Lately, many students of mine, colleagues and friends have been looking at changing their instruments. I have to say this is a situation I have been in several times and currently am also thinking of making one more and final change to which my instrument is going to be. So I decided to write down a few thoughts about the process. The search for a new instrument, is fun, educational, stressful and tiring, but extremely important and rewarding in the end. It makes you stronger emotionally, opens your ears, your heart and shows you places of your professional world you may not have thought of before. I will speak about flutes, since I am a flutist, but the ideas are valid for all instruments. There are many flute makers out there, and frankly they are all great. We are all very quick at declaring which makers are the best, or not. Which makers make flutes in tune, which have more color possibilities, which play louder, which are better for orchestra, and the list could go on. The truth for me is that all these factors, which we instinctively attribute almost completely to the instrument in itself, are actually within us as players and musicians. It is not a new statement to say that intonation comes from within, and not from the instrument. Of course, a well built flute, makes a difference, and there certainly are situations when the instrument has major scale issues, making it more difficult to play consistently in tune. However, if we really open our ears and trust them fully, playing any instrument in tune becomes an easier task all together. Same goes with projection, dynamic palette, thickness of sound, transparency, timbre, or any other nuance we look for in a good instrument. Relying on our ears, and the ears of trusted colleagues is most crucial. Our qualities as players must be enhanced and showcased by the instruments we chose. If we are comfortable on our instrument, those qualities will all come out and we will declare that this is the “best” flute maker there is. This of course is true, but we can’t forget that it is what we feel along with others that reach the same level of comfort on that make of instrument. I do think it is important to have a so to say favorite, because being excited about things is crucial, in everything we do, especially in our art, music. We are performers, and our instruments never stop evolving, just as we do as people and active performers. We must try to never forget this. After all the philosophical mind work, after trying different materials, after listening to different opinions on what you should or should not play, just go out and play. Play the way you play, adjust, let go, risk, and your decision on what makes you comfortable will come to you in a very serene way. Play in the privacy of your home, play in chamber music settings, in orchestra, in big halls and in dead halls. Play for musicians as well as for non-musicians. You will be surprised how insightful a non-musician’s ear can be! I like to compare experiencing a great instrument to the feeling of finally sleeping in your own bed, after a long period of travel. That feeling, of being home, is when you will have found the best instrument out there!
Thoughts on choosing an instrument
20 Friday Jul 2012