musings from a scholar, a performer, and a die-hard pedagogue!
Another semester is coming to close. I love winter break ---it is filled with practicing, reed making, and, oh yes, family!
As you all settle in for some great practice sessions, some food for thought:
The MISCONCEPTIONS of Practicing:
1.) I love my bassoon, so I should love every moment with my bassoon.
I love cookies. I do not love cookies 3 meals a day … nor do I love no-bake cookies. Actually, come to think of it, I can’t stand Chips Ahoy. So I’m a cookies snob … moreover my body will react, ahem, negatively if I only eat cookies.
The relation? Most students prefer to play only repertoire, but your “bassoon body” will react negatively if you only play repertoire. Learning the scalar passages in the Devienne Gm Sonata is great, until you are presented music in another key. Likewise, mastering the gorgeous vibrato necessary in the Bozza Sicilienne is quite the feat, until that piece is finished and another begins.
In contrast, working scales, etudes, and exercises improves your technique and fundamentals without associating these fundamentals to a specific composition. A balanced practice session is a quality practice session.
2.) I sound good enough.
The academic nature of our field is undeniable; however, the artistic nature of performance does not align with a modern grading system. One cannot “practice to a B.” There is no “Average” in practicing. There is always room for progress, always an opportunity to improve. Instead, we must set realistic and reasonable goals to be met at each practice session. Then, we have tangible self-assessment guides.
I am starting a new policy with my students next semester: they will self-grade their practicing each week.
How would you grade YOUR practicing this week?
Set daily (reasonable) goals and try again …
3.) I don’t have time to practice.
This cracks me up. Two weeks before a performance, miraculously, a LOT of time will appear in your schedule for practicing.
Current careers in the arts are varied and require double majors, minors, and active schedules. The time investment in academic coursework is intense. Practicing is focused on quality time in regular intervals. The last part of this phrase is crucial: in regular intervals. In lieu of cramming in hours prior to a big performance, schedule practice-time as you would class-time/mealtime/sleep. It is part of your day that is non-negotiable.
If you adhere to this schedule, there will be no need to cram. There will be less stress, fewer angry looks from your professor, and more time to pick out that fabulous recital outfit.