Taffanel Daily Studies - a method

There are many ways to use the 17 daily studies.

Here is the method I use with my undergraduate students.


basic approach

I spend one week on each of the first sixteen exercises. At the end of this cycle I start through the book again, and again, for three or four years, until the student is sufficiently knowledgeable and disciplined to work alone.

The first time through I do all the exercises slurred, adding the varied articulations from the second cycle on.

My basic principle is to use the week to discover technical problems and work towards solving them. A week is an arbitrary time but I find it focuses the attention and is short enough to avoid boredom. On returning to the exercise a few months later I find that the technique has developed to a new level that permits further polishing.

My advice on practicing, which can be found elsewhere, applies absolutely to these studies.

One day one, start playing the etude and after a couple of minutes find out what metronome speed you are playing at. Then, with the metronome on at this speed (which I call your basic comfortable speed), play once through the etude, stopping to mark each combination that is awkward or uncomfortable or impossible.

For the rest of the week only play the combinations that have been isolated as problematic. Treat each one as an etude, working as follows:

Without the metronome find the speed at which the combination is absolutely easy (your comfortable speed for this combination) - this might be a couple of notches slower, or as slow as quarter speed if you are learning new high notes.

1.With the metronome now on at this speed, play the combination once.
2.Lower the flute to relax mind and body.
3. Raise the metronome one notch.
5. Play it once - it will be perfect!

Because you are building on the confidence that what you are doing is easy, progress will be very quick as you repeat steps two to five.

You might move up the metronome five or six notches in this way but eventually you will notice that the absolute ease has gone. This is the time to stop and go on to the next combination. Don't try to ignore this signal and keep going. At you next session you will find that your comfortable speed is faster (remember no metronome for this step!) and your ending speed will be faster.

Work towards bringing all the awkward combinations up to your basic comfortable speed. You may find that you can't achieve this in one week with certain combinations. The main thing is to recognize your problems and make some progress with them.

When you come round to the exercise again in a few months you will find that your basic comfortable speed is higher.

I find that students who are not familiar with this material play the scale type etudes at about 84 to the quarter note their first time through, and move up about ten beats on each repetition of the book (ie 96, 108, 116, 132, 144). The arpeggio type etudes start about 60 to the quarter note and make similar progress. A long term goal for a virtuoso technique might be 152 for scales and 138 for arpeggios.

A general tip for practicing is to resist the tempation to breathe at the top of a scale or arpeggio. If you do stumble at the top turnaround, be sure to back up a beat or two until you succeed in comfortably negotiating it.

My recommendations for each etude

1. Perform two lines at a time, ending on the resolution that begins the third line. (This will help you avoid going onto automatic pilot and not really listening.)
Recognize the scale pattern and memorize it. (The first five notes of a major scale are followed by five notes of the scale a half step higher, starting on its seventh note - ie where D is the tonic in the first half of the sequence it becomes the seventh note of Eb Major in the second half.)
Start on C1 and add combinations at the written end to carry the range to D4. If C#4 and D4 are new notes follow the following procedure:

Finger B3-C#4-B3 very slowly without blowing. Do not move to the next note until you are sure your fingers know what to do. Watch you fingers and allow them to become smooth and easy in their movements as your brain learns the tricky co-ordinating problems. Blow the sequence slowly (like quarter or half notes.) When your dexterity is sufficient add A#3 before and after the sequence. Then add G#3 before and after, and finally F#3. When you have the dexterity to play one whole sequence fast enough, play two sequences - then three, then four.

The trick is to have the patience and humility to play sufficiently slowly that your fingers know what they are going to do before they try to do it. Otherwise you will build an element of tension into your learning process that will stay with you.

Learn the sequences G3-D4 and G3-Db4 in the same way.

If these notes are new it is extremely unlikely that you will reach your basic comfort speed within the week. But you can find moments during the year, say waiting for a rehearsal to start, to keep progressing.

2. The same range and suggestions apply - now the tonality is minor.

3. I follow William Kincaid's suggestion of adding a half octave at the top of each scale giving them a two and a half octave range. The first one then goes up to G3, the second to A3, the third to B3 and the fourth to C4. This saves time as the scales starting on G, A, and B are unnecessary now. I also feel that twice through each scale is sufficient.

4. Resolve each scale into the start of the next one and rest before continuing. Recognize the patterns and memorize them. The minors are trickier because they alternate in their form.

5. Add to the range by starting on C1 and adding at the end C2-C4, C#2-C#4, and D2-D4. Alternately add a full octave to the C1, C#1, D1 scales.

6. It might be worthwhile spending a week on the A section and a week on the B section. The B section is visually harder but not harder to play. Play individual beats at the same speed you are playing the A section, then try stringing beats together. When you see that you are capable of moving the fingers faster your eye will be encouraged to look ahead.

7. It might be worthwhile spending a week on the etude as written and a week playing 8va where different problems occur.

8. Recognize the arpeggio you are playing - don't speed up towards the top.

9. Be sure not to work on the opening until you have warmed up.

10 and 11. Add another low note to the end of each sequence and rest. (ie add a final whole note C to the end of the first sequence of arpeggios). This exercise contains all the triads built on the lowest note. Recognize each one and learn the sequence. Then try to play the following sequences from memory.

12 and 13. End each sequence by playing the first note of the next sequence as a whole note - then rest. Recognize these four seventh chords and memorize the sequence.

14. Recognize the circle of fifths in this etude and memorize.

15 and 16. Recognize these chromatic diminished triads and sevenths. The B section is more awkward visually - practice in small sections and encourage your eye to keep moving forward.

Return to teaching

Please e-mail me for further information or