DIY flute key modification

Different C# touch-piece key thing made by Nagahara.

Different C# touch-piece key thing made by Nagahara.

squishy left index finger rest made from a mechanical pencil gel cushion and blue painters' tape.

squishy left index finger rest made from a mechanical pencil gel cushion and blue painters' tape.

Cork plug in my E key. Silicone plugs work too. I just prefer cork.

Cork plug in my E key. Silicone plugs work too. I just prefer cork.

Not every flute or mechanism is the right size/shape for every hand/body. 

On my main flute (the Nagahara Full Concert) I have one permanent modification and a couple that I add now and then: 

After using a plastic "C# key extension" made by Brannen for about an entire year (and having to replace them all the time - at $40 a pop! - because they were made to fit Brannen and not Nagahara) I was still unsure if I wanted to make a permanent change to my flute so I asked my local flute repair wonder-woman Lori Lee to make me a removable but more sturdy metal extension. Lori's contraption worked very well for a while but I finally decided to make a permanent change. I requested a different C# key shape from Nagahara and they were able to replace the old C# very easily. I must not have been the only person to request this modification. The price of the key replacement was LESS than what I spent on replacing the plastic Brannen extensions! In the future, I would make my own temporary C# key extension out of buttons (see below for photos) and save some $ while I decide whether I need to make it permanent.

I found that my high register technique and comfort in my left hand improves a lot when I can bulk up the tube where my left hand touches the flute body. I made a left hand index finger/hand rest by pulling rubbery pencil grips off some mechanical pencils and cutting them lengthwise. The beauty with this material is that it keeps its shape and will fit on a C flute without leaving any marks on the silver. I usually put a piece of masking or painters tape on top of it because the rubber is too tacky sometimes. Some people use a piece of adhesive moleskin padding instead and that works well too but I found that I needed to replace it much more often because it will eventually fall apart or get dirty. On my Sankyo Kingma system flute, I use a piece of plastic flexible tubing I bought from the hardware store instead (see additional photos below).

In my right hand, I usually place a cork plug in my E key because my ring finger naturally wants to drift closer to my middle finger and I have to make an extra effort to cover the hole otherwise. 

Experiments with my new Sankyo Kingma System flute: 

I glued two buttons to each other with glue. The bottom button is taped to the key with double-sided foam tape. This is what I would suggest as a DIY C# key modification.

I glued two buttons to each other with glue. The bottom button is taped to the key with double-sided foam tape. This is what I would suggest as a DIY C# key modification.

Another view of the left index finger/hand rest made with flexible plastic tube that I cut in a hurry with a pair of scissors.

Another view of the left index finger/hand rest made with flexible plastic tube that I cut in a hurry with a pair of scissors.

I had to remove the buttons on this flute in order to actually use all the extra Kingma system keys but here's another view of the buttons. Way cheaper than the plastic Brannen C# extension. 

I had to remove the buttons on this flute in order to actually use all the extra Kingma system keys but here's another view of the buttons. Way cheaper than the plastic Brannen C# extension. 

I use the same plastic tubing on alto and bass flutes but it's not to bulk up the left hand area, it's just for a bit better traction. On these larger instruments, I also use a piece of adhesive moleskin pad where my right thumb touches the flute for comfort.

the plastic tube cut to fit around my Trevor James bass flute for better traction with my left hand

the plastic tube cut to fit around my Trevor James bass flute for better traction with my left hand

another view of the plastic tube part on my bass flute

another view of the plastic tube part on my bass flute

moleskin pad on my bass flute

moleskin pad on my bass flute


For some flutists, an offset G is not the ideal setup. I told myself that I would go back to an inline G on my next flute. But my next flute ended up being a Kingma System Sankyo so an inline G is not possible.  

There is no hard and fast rule about who should have an inline or offset G. Some say that the off-set G is more ergonomic - it might be more ergonomic for some people, but NOT EVERYONE. Those with short fingers should give a flute with an inline G a serious audition (over several days) with fast technical passages in the high register. I've seen/heard those with really long fingers play very well on inline and offset G flutes. I've also seen/heard those with short fingers play very well on both types. Play the flute that works best for you, keep an open mind/ear, and stay aware of your body so that when your hands give you hints that something is not working well, you can make the necessary changes.

One reason that some (especially flute repair pros) might favor the offset G: it's easier to maintain and work on since there's less going on in the main rod. Because of this, I think it's probably easier to manufacture student model flutes with the offset G. I'm speculating that this is why most new student model flutes are offset these days, not because it's more ergonomic than inline G flutes. If anyone has a good explanation other than it's more ergonomic (because I do not buy that reasoning) please let me know!

If I did not play so much contemporary music, I would get a closed-hole or plateau style flute - in which case, it's not as important whether the flute in in-line or offset. 


Seeking local collaborator(s)

I would like to meet some local, like-minded artist-types interested in making/producing time-based art projects. I live in Campbell, CA, which is right next to San Jose, California. 

If you're interested, please poke around my website first. If you are still interested, please email me and let's meet for coffee. 

Major plus if you can appreciate the occasional fart or poop joke.

Detour

For my 3rd album, I thought that I wanted to record an album of Classical and Romantic repertoire. I had the pieces planned out and started recording but the first few recording sessions were difficult for various reasons. Other important details for the project were really hard to work out too, so it made me rethink my plans. This was repertoire that I love but there were too many things that seemed to be working against me. 

It did not bode well that these were some of my recording studio companions on the first two days of recording.

It did not bode well that these were some of my recording studio companions on the first two days of recording.

Instead of continuing with the project, I decided to abort plans for the album and change directions. I hope that some of the material I recorded can be released in the future in different or smaller packages but, for now, it's mostly time and money wasted. I guess I could have planned more carefully or taken more time to think it through but that's not my style. 


I recently listened to some of the material I recorded earlier this year to see if I can do something with them and found this single (unedited) take from February 3, 2014.

Friedrich Kuhlau "Grand Duo" Op. 30, Nr. 2, Adagio lagrimoso with clarinetist Cory Tiffin:

(Stream it or download it for free at meerenai.bandcamp.com!)


I've started again on the 3rd album and it will contain only contemporary music. I feel better about it already. I hope to release it sometime in 2015. 

Cory Tiffin

Clarinetist, good friend, and collaborator, Cory Tiffin has been fabulously too busy to make a website or maintain a bio online anywhere so I took it upon myself to write up a short bio for him right here.

Cory Tiffin is the principal clarinetist of the Las Vegas Philharmonic. He splits his time between Las Vegas and Chicago. In Chicago he teaches at the Chicago High School for the Arts and holds adjunct positions at DePaul University and Loyola University. 

(Once I find a good, up-to-date bio for him, I will link to it from here. Also, I only have goofy photos of Cory on my phone so this will have to do for now!)

Here's a little something we recorded earlier this year (More info on the project.):

Carpe Diem

Today, one of the most beloved humans in the world died.

My favorite movie featuring Robin Williams is Dead Poets Society. Like many Americans of my generation, I didn't learn the meaning of the Latin phrase "carpe diem" until this movie came out. Every time I watched the movie I felt inspired and I could feel a little wind in my imaginary sails but this was always a temporary sensation. A couple hours later, I'd be back to my unremarkable existence doing my best to be responsible but not living life to the fullest. 

"Living my life to the fullest would be selfish, irresponsible, and foolish."

That's what I heard in my head for many years. The few years after college I also didn't know what would make me feel like I'm living life to the fullest. It took some experimentation with different jobs to figure out what kind of work would make life meaningful for me.

Now I know what I need to do to really carpe diem in my own way. This year I started to pretend that I would not live past the year. I asked myself the following: if I knew that I would die on December 31, 2014, what are the things that I would want to accomplish, attempt, or make before that date? 

This has been a really great way to help me prioritize the different people and things in my life. I ask myself, "is this something I want to accomplish or attempt before I die?" or "do I want to spend more time with this person/organization before I die?" If the answer to that previous question is YES, I do what I need to do in order to start or complete it. If the answer is NO, I find a way to stop or go a different direction. Maybes are put on the back burner.

I think that actually following one's dreams always seems impossible because there are so many perceived obstacles, including financial ones. I know that I have friends that say, "well of course I can seize the day and go on that dream trip around the world if I had a million dollars!" Or, "if were younger/older" or "if I didn't have responsibilities" etc. I think that most of those are just excuses. If traveling to 100 countries was an important thing I wanted to experience before death and I am not an oil tycoon, I can start by planning a shoestring budget trip to Canada or Mexico. One country at a time, one can live that dream. On December 30th I think that I would feel pretty good about my life by having gone on one small trip to Mexico rather than if I had worked every day that year trying to save thousands of dollars for fancy vacation that didn't happen.

Today, before I heard the sad news about Robin Williams, I got my first two tattoos. I wanted tattoos all my adult life and finally I got them. As I left the tattoo parlor I had a flash of panic that lasted about 1 second. My old self flinched but my new self is relieved that if I die at the end of this year, I would die having done one of the things I've wanted to do for a long time but never had the guts to do. 

There are many other things I want to do and I will keep chiseling away at those projects so that I can die happy knowing that I've earnestly made an attempt to seize the day, one thing or day at a time. 

I can seize the day as a compassionate, responsible, and sensible person.

Two must-read books for musicians

There are many excellent books written for musicians of course. I just want to mention two of them right now.

1) The Musicians Way by Gerald Klickstein

This book should be handed out to all undergraduate music students along with their diplomas when they graduate. Or maybe during their junior year. This book is probably most suited to "classical" music performers but I'm sure it's a worthwhile read for all musicians. Mr. Klickstein also runs a fabulous website with many support materials and articles to help musicians navigate their careers. I highly recommend subscribing to his newsletter too. He covers topics such as how to practice, get started in your career, and maintain a musically satisfying career - including how to avoid injury. I can't imagine a better how-to book for the classical musician just starting out in their career.

Gerald Klickstein, is Director of the Music Entrepreneurship & Career Center at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University. (He's also an excellent public speaker. I met him at the 2014 Chamber Music America conference when he moderated a panel of concert presenters and artist managers.)

2) Making Your Life as an Artist by Andrew Simonet

This book resonated with me so strongly that I cried while reading the first three chapters. Andrew Simonet is a choreographer and is living the artists' life. He articulates our struggle and reasons for making art so clearly that it makes me completely trust him. So when he hit me over the head with practical and real-world advice about what I need to do to keep on making art, I kept reading carefully. None of his practical advice is new to me. I've heard them many times (manage your time, don't work 24/7, delegate, manage your money, etc.) but this time I think this advice will stick. [I seriously hope so...for my sake.] 

Even if your eyes glaze over at the thought of bookkeeping or time management, I hope you read the book for the first 3 chapters. If you're not an artist-type and want to know what it's like to be an artist, you should read this book too. 

And the best part: this book is available in paperback and as a FREE e-book. Get it!!