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New Wine in Old Bottles

Patricia George | February 2019

    In 1959 the British composer Gordon Jacob (1895-1984) wrote a four-movement composition for 13 winds titled Old Wine in New Bottles. The title and its meaning are interesting. Scholars have written that it suggests the offering of an older idea in new way. Flute teachers excel in doing the opposite by teaching new ideas using older treatises thus flipping it to New Wine in Old Bottles as a way of connecting the illustrious, historical lineage of flute pedagogues to the needs of modern-day students. 

    One of my favorite books to revisit is 150 Original Exercises in Unison for Band or Orchestra for C Treble Instruments by Grover C. Yaus and Roy M. Miller. I am not sure when the book was originally written but the copyright was renewed in 1944. In the foreword the authors write, “The instrumental music teacher, in most cases, encounters the first serious teaching problem when he attempts to create interest in rhythm and division of measure in the instrumental music class. Most young students are willing to spend hours of practice to produce the correct tone in order to satisfy the desire to ‘play a tune.’ It is very difficult to make the beginner realize that rhythm must be mastered if one is to read music as he reads a book. Rhythm is the foundation of all good performance and the underlying principal of good musicianship.” These words still true to teachers today. 
    When I was a student, the school day allowed for one hour of band practice. Usually this was either scheduled at the beginning or the end of the day, so the director could either have students come an hour earlier or stay an hour later. With regular two-hour practice sessions, the curriculum allowed time for the study and drilling of note and rhythmic reading exercises. My band director tortured us on this book every day for years. Now, many band directors are lucky to see their beginning students once or twice a week. This allows no time for drilling basic principles of note and rhythmic reading and encourages teachers to focus only on repertoire. What this means unfortunately is that every time a new piece is taught, it is like starting over. If students are not getting the drill at school, then this part of the flutists’ education falls to the private teacher. 

Teaching Style
    Yaus intended his book to be sightread through in unison with other class members. If you wish to teach this in a group of mixed consort instruments, then the book is also published in unison with the C treble book for Bb, Eb, F, Db, Bass and alto clef instruments, and percussion. However, the book works well as a solo flute book. For younger flutists, the entire book may be played using the headjoint only the first time through and then the second time with the entire flute. Rhythmically reading each eight-measure exercise before playing is beneficial for some students. Encourage flutists, whether reading aloud or playing, to follow the strength of the beat rule. This means the first beat is the strongest, followed by the third, then second and fourth beats. 
    When playing, they should listen for clean attacks and graceful note endings. If an exercise seems easy, students can play it using not just with detache, but also with staccato, an accent or little diminuendo, marcato, or tenuto. This will encourage them to play with style from the beginning, and not see it as something that is added on at a later time. (See January 2019, The Teacher’s Studio for a discussion of articulation marks.)

Recycling Ideas
    Since the exercises are written in two octaves, it is good to play the upper octave the first time, and then while not noted, repeat the exercise playing the lower octave. For the E in the middle octave, check that students have the right-hand pinkie on the D# key and for the D in the middle octave that the left first finger is up. All exercises should be played with the T, K, and Hah attacks.  
    The first 13 exercises use only D and E, and then beginning in exercise 14 the range is expanded very slowly. Eighth notes are introduced in exercise 15. With the eighth notes, double-tonguing (TK) may be practiced. If the eighth notes begin on a weak beat, practice starting with the K syllable and then the T syllable. There are places in the more advanced repertoire where both are required. 
    For advanced students who are using this book to work on the strength of the beat rule and articulation control, adding in dynamic design to each exercise is equally beneficial. This could include playing forte on the even numbered measures and piano on the odd or something equally creative. 

The DDT Rule
    The DDT rule is to Decay to the Dot or Tie. Beginning in exercise 22, dotted half notes are introduced. The DDT rule evolved from the bow stroke of string instruments. When a note is begun with a down bow, the tone naturally becomes softer as the bow moves towards the tip because of the shape of the bow. String players work diligently to overcome this, but in some passages especially when using longer valued notes, this is an expressive way to play notes. Some call this playing with nuance. Working on this rule is for the more advanced player using this book, not the beginner. 

Dot Equal Silence
    If a dotted half note is followed by a rest, it is played full value. Be sure it is not held longer than indicated as harmony often changes on the beat. If a player holds into the rest, this note may not be in the harmony of the next beat. This idea is especially important to follow in ensemble playing.  If a dotted half note is followed by another note, then in the time of the dot, there is a rest or silence. Replacing a dot with a rest is called playing in a spaced style. It does not matter whether the dot is after a half note, quarter  or eighth note, it still becomes a rest. The silence will be longer in faster tempos and less in slower ones. 

A Stream of Dotted Eighths and Sixteenths
    I heard a Texas clinician instruct his band to play a string of dotted eighth and sixteenths by saying “Day, to-day, to-day, to-day, etc.” I thought it was brilliant and taught it for the next year. When I saw the clinician again, I thanked him for his insight. He said that it was not original to him; he had stolen it from another conductor whom he could not remember. Whoever figured this out is a genius because it works well with kids and professional players. 

    Exercise 34 introduces triplets. To learn double and triple tonguing it is useful to practice starting on the back syllable as well as the first syllable (TK and KT, TKT, KTK). Some of these exercises also call for playing a duple on one beat and a triple on the next. What could be better for multiple tonguing exercises? Yaus also alternates a triplet with a dotted eighth and sixteenth. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss counting the background or subdivisions of three vs. four. 

Compound Meter
    I asked a well-known national all-state band clinician why he had not programmed any Sousa marches. He said they are too difficult because hardly a student in this country understands compound meter. Unfortunately, this is true. Beginning band methods dwell little on compound meter. Usually this comes in the later books of the series which many teachers never use. The Yaus has eight longer exercises to practice compound meter and later in the more advance exercises in the book compound meter exercises are sprinkled in. 

Other Contents
    The Yaus book continues with a couple of pages of exercises on playing Alla breve, followed by two pages on syncopation. Then there are exercises in random order that review the initial concepts taught in the earlier pages such as 2/4, 3/4, Alla breve, 6/8, rhythms of triplets etc. The book concludes with some scale exercises and a warmup page for tuning. 

Repeated Passes
    This is where the book becomes New Wine in Old Bottles – meaning using this material in a way that it was not originally intended. It can become a valuable resource for working on articulation or vibrato. To use the material as an articulation tutor, try a technique called filling in. This means the student plays the subdivisions. For example, if a quarter note is written, fill in with eighth notes, triplets, sixteenths or thirty-seconds. These could be played using T, K, Hah, TK, or TKT. A goal tempo could be four sixteenth note = 160 or so. 
    For vibrato study, use the filling in concept first with the Hah syllable which is sometimes called a breath attack. The only movement is in the vocal folds so the jaw, chest and abdomen should not move. If there is any movement, play the Hahs softer. The tempo marking for vibrato studies will be three, four, or five Hahs = 60-80. Once the Hahs can be played cleanly and staccato, slur them to create vibrato cycles. 
    Yaus wrote several more rhythm books for bands that are equally interesting. Each may be used in many creative ways. Look in your library for additional books that may be used in new ways. These might include playing various rhythms using the vocalizes in the Reichert Op. 5 or playing all the Moyse at the third harmonic partial. See what creative approaches to recycling material you can come up with to put your own new wine in an old bottle.      

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Practicing Compound Meter

    This past summer I saw Elizabeth Shuhan, visiting lecturer of flute at Cornell University and lecturer in Music Education at Ithaca College teach compound meter to a flutist who was struggling with the opening of the Faure Fantaise, Op. 79. She had the flutist (without the flute) pat her legs (one hand on each leg), then clap her hands together, and finally snap her fingers in the air. Practicing this exercise for only a few minutes ensured that each measure of the Faure now reliably had six beats – not more or less.