Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 4

Three Excuses

I have some fabulous excuses that I use to get out of practicing.

Dirty house. The sink is full, there's dog fur everywhere, I haven't done laundry in a month, and where's that weird smell coming from? How can I possibly focus?

Pshaw. I've been ignoring the housework for weeks. To convince myself that it's going to bother me for the next hour while I knock out my scales is a load of malarky. I can go to the laundromat AFTER I practice. It won't make an iota of difference.

Consideration for the neighbors. This is my current favorite excuse. I live in a duplex where sound travels very well. Since I've lived here, two families with young children have occupied the apartment above mine. Though I don't have a close relationship with my current upstairs neighbor, I do know that she is a single mom of a preschool aged boy. I think she works two jobs; if she doesn't she at least works an irregular schedule. I know her life is not easy, and I know that some people can't sleep if a musical instrument is playing under their bedroom. Politeness is a necessity when living closely with people.

I think that some of the things I practice sound beautiful and I hope she thinks so, too. Unfortunately, some of the things I need to practice sound terrible - currently I'm working on popping out reliable, in tune high E's. Earlier this summer I tried to learn to fluttertongue (still working on that, folks) and one of my goals by then end of the summer is to be able to double tongue with some fluency. I have to make reeds - and crow on them sometimes. Those things sound flat out ugly. Even if I'm practicing something with beautiful tone and intonation, I often repeat the same passage over and over. That's no fun to listen to.

All of these considerations are compounded by a very slight twinge of embarrassment I have when I realize that someone can hear all of my mistakes. Though I'm sure she could care less, the performer in me is always on stage and always aware of the people who can hear. I even blush a little when someone walks down the road outside of my window.

So how dow I manage this? Playing bassoon well is my job. When I teach, I get paid for my expertise. It's easy to put the needs of others ahead of your own - especially if it justifies laziness. Putting the needs of my students and audience in the forefront justifies the opposite conclusion, anyway.

I approach bassoon playing like any other job - my business hours are from 10am to 8pm. That gives the neighbors ample time to go to bed early or enjoy some quiet evening time and plenty of time to sleep in late. If it's a Sunday or a holiday and I don't hear footsteps upstairs I may even wait until noon... but that's pushing the fuzzy line of procrastination.

If I don't have time to practice in these hours, there's also the option of practicing outside of my home. The local school of music has practice rooms open in the evenings and friends have offered up their homes for my practice. When it comes down to it, this is really no excuse to miss a day.

Not enough time. This was one of my favorites while I was pursuing my undergrad degree. "I only have a half hour before class. By the time I go to my locker, brush my teeth, find a room, unpack, and warm up I'll be out of time."

What a load of bull... ahem. While it's true that sometimes I couldn't find a practice room, to give up before I tried was inexcusable. Swishing water in my mouth is usually enough to freshen up, and who really cares unless I'm specifically working on reeds anyway. Having assembled and disassembled my bassoon millions of times, I know that it really doesn't take that long. Aaaand, if I'm headed to a rehearsal, and already warmed up, showing up five minutes early, warmed up, with my horn assembled is much more effective than showing up 15 minutes early and cold. Add to that a few time-saving devices, like keeping a folding stand and water close at hand, and this excuse really doesn't hold up. The remaining 20 minutes was enough time to run through almost any solo piece I was working on or to hit the hot spots in my ensemble music.

While in school for my master's the time problem was a little more valid. Academic work became a real challenge. I was the teaching assistant for several very demanding professors - at times this job was the most difficult part of my degree, but I learned an incredible amount and am thankful for the opportunity. In addition I was struggling to manage some serious issues at home that proved to be a total time-suck. For almost two years I was constantly tired and felt pulled in too many directions. Prioritization became an obsession for me. I wrote lengthy journal entries in an attempt to not only come out of the time a better bassoon player, but just to cope with my situation.

During this period, there were times when, out of self-preservation, I thought it was the best choice to skip a day. I have no regrets about that. In the end, my priorities clarified and I had to make some tough decisions. Those decisions ended up greatly reducing the amount of stress in my life. Now I'm healthier and I'm happier with the direction my life is taking. There are enough hours in the day to eat, sleep, work, and practice. I even have a social life filled with people that I respect and admire. There is enough time.

Today I have the day off from work, but I'm not giving myself the day off from the bassoon. I have worked so hard to have the freedom to play this instrument. To give up that opportunity would damage more than my bassoon playing.

Today's goals:
I would like to have at least two practice sessions today. The first will be scales and Weissenborn Studies. The second will focus on CPE Bach. I'll do a little adjusting to the two reeds I've been working on.

Session 1:
Major scales @ quarter = 70, in sixteenth notes. Two reps to challenge breath and focus a little. Made a few mistakes. Tomorrow make it through all of your scales with no mistakes. Should be easy as pie! Minor scales still without metronome - yes I could do them as fast as my majors if I play them by ear, but my goal with these now is to get more fluent with correct (not enharmonic) note names, key signatures, and accidentals. Scales in thirds - nice and slow. For technique and intonation. Perfection was NOT achieved. The scale I had to work hardest on was D and the main problem was focus. It was the next to last scale I played and had been working fairly intensely up to then. I started noticing noises from outside and becoming aware of my body - how my arms and legs felt. I had to play it at least 7 times before I got it right (@ eighths at 70. ugh), but then got it right three times in a row. I believe that I would have played it better had I been playing it faster, but performance doesn't always give you that option, so I stuck with it. It payed off and I had no problem with G.

I think that my biggest problem with technique has always been maintaining focus. I'm no longer going to allow myself to get away with mistakes in a practice setting. I'm on a mission!

Reed - humidity is low today and reed is closed. Caused problems in the lowest register. Opened and scraped. Scraped on other reed a little. Still too hard. Will let it settle for a while and work on it again later today.

I read through nine Weissenborn etudes! I'm wondering, though: does this "sight reading practice" contribute to my general problem with making too many mistakes? In order to have it be truly a sight reading exercise I have to allow myself to make mistakes to keep the etudes somewhere near tempo. I'm more than half way through finishing the book, so I think I'll finish what I started, but I will change my strategy soon. After the book is done, I'll take on an etude book that fits my current level of ability and learn an etude a week - just like school. I'll even record myself in order to give myself a slightly more objective lesson. This way I'll be reading AND perfecting lots of music, just like I should be.

No comments:

Post a Comment