tenet (ten' it), noun: a principle, doctrine, or belief held as truth

Welcome to my blog! Here I will share some of my thoughts on horn playing and teaching, which I think about a lot, and maybe some other things, too. Since my job (which thankfully, allows me to do a lot of playing and teaching) keeps me very busy, as does my wonderful family, I may not write frequently. My goal will be quality, not quantity!

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Recital Prep, Part 2 - Hitting the Woodshed

     So, you have a recital date booked and you've picked your program.  Now it's time to hit the proverbial woodshed and get to work learning and refining all those pieces.  I've already written some about practice techniques, so I'll just follow up here with a few words of caution.
     First and foremost, I want to stress how important it is to get started correctly on a new piece!  All too often, a student comes to their lesson after they've been working on a new solo for a week or more, and they're playing wrong rhythms and/or notes!  At that point,
they've spent several hours (hopefully) practicing the piece, but they've been practicing it wrong!  Now it will require extra effort not only to learn the correct notes and rhythms, but also to erase the bad habits that have been formed.
     How do you make sure you're practicing the piece correctly from the outset?  Listen to a professional recording (or several).  Go slooooooow to make sure you're playing the notes and rhythms absolutely accurately.  Use a metronome and tuner daily.  I use a metronome and tuner almost every time I practice, even within days of a performance on a piece that I've been playing for years.  Be sure to use these tools as training devices and not as crutches.  Finally, just concentrate!  Those first few days with a new piece, make sure you're reading all the dynamics, accidentals, key signatures, rhythms, etc. correctly.
     Another common mistake students make is to work on the first page of a new piece, and not even touch the ending.  Don't procrastinate!  That music certainly isn't going to get any better while you're putting it off.  Plus, just think of how many pieces have the most difficult stuff at the end!  If you're only going to practice one page, you'd be better off starting at the end!  Even better: get through the entire piece so you get a sense of what you're dealing with.  It's admirable to do some detailed work on a focused area of the piece, but to completely neglect the rest is asking for trouble.
     While you're in this woodshedding phase, it helps to be organized.  I like to plan.  I always keep a folder in my horn case with all the music that I'm currently working on.  That way, it's all in one place, and when I'm heading out the door, I just need to be sure to grab that one folder.  I also use the folder to prioritize my practice.  At the end of a practice session, I flip through the music and put the pieces in order for the next session, with the ones needing the most attention at the front.  The next time I start practicing, I just open the folder and get to work.  The folder doesn't have to be fancy; mine is just a regular manila file folder.  Another way to prioritize your practice is just to keep a running to-do list.  Update the list after every practice session to reflect the priority order for next time.  Don't let more than a couple days go by without touching each piece at least once.
     Along these same lines, you may choose to keep a practice log, which is a way to journal your progress, breakthroughs, and frustrations.  All of these methods of organization can help you avoid spending too much time on some of your pieces while not spending enough on others.
     Happy Practicing!

Next in the series: "Continuity"

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