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Varvara Stepanova's master class


        In summer of 2009 I happened to visit Yakutsk and to take this excellent khomusist's lessons. Varvara Stepanova is a khomus teacher of the folk department of the Yakut music college named after .Zhirkov. The winner of international festivals, the soloist of an ethno group "Ayarkhaan".
        I made video recordings of the most important moments of the lesson and also I made notes in my writing pad. This master class was created on the basic of this information and with permission from Varvara.
        Some advice about the basic methods: Yakut music players have some method similar to "the lark's song". It is produced by quick tongue movements back and forth. If you have learnt to produce an easy "lark's song" you need to study pitch changes in this method. The exercise is to sing syllables like a lark:
iy
ia
io
iu.
        Another imitation - goose squawk is produced by quick touches of the tip of the tongue to the palate. Here you also need to learn to change sounds smoothly from the high-pitched one and vise versa, displacing the point of contact of the tongue from the teeth to the soft palate.
        Then you will see video examples which illustrate different traditional and modern Yakut methods. Revoriy Chemchoev's khomus was used for playing:


        1 "Drops". You need to press the reed of the khomus by the index finger of your left hand for rain drops imitation. You need to do it exactly in the middle of its length from the back side of the khomus. The right hand should strike the reed from both sides. So there is one thing left to do - to add side tones by breath and by movements of your tongue. Exactly they will provide truthfulness to sounding.


        2 "The cuckoo" The cuckoo word should pronounced by syllables Ka-Ku. You need to try to cuckoo by higher and by deeper sounds aiming to choose the most correct variant of sounding.


        3. "The horse" We slow down the reed by the left arm like we did it imitating drops. We need to set to the cheek the first finger of the right hand near lips. Strikes should be done on the reed by three fingers of the right hand by turns. It is important to reach relaxed movements of the right hand. The khomus in this situation stands on the teeth.


        4. "The reed pause" Actually a new method invented by Fedora Gogoleva. It can be made by three ways: by a tongue, by lips or by a finger. Pay your attention to the fact that slowing down is made only at inhalation. At the beginning you will see slowdown by a tongue. So as not to get hurt you need to turn down the tip of your tongue and to slow down the reed by the "small pillow" what you got. The sequence of actions in any method is always the following one: a strike, then inhalation, then a pause, then nose-blow. The following method is a reed intermittence by lips. Be attentive, the edges if the khomus are sharp. You need to be very attentive and careful while doing this exercise.
        The pause by the index finger is shown well on the video. The point at which the index finger of the left hand make the reed stop is the same one. It is the middle of its length.


        5. "Throat style" It is difficult to give the exact definition to this device. But we can refer it to the so-called " Throat style " " 5". The operational sequence is the following: a strike, then a sloe inhalation, then a hard exhalation with guttural side tone.
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Varvara Stepanova 2009
Vladimir Markov 2009, this article translated by Natalia Ivanitsa