Niall O'Riordan

Flute Soloist  


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Niall Two Week Technique Plan

Posted on July 8, 2013 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (101)

Ok everybody! Lots of people want to join together for a TWO WEEK TECHNIQUE INTENSIVE, here is the routine I propose with a Video tutorial below. Make it your own, have fun and enjoy. Repeat the cycle as much as you want 1-3 hours a day depending.

Official start this Monday!!! Lets do this ..........



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Join the conversation here on twitter @Niall_ORiordan  #niallsflutetechnique or on Facebook

Posture: Building a Complete Perspective part 2

Posted on September 14, 2012 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (1)

The Self-Image

‘Each one of us speaks, moves, thinks and feels in a different way, each according to the self-image of himself that he has built up over the years. In order to change your mode of action we must change the image of ourselves that we carry within us.’ – Moshe Feldenkrais


Our self-image governs our every action and of course this includes playing the flute. The act of playing the flute isn’t merely governed by your talent or skill. There are many factors involved and the self-image the one that governs everything. Our self image consists of four components that are involved in every action: movement, sensation, feeling and thought. These are all interconnected.


As we develop our environment contributes largely to the self-image of ourselves we have built up over the years .When we teach we are responsible for creating an environment for our students. The environment we create as teachers should be a place that nurtures a healthy confident self-image. We are responsible for how large proportion of student musical self-image develops. When dealing with posture it is important to note we are addressing the self image.


When dealing with tension in the body there is a belief in the self-image that is contributing to the tension. This could be ‘I can't do this’ ‘I'm not good enough’ or something to that effect. Let us consider the four components involved in every action. In this situation, we have restricted movement because of tension, negative thinking, perhaps reduce ability to sense themselves fully and perhaps negative feelings associated with this situation.


Watch your Language

Be very careful with ‘you are...’ statements. I'm very mindful in lessons when I teach students not to use these statements, they can particularly contribute to reinforcing an already existing negative self-image.


For example, if a student looks tense, saying to them ‘you’re very tense’ will do no good at all. You are only reinforcing a negative. There could be loads of factors at play here. In that particular moment the student could be feeling particularly good about how they are, they might appear to look tense but at that moment they might sense themselves in a way that feels good. They very well could be very tense in that moment. The bottom line is you don't know. A better way to approach this would be asking how they are they feeling, asking ‘I notice........, does this seem accurate to you’ and lastly, offering options to the student. Sometimes bringing a student attention to particular part of the body is enough for them to reorganise how they are using themselves.

To Sum Up


If you notice a student becoming tense, enquire with questions rather than using ‘you are ....’ statements


  • Ask how they are feeling in that moment
  • Ask them the pay attention to that particular part of their body and notice what is happening
  • Ask about what they are thinking
  • Direct their learning so they can find their own solutions


In order to help your students you must help them develop a healthy self-image. This can only be achieved by creating an environment that supports this. As teachers we must see beyond student’s restrictions and always believe in their potential. In other words, you must look beyond the self-image student presents to you.

Posture: Building a Complete Perspective part 1

Posted on September 4, 2012 at 12:30 PM Comments comments (1)

"Faulty posture always expresses the emotional stress that has been responsible for its formation." --Moshe Feldenkrais


The word posture conjures very mixed images, ideas and theories for flute players. As I have been browsing through the internet reading what other people have to say and also seeing what classes other people are giving on the subject I thought I'd share some of my ideas and views from where I am right now. Of course, this is very much influenced by my Feldenkrais training.


Firstly, I have abandoned using the word posture in my own teaching. Instead I use the word organisation. Rather than discussing with a student their posture we discuss how they are organised. I've done this because I feel that ‘posture’ is such a loaded word. For most people the word posture has an implicit meaning of something static & some sort of ideal way of being. It gives a ‘right or wrong’ attitude which I really don't like. Much like the 'search for the holy grail' we have looking for the ideal flute we can do the same chasing a posture or position. A static posture is useless, life is movement and with playing the flute you should have options available to you to shift your weight in any direction if you wish. Feldenkrais humorously once said “A static posture is of no use only the dead people”. But sometimes in our teaching we impose these ideal positions on to our students. Most of the time, these instructions only add more tension on top of the already existing tension in order for it to look aesthetically pleasing from the outside. This can just leave a person in a very awkward and unbalanced position which isn't at all functional.


Secondly, this whole subject is directly connected to the mental and emotional side of things. This is something as teachers we could pay closer attention to. For example: Have you ever seen somebody with depression walking around with their heads held high and shoulders back? No? Me neither. Feldenkrais said "Faulty posture always expresses the emotional stress that has been responsible for its formation." Whatever position you or your student finds himself in there is also an emotional factor behind it all. Just like telling somebody suffering from depression stand up straight, telling a self-conscious student stand-up straight without considering the emotional factors will have very little benefit.


Feldenkrais was always interested in Function over Form. Whatever position we find ourselves playing the flute, a primary focus should be function, not how aesthetically it looks from the outside. This is the downfall of some of the teaching we have all engaged in, or experienced. The reason why I like the Feldenkrais method is when you attend a class you discover something about yourself that when you approach the flute, you can apply some of this learning. You can shift your attention to searching for the most functional way of playing the flute rather than standing in a position that somebody told you, you ‘should’ be in. With the Feldenkrais method discovering the most functional way of playing the flute becomes an organic part of your development.


In the video below observe Jascha Heifetz as he performs. There is no one fixed position. Around two minutes into the video you get a very clear full body shot of him and you can observe how he gently shifts his weight as from left to right. Overall, noticed the sense of freedom of movement he has available to him.


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Elegant Virtuosity- The French Flute School

Posted on August 30, 2012 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (1)


Here in England we are all a bit obsessed with the French school. Seriously, I think we are, more than the French! But I don't think we have a complete picture. In fact, if you really want to have a global impression of this school of playing there is much more investigation to be done.


Pieces by Devienne, Tulou, Demersseman, Reichart, Boehm etc are mostly forgotten here. These pieces display elegant virtuosity, a crucial component in the development of a solid flute technique. I agree, sometimes they are not the greatest pieces of music ever written but they are fantastic pieces to learn for a multitude of reasons. This type of virtuosity is very different to what you might need for Sonatas by Prokofiev or Liebenman. Marcel Moyse was hugely influential in the UK and these are the very type of pieces he taught regularly. William Bennett, a celebrated student of Moyse, is one of the very few teachers who is still keeping this repertoire alive in this country. These pieces were also a central component of the flute pedagogy of Alain Marion and Rampal, an important branch of the French school that has not really influenced British flute playing.


Overall I think we are going in the wrong direction. I am a champion new music, but I think there is too much emphasis of finding new pieces to be ‘different’ or ‘unique’ with an overemphasis on extended techniques. I think we are neglecting a whole chunk of our heritage because of this.


Last night as I flicked through these virtuoso solos, I asked myself ‘are we going forward or backwards?’ The technical demands of these pieces are much more complicated than some of the pieces that are in fashion at the moment. If you don't have a solid flute technique there is no way you will successfully do justice to a Demersseman Solo but I think it can be disguised in some of the repertoire that we are currently playing.


*The above pictures show left Jules Demersseman,  right Alain Marion


Demersseman (9 January 1833 – 1 December 1866) was born in Hondschoote, Département Nord, France, near the Belgian border. At 11, he was a student of Jean-Louis Tulou at the Conservatoire de Paris. He won the first prize there at the age of twelve and quickly became famous as a virtuoso.

You can find scores by Demersseman here


Flutes: To Cover or Uncover.....THAT is the Question

Posted on June 6, 2012 at 7:10 AM Comments comments (1)




How set your flute up and how much of the embouchure hole you cover is a very personal thing and I most definitely don't want to preach to you in this post about the right or wrong way. I simply don't believe there is a right way, we are all different and it is individual in the end of the day. But I will, if I may, share my experiences and my observations.


When I was learning I was told to line up the centre of the embouchure hole with the centre of the C# key. Over time I found comfort in having the flute ever so slightly turned in a bit more than this. This is something for a long time I believed I ‘shouldn't’ be doing. Here in England there seems to be a fashion among some players of having the headjoint turned out, covering less of the embouchure hole and pulling out the headjoint to flatten the sharpening effect of turning out so much. My understanding is that it is believed you get a bigger and more projected sound this way. It is something I've never understood and from experience does not work for me. I always blew right down into the flute.


I was in England almost 5 years before I met somebody who actually confirmed my ideas about blowing into the flute and how much to cover. I experienced such a sense of relief that I wasn't alone! Ironically the person in question although an English man lived in Germany! My lessons with Prof Robert Winn continued for many years when he visited and we had many discussions about this. Often in our lessons he was able to confirm my natural instincts.


Years later I discovered by reading different articles and posts by Sir James Galway that he too blows down into the flute and covers a fair amount of the embouchure hole. At is masterclass in Weggis, Switzerland last year he spoke about this quite a bit, especially concerning getting a good low register. He often commented to students ‘blow into the flute’. From my close observations I believe William Bennett also approaches the flute this way. All three players Sir James, WIBB and Mr Winn all make a bloody good sound as far as I'm concerned, so I'm happy to stick with what I know.


It's important to note however that a balance has to be found. If you cover or turn in too much, the results will be a small, flat tone with no projection. However, uncovering too much results in a diffuse, unfocused and a colourless sound.


In my next post we will examine some historic flute methods by Altes, Tulou, Dorus and Soussman and see what they might have done. 


*The above illustration is from the first English translation of Henry Altes’s flute Method published in Paris by Millerau in 1906.


Concerning setting the flute up Altes writes:


‘Draw a straight line from the outer edge of the mouth-hole through the middle of the keys (see Fig: 1) and bring the pillar which supports the mechanism of the middle joint in a line with this the C# key of the footjoint’


Gold Powell Flute for $900! How times have changed

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (1)

On the 18th April 1928 the first 14K gold Powell flute was completed. In those days one would set you back $900. How times have changed!


I find examining Verne Q Powell’s original brochure which you can find here fascinating.


This charming historic document also tells us a lot about flute aesthetics of the time. It seems that volume of tone was an important factor for these players with comments like ‘beautiful tone quality, with plenty of volume behind it’. It is something that hasn’t changed very much 84 years later, from my experience players always choose the loudest flute. If you play an original Louis Lot that has not been re-tuned and has its original lip plate you will note these flutes were made with sweetness of tone in mind rather than volume.


Options include closed or open G#, low B, C# trill and $25 for an 18k lip on the silver flutes. 18k rather than 14k liplates were common by the French Makers. A combination I think still works very well. No e-mechanism or openhole offset is listed on the brochure!


William Kincaid writes

‘Permit me to express my sincere admiration and high esteem for your noteworthy achievement in making it possible for flautists of today to have and to play upon an instrument which is without doubt in my mind one of the finest instruments to be had. I wish you great success’

Powell still make very fine instruments, my favorite is the 19.5K flute with the Venti cut headjoint


For more about Powell flutes visit their website

Sir James on Buliding a Career

Posted on June 4, 2012 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)


Sir James Galway shares advice on with Yahoo group Galway-Flute-Chat on building a career.


Dear Friends from the Italian class in the villa Medici Guilini,

I wish to write to you about repertoire and how to start a career.

In all the classes I teach I have students playing the big concerti and pieces written primarily for flute and large orchestras. While I am very happy to teach these familiar bread and butter pieces for me, I wonder where the student playing the concerto is going with it. Where is a student going to play the Ibert, Chant de Lions, Nielsen concerti when they leave the college where they are studying? ..........


Continue reading here.....

Out of the Shadows

Posted on June 2, 2012 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I strongly feel the greatest musicians also experience the most fear as they grow. Our system rewards Left Brain approach and I think the truly creative Right Brainers can slip through the net. I did. The intellectuals v's the creatives Some find a way through, but sadly some don't. I think the fear which stops them and which stopped me for many years is because they know they have something really special to share. Something new and different. Not succeeding would be just too painful so some dont try at all, unaware of their vast potential because nobody could see it yet. All over the world I am convinced there are great musicians working in the shadows very close to the job the really would love to do. As my story unfolds I can see one of my missions is opening the cages that some of these musicians put themselves in. It's never to late, talent never dies- if you have a burning passion to do something it's because your creator knows you can do it.

French Flute School

Posted on May 28, 2012 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (1)

I am really enjoying examining and studying the old French Flute method books 1800-1860. That is: Pre Altes, Taffanel Gaubert and Moyse. They are all so systematic; they cover everything in your training that eventually leads towards really good Fluteplaying. Altes, Taffanel Gaubert and Moyse extended this even further. I think the exam system we have now is a bit of a joke compared to the training that our ancestors had. There is too much focus on 'fun' ....isn’t music fun anyway especially with the right teacher? Why are we ignoring all this good teaching material written by GREAT fluteplayers? Instead we are dumbing down the whole thing. I find all the duets and lessons in these books really good fun! I find myself getting more and more against teaching through this graded system. I know students need to have a goal but I think we can find a better system of creating this. I believe in treating every student like a potential Virtuoso, regardless where they are in their learning. Imagine teaching a young Mozart with the system now.

Alternative Fingerings & More

Posted on May 28, 2012 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Find alternative fingerings, micro tones and multiphonics on this fantastic tool.

Its easy to use and a great resource. I really like how players have given feedback on  the fingerings, which flute the play and which piece they needed them for!!




British Flute Society Workshop 24 March 2012

Posted on November 17, 2011 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)


I am really looking forward to working with Marie, she is a fantastic coach. This workshop is not to be missed!!

Evening recital 7 July 2011

Posted on May 31, 2011 at 6:53 PM Comments comments (0)

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success

Posted on December 4, 2010 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (1)



I have been applying principals from ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success’ by Deepak Chopra to my life but also trying to apply it directly to my playing. It might be interesting to explore this further in this blog.


First Law:


The Law of Pure Potentiality


“Take time to be silent, to just BE. Meditate for 30 minutes twice a day. Silently witness the intelligence within every living thing. Practice non-judgment.”


Taking this time to meditate has a powerful effect on your whole being and your music as a result. As a musician you need to find ways to connect to the source of your creativity. The creativity that is inherent in nature and the whole cosmos is also available to us to channel through our music. When the artist harnesses his personal way to do this the musical experience is truly profound.


You can view this as connecting to your higher self, universal energy, God... the label we put on it doesn’t matter. I believe what does matter is making that connection and opening up to the idea that our musical creativity comes from places far deeper that our minds can comprehend. The source of creativity is in limitless supply and abundant in its very nature.


To be continued....


Little Poem

Posted on December 3, 2010 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (1)



I found this entry in my journal from 2008, I thought it was quite simple and sweet. I use the term God in the broadest sense. For me this is simply the supreme universal energy, you could substitute it for whichever term connects with you the most.


God bless the air that’s in my lungs,

God bless my fingers and my thumbs.


God guide my eyes to see the light,

God fill my heart with your delight.


God watch and guide me as I play,

God bless the souls I touch today.


© Niall O’Riordan 2008

The Core

Posted on December 3, 2010 at 12:56 PM Comments comments (9)

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Some interesting thoughts about our 'core'. What we really mean when we use the term, do we mean an actual a physical part of us?

A Poem for all Musicians

Posted on July 11, 2008 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Flautists Poem

By Niall O'Riordan


I blow and express what's deep inside,

I blow with joy of God beside,

My flute is empty, just like me,

My breath gives life, divinity.

I take God's breath and tell his tale,
It is not me, I cannot fail.
I release the fear within my heart,
I unite with God and never part.

I shine a light from deep within,
This light shows others how to begin
Upon a sacred path of truth,
Knowledge, wisdom, eternal youth.

God above or God within,
It's all the same, we are of Him.
I blow and show my God inside,
I vow to bless all human kind



 Copyright Niall O'Riordan 2008


Our Relationship with Time

Posted on August 29, 2007 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I read a very interesting article today in a yoga magazine about our relationship with time. It really got me thinking how a musician relates to time. After all, it is the medium which music exists. I think most of us struggle with time management.  Ideally we should not be in constant battle with it and search for a happier relationship. How many occasions have we said 'I wish I had more time'. I think a good step is to accept the time we have and work with the present moment. Think of the time you have now as just that, 'a present', a gift to devote to something you love, relish it! Take the time you have to devote to your playing with grace no matter how big or how small. I am sure with this accepting attitude we will discover what great things we can create in short time periods and approach our practice from positive perspective.