Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Thought for Today

When your friends share your passion, the extrinsic and intrinsic factors of your motivation become one in the same.

Changing my environment and the people I interact with on a daily basis has greatly reduced my level of cognitive dissonance and enabled me to really start to do what I love.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Sept. 15, 2009
I don't regret to inform you that I will no longer have time to update this blog on a regular basis. If you've subscribed (you guys ROCK!) then you have probably already figured that out.

You see, I no longer need the blog and it was really all about ME ME ME anyway. You see school has got me busy enough and in a rich enough musical environment that I have more than enough outside motivation to get my practice on. The musicians with whom I'm playing are so much better than me (or my perception of me) that I have a healthy pile of fear at every rehearsal! It is a healthy fear because it's motivating – not debilitating.

I will keep the blog. Every once in a while I hit on a link that would be helpful to my musician friends and I'll post it and invite discussion. Also, I have no idea what activities the summer will bring, so I may start the experiment back up just to keep myself growing in a time that can get stagnant if I haven't planned many musical activities.

In case you're wondering what life is like for a doctoral candidate at a top rate school, I'll tell you this: OMFG! OMFG! OMFFFG! I'm surrounded by so much talent! There are people all around telling me that I CAN make a career as a performer – something I felt like I never used to hear. I am like a pig in acorn mush, wallowing in squishy, welcoming piles of wonderful music. We'll see what I say after my three years is up, but for now, I have to say this:

If you're looking to have a career in music, do whatever it takes to get yourself surrounded by people who share your dreams. Whatever it takes!

Here's a good link, unrelated: http://www.dallastravers.com/blog/?p=321

Peace out,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Resetting Again

Ah well. This is why I'm in school, right?

Some new practice goals. For a little while I'm only to do one key of VHs a week. This is the way they are done at my school. Who am I to go against more than fifty years of tradition? If I rock them hardcore in my next couple of lessons then I'll be allowed to maybe do two a week. Also, goodbye Milde. Hello Oubradous. Slowly. Ugh.

I have new standards to live up to, as well. This really IS why I'm in school. I tend to simply not hear some of the ways I can improve... I guess that's not a WHOLE truth...

I do hear many many ways to improve, but to keep morale up (or something) I tend to ignore some of them. I'll get to them later, right?

Well, I'm not allowed to do that anymore. How is a girl to maintain her sanity?

1. The carrots. The short term carrot: the approval of my teacher and my peers. The long term carrot: JOB, JOB, JOBBIE-JOBS!

2. Self Maintenance. Sleep. Eat. Exercise. Stretch. Snuggle. Party just a little. Give yourself permission to screw up. Take a break every once in a while (while still practicing every single day.) When teacherman isn't listening play something just for fun. Yeah. That's what I said.

3. Eyes on the prize. The real one. I'm doing what I love. And soon I'll be doing it better.

I'm here because I needed someone to crack the whip. Now I've got it and it hurts. Enough typing. Off to study for entrance exams. And then to practice.

A few days worth of Practice Logging

Friday, Aug. 6, 2010

Today I have my first bassoon lesson with my new teacher. I haven't had a chance to record myself playing my pieces. Should I just do it this morning? Do I have time?

That's a stupid question. Better I should ask, “Does it make sense to do this when I barely have time to deal with the issues it brings up?” I think it does. I shall finish my coffee, have a shower, and get to work!

I didn't record, but I did have a very productive, one hour practice session. I got through my warm-up, the CPE Bach, and Shost 9 – best playing of Shost 9, yet! My hands and wrists are tired and I'm glad to have a break for a while, but I'm not in pain.

...oh, and my lesson was just talking. Oh well. More time to practice.

Saturday, Aug. 7, 2010

Did the key of A today. It was easy, in tune, and awesome! Knowing that I may not get a second chance to practice I went ahead and worked on Shosty and CPE Bach. All was good until the second movement of CPE Bach when I started to lose focus. Aw hell. I quit, rather than wear my hands out practicing mistakes.

Monday Aug. 9

My Van Hoesens on D sucked so bad yesterday that played them again today. I will be playing them tomorrow as well.

Tuesday, Aug. 10

Did a little work on slurring to high D today. My VH key was C, so I figured I be working a lot of the same ranges as my D. I encountered a lot of the same problems. I slowed my VH-es down so much that they became more like long tones – I think I need to do more of that kind of work.

My pitch is astronomically sharp. I tried every finished reed I had and still had the same problem. I feel like my low register is leaking and affecting response, too. I'll have some questions to ask about that in my lesson tomorrow. JH, will you try my horn and tell me it's not my fault? Please?

Whenever I re-calibrate my ear to get it used to how low 440 really is, I'm amazed at how my tone quality changes. When all is working well it becomes more full and beautiful. But now, when I get my pitch down it sounds wobbly and harsh. Dubstep bassoon. Maybe I need to change my reeds after all. Ugh.

Added a daily routine today. Milde scale and arpeggio studies that correspond with the key of my VH scales. Made sense to start today b/c I just happened to be on the key of C. Today I did the scale study at quarter = 80 and the arp study at quarter = 60. That's fair for a single day's reading. We'll see if I can get them faster when I come full circle again. By then my reading should be faster and I'll be more familiar with the etudes.

It's an interesting psychological experiment for me to be doing these now. I had done them in the past with a teacher that did not work out for me, so I have a lot of negative connotations with the book. However, though those kept me from ever revisiting them before, now I can look back on the studies and what they did for me. They helped me improve my concept of key, and helped me recognize dissonances and common figures. They vastly improved my reading skills and were a tool in the development of my flick technique. Revisiting them now throws into focus that I haven't lost, but gained ability in the nearly eight years since I last played them. Good feeling!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reset Button

Today is my fourth full day of living in a new town and my second fully functional day as a self-realized musician, here. Days 1 and 2 were necessarily without practice because of the stress that packing, moving, and unpacking put on my hands and wrists. I don't yet have a hand therapist here, and I've had at least a low grade pain in my hands and wrists the whole time.

The car accident and the move had the effect of scrambling my brains to the point where I had completely lost sight of my goals for a little while. But now it's time to get back to them. Yet again, I need to re-organize and re-prioritize. My lifestyle here is simpler with fewer friends, obligations, and distractions. Perfect for getting down to work.

Now I'm going through the Van Hoesen exercises in their complete form one key at a time. In addition I'm doing some metronome work with double tonguing and long tones on the tonic of each key each time I sit down to practice. I'm keeping track of the keys I've completed on the back of the exercise sheet.

I have my first meeting with my new teacher this Friday. Not sure whether or not he's expecting a lesson, I'd better have something prepared – besides the pile of questions I have for him.

And that thing (or those things) will be Shosty 9 and CPE Bach. That's basically what I'd been working on before the accident and that's what he'd asked me to work on. Boy, there's lots of work I can do on those, too. My intonation is horrible and I just don't have the control over my reeds that I wish I had. I think it's going to continue to come down to what it always is. Long tones, Pinky.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Practicing and Managing Big Lifestyle Changes

Things have gotten complicated. I have completely lost track of what practice I've done since my car accident. I do know that it hasn't been daily and it hasn't been as much as I'd hoped.

I see an occupational therapist three times a week. She assesses the health of my hands and gives me various treatments to reduce inflammation so that I can practice while I'm healing from my car accident. I am also taking NSAIDs 24/7 to reduce inflammation. In the morning and after long walks my hands are swollen and irritated. When I practice or type, my fingers, hands, and wrists get sore, irritated, and tired.

In addition, I'm going through some lifestyle changes that are causing some upheaval. I'm in the process of packing for a big move. I'm excited for my move, but the packing isn't good for my hands. In addition, the reason for the move - beginning my doctorate degree - has me anxious about practicing.

Also, I've decided, for ideological and financial reasons, to not get another car. It should be easy enough for me to get around in my new town, but where I live now, I have to plan for about an hour of walking and riding public transportation to get to work, the school, or my doctor's appointments.

Add to this that I'm having to live on a very very tight budget, and you might see why it's easy for me to get down, right now. I feel like I had just gotten to the point of daily practice as a habit and that has been taken away from me.

So, how can I deal with this?

Emotions. Lately when I feel myself getting down or I start to feel sorry about myself I turn it around and get angry instead. I'm not an angry person by nature, but in this case, the reaction is intentional. The anger gives me a little more energy and reminds me of my self worth - something I forget that I have when I'm not working or practicing. I just have to think about the negligence of the other driver for a few minutes and I'm reminded that my life (and my hands) have value. A few minutes later the anger has subsided and I remember my purpose and get on with things.

I know that this won't work for everyone. It's part of my nature to get depressed instead of getting angry. I don't want to be angry at other people. The other driver made a mistake that I have nearly made many times and it's a mistake that many other people will make. But if I talk myself into a little bit of anger, I'm driven to take control of my life and do what I know is right.

Time Management. You tell me. No really. Haven't figured this out, yet.

I can't practice at school at night anymore because it's not safe to walk. When I have more than one engagement in a day, I feel like I spend the whole day walking. My only consolation in that this is temporary. My new city's transportation system should be much much better and I'll be located more centrally. If getting around doesn't prove to be better there, I will be forced to get a bike or a car. But probably a car, because I have a bad history of falling off of bikes. I hope it doesn't come to that, though.

This time management issue is wreaking as much havoc on my practice as my injury.

Practicing. This is what it's all about, after all.

In some of the time I would have otherwise spent practicing, I'm studying for entrance exams. I feel like this is a wise use of my time.

I've been carrying my reed box around with me. When I have some idle time I either work on finishing reeds, or if I'm alone I whip out a reed and practice double tonguing. My double tonguing is getting more even and fluid, and just a little faster. It hasn't beat my single tongue, yet.

To make my little bit of practicing time I have at home more efficient, I've set up a program in my computer to record what I do. This is something I've been meaning to do for a while. This accident has had the silver lining of finally forcing me to do it.

Off I go to do some double tonguing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Session(s) 35

Tuesday I did four practice sessions on about 15 minutes each. I practiced longtones on A and I worked on double tonguing.

Yesterday I spent the day talking to lawyers, teaching, and attending occupational therapy (a three hour appointment!). At OT I was encouraged to hang up the technical practice for a while, to give up typing and writint, and to "choose my battles" which I take to mean, be very limited and intentional about my practice.

I chose not to practice yesterday, BUT as I traveled around town by foot, I played around with double tonguing. Without a reed in my mouth and the air resistance of the bassoon the motions weren't exactly the same, but I feel that getting more familiar with my tongue's abilities can only help my career (insert raunchy joke here_______________).

My approach to grad school prep is going to have to change. I can't practice for three hours a day as I'd hoped. I will mostly give up typing - if I make entries, they will be short and they will include abbreviations. Sry.

Practice will focus on DTing and LTs and not on technique.

I'll fill my remaining time studying for entrance exams. Wish me luck!