August 2010 Convention
Anaheim, CA

Posture and Position in Flute Pedagogy

Lea Pearson, an experienced flutist, has chosen to focus much of her work on body mapping and the performance health care field. For this presentation, Pearson investigated 31 method books and treatises about flute playing and biomechanics. She was interested in how advice given to flutists about body use might differ from one author to another. She included books about the biomechanics of body use that were not meant specifically for musicians. Pearson stated in her presentation that the final determining factor for including books was the publication language (English!) and the availability of the resource.

For the first half of the presentation, Pearson shared thoughts presented in specific methods. She did not present the information with any judgment, but instead simply described where authors agreed and disagreed. From her research, she found a lot of agreement, with descriptions that ranged from very specific to quite general. Her main specific topics for discussion were standing, sitting, head position, and arm use as they relate to flute playing. She also described positive ways to use language more effectively while teaching, suggesting that teachers avoid words like “must,” use accurate terminology, and try to avoid inherently stressful or tense vocabulary.

One of the most interesting portions of the presentation was her description of information she found in books about biomechanics. Her highest recommendation was for The New Rules of Posture: How to Sit, Stand and Move in the Modern World, by Mary Bond. Pearson's distilled information from her investigations of biomechanics included the following about ideal posture:

  • Ideal posture is stable and maintains the body's mass over its support.
  • Ideal posture avoids strain and minimizes energy cost.
  • The support for the upper body comes from the pelvis, legs, and feet, while the support for the head is through the weight bearing part of the spine.
  • If we do things correctly, to be upright is very little work.

The second half of Lea Pearson's presentation focused on ways for each flutist to find his or her best dynamic posture. Participants lay on the ground, moved about the room, and tried a variety of the ideas presented by the authors of books reviewed for this study. Pearson developed an excellent handout with ideas for finding ideal posture, as well as a list of all the books she read in her research. For a copy of this handout, see the introductory page in this year's convention chronicles, which includes all handouts from the convention, or visit web.mac.com/flutibia to contact Pearson directly.

—Rebecca Johnson