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FINTAN VALLELY - A Complete Guide To Learning The Irish Flute

FINTAN VALLELY - A Complete Guide To Learning The Irish Flute
Waltons Publishing ISBN: 9781857202205

No guide is ever complete, of course, but this established flute tutor comes pretty close. Based on Fintan's pioneering 1986 guide, Timber, but updated and extended in many ways, the 2013 version is an excellent resource for any beginner and a font of knowledge for more experienced fluters too. For instance, if you always wanted to know the difference between a slip jig and a hop jig, or the standard fingering for the third octave on a wooden flute, or even when to relax your mouth while playing, this book can provide the answers. Fintan Vallely's easy writing style is instructive, informative, encouraging and entertaining in almost equal parts. Starting from the very basics, Fintan goes through every aspect of flute playing, paying more attention than most tutors to key points such as breathing, embouchure (mouth position) and the dangers of over-eating, smoking and, of course, driving while playing the flute.

In addition to the obligatory coverage of posture, fingering and ornamentation, there are sections on history, style and maintenance, as well as a useful briefing on session etiquette. There's a very thorough and easy to follow chapter on the rules of written music too, giving new players the information they need to start reading and writing tunes. All the examples in the book are provided in standard musical notation, but Fintan is careful to stress the importance of learning by ear and the accompanying CDs back this up perfectly. The hundred or so tunes and versions of tunes which Fintan has chosen are all perfectly acceptable session material and give a great range of forms and styles for a learner, as well as building a good repertoire from the core of the Irish tradition. The author's Ulster roots are evident in some of the choices, but the Donegal highlands are balanced by Sliabh Luachra polkas and slides. Every tune is given in notation and played on solo flute on the CDs, allowing for both music readers and learning by ear. The book is also full of gentle humour: from warnings regarding buying a house, to advice on chat-up lines.

I worked through this tutor to improve my own flute playing, as I am still a relatively feeble fluter, and I found it enormously helpful. I particularly liked the summary pages, listing all the points covered in the book so you can tick off the ones you have mastered. Vallely can't cover everything, but he does his best to wrap up any odds and ends in the chapter entitled “Routine, Curious and Surprising Aspects of Flute Playing”. He also recognises that many learners will outgrow this tutor and so provides a number of tunes and some great advice in the chapter “Music to Go On With”. You really couldn't expect much more from a flute tutor, so if you're serious about the Irish flute, work through this book and then go on. Go on, go on.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 102 of The Living Tradition magazine.