-03-22 07:08 pm
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IRL Update

I have finally succumbed to a head cold severe enough to keep me from work for 3 days. BOO, HISS. Flute practice is out till breathing comes back.

Which is a bummer because I was accepted to perform in the Master Class this weekend! Now i'll be super out of practice. DAMN.

In happier news, our name change has gone through! We are us for real now, IDs and all! [cue endless mountains of paperwork]
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2017-03-13 06:26 pm
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Flute-ing not going so well today

UUUUGH!! My alto flute practicing is not going well! I guess I didn't break the flute, so that's something. Killed some music. :(

My embouchure is LOUSY today. Maybe because my lips are really chapped? Or I've been chewing the insides of my cheeks too much?

My tone is thin & unsteady, intonation non-existent. Still struggling with balance issues; find a good balance, my posture isn't comfortable for fingering on the left hand. Adjust for the hand, then my air gets all screwy. Just a lost cause. Gonna wipe out the flute and turn my efforts to something else.

I am REALLY looking forward to the Chris Potter workshop this summer!
gracegrey: d20 kittens (kittens)
2017-03-11 05:49 pm

Flute-ing! Symphony IV William boyce I-III arr Melicharek III

Among other things!v Wow, today I learned I need to employ double-tonguing if I'm to play this piece at tempo. I also learned I'm holding a quarter note a shade too long and it's throwing off the next few measures!

Flute practicing hasn't happened much recently thanks to heavy workload (15hr day yesterday!!). I did have a lesson and recorded my audition piece for the upcoming Master Class. Been working C flute pretty heavily. I need to dive back into alto here directly, since the piece I'm on alto for is HARD.

Teacher says my sound continues to improve. She says it is very exciting for her as a teacher!

So far, I'm trying not to work too hard on playing; overblowing and tension in my throat are my toughest obstacles to developing a more consistent, open sound.
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2017-02-23 06:04 pm
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Do I sound like an alto?

Today's practicing didn't feel very good. I have a tendency to flub when descending scales. From my last lesson, this is most likely a breath support issue. Gotta keep that push-out of the abdomen, which still feels like some kind of unnatural contortion. Warmed up on The Swan (arr Allred). I hate that piece.

I wonder if I sound like an alto flute, or like a C flute on an alto instead? I don't have any basis for comparison.

Worked on Suite in A minor by Telemann (arr for alto/alto/bass flute trip by Chris Potter). m72-73 in the middle of some 8th notes it shifts from piano to forte. Pretty sure I run out of air before I can make that happen.

Did some repositioning of my head joint to improve the balance of holding the flute. Altos are longer and considerably heavier than C flutes. As a person with short arm, I am trying hard to learn to play with the curved head joint instead of the straight. I like straight better, but long-term use will not be a good choice for shoulder/arm/elbow/wrist health. The curved headjoint is a dire fire ant of a beast to balance easily. I want to balance comfortably enough that I can turn my attention to sound and air support; currently my attention is divided with anxiety of dropping the flute... :/

Spent the rest of my practice time on the Quartet #13 in A minor (arr Allred). Sometimes, I'm playing along just fine and suddenly *dead silence*. No noise coming out! Might be a positioning issue from the tricky balancing. I need to hold still when I play more. Weaving around destroys my balance and positioning, not to mention air direction.

Not all practicing feels like progress, even when it is. I certainly got through the tricky rhythms in 69-90 lot easier than last week! That's something.
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2017-02-21 07:22 pm
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Quartet No. 13 in A minor Mvmt II Andante Schubert arr Brian Allred

Tonight's brief practice was on an arrangement of the above for flute choir. I'm on alto flute, and this is very, very hard. I was struggling with some rhythms around measure 78, so I looked it up on YouTube and listened a few times, then played along.

I've got a long ways to go with building up the hand strength to support the weight of an alto flute while moving my fingers really, really fast!

No miracles will happen on this piece; I will have to drill diligently to develop muscle memory.

I do see where my part fits in the piece now, and I understand the "string style." It seems to me like flutes are always being pushed to mimic strings. I find this tedious. I hope as I am exposed to more repertoire I will find some pieces where a flute can be a flute instead of a violin.