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!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Session 34

I took yesterday off. For Pete's sake, I think that's okay.

Today I practiced for 15 minutes, but it was surprisingly good! Most of the damage I took was to my right wrist. The issue with wrist injuries is that finger movement while swollen can cause nerve damage. I took a high dose of ibuprofen to reduce swelling and got to work.

Just to assess my situation, I played a slow, 2 octave, F major scale. Just as I thought, all of the notes that involved my right hand made my wrist feel uncomfortable. Sooooooooo, I got really familiar with C, D, E, and F - nothing technical; just longtons. I Heard some interesting overtones when I got my notes in tune with a sounding tuner. I also practiced bending the pitch of each note as high and as low as I could, just because it's fun. I worked on varied speeds widths of vibrato, too.

I worked on double tonguing for a little while. I can do 16th notes at 72 bpm evenly. I have a long way to go.

After about 15 minutes my wrists hurt. I had actually worked my chops enough that the muscles were a little bit tired, too. I feel like I actually did some good work in just a few minutes. Then I went and immediately iced my wrists down.

I think I can do work like this a couple of times a day. The most strenuous part was putting my instrument together, so I left it together. I'm not getting very much moisture in the bore.

Ibuprofen, ice, and lots of short sessions should keep me in shape until I'm ready for technical work again. I'll do a different assessment scale every day, too.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Session 33, then CRUNCH!

Yesterday I had a fabulous, though brief, practice session. w00t!

I had been feeling a little like procrastinating an waiting until after work to practice, but that would have been late and I knew that I'd be tired from work.

Well, gentle readers, it's a good thing I didn't procrastinate because on my way to work... CRUNCH!

Got into a car accident. There were no fatalities, but I sustained some damage to my wrists. They're swollen pretty badly, so I'm going to stop typing now. I've taken one day of break from bassoonery. Tomorrow I'll see how it feels. Yarp.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Easier than I thought?

Woo hoo!

It turned out that the progressions that I was dreading weren't that hard! I've worked on the Van Hoesen scales in the past, just somehow never learned the broken arpeggio patterns. It turns out that the chord progressions are like riding a bike. Today I worked on the keys of C, F, and Bb. I fully expected to make it through only one key today. As the keys get harder it will take me longer, but this is a pleasant surprise, for sure.

... but perfection isn't my goal.

Well, if perfection isn't my goal, what is?

For a while, in my practice, I'm going to focus on quantity of certain things and quality of others. I am striving for perfection in my scales and in the pieces I'm working on that I hope to perform. With my etudes I'm not going to sweat perfection so much. My goal with them is to increase the speed and accuracy with which I read. I hope to learn to recognize more patterns in the music I play and get more comfortable with keys and accidentals.

Sessions 25-32

Okay, I've been delinquent in writing about my practice, but I haven't been delinquent about practicing. I've been practicing every day for over a month. That's a milestone! At this point I feel no resistance to practicing - as if my habit is now TO practice as opposed to NOT practicing. I've found places I can practice when it's not appropriate to practice at my place. My friend with a house to himself and the night janitors at the school are getting used to me.

Today I'll be working on #5 of the Gambaro book. That means I've been doing a little better on average than my estimate of two days per study.

The new scale pattern I'm learning for the Van Hoesen scales is coming along nicely. I'm about to the point where I can play the notes in my sleep - I'm working hard on intonation of those notes and the connections between them. Unfortunately, I'm having a very very hard time with leaps to high Eb and E. Nothing new for me. Maybe I should change my reeds.

I need to figure out a strategy for my next step with Van Hoesen scales. Here's the issue: the work I need to do becomes exponentially harder for here on out. Whereas I've been playing one pattern in every key every day, my next step involves learning a chord progression of five chords in each key - 5 times as much work. The step after that involves seven chords in each key. Then I need smush it all together. The point is this: OMG!!!1! I'm going to need 12 hours a day just to get through my scales!

So these two guys are at a bar...

Guy #1: I'll bet you your IRA that I can eat that bicycle sitting over there.

Guy #2: That sounds like a great bet. Even if you do eat that bike, I just started my IRA. There's only $20 in there. It's worth twenty bucks just to watch you try. Snicker snicker.

Guy #1: Okay! whispers You'll be sorryyyyyyyyyy...

Guy #1 proceeds to a machine shop and has the bike ground into a fine powder. He then proceeds to his local apothecary and has them put the powder into millions of little capsules.

Guy #1 takes two of the capsules with each meal. 50 years later he takes the last capsule, and lives for free for the rest of his life off of the retirement account of Guy #2, who happened to be a savvy investor.

Moral of this story: I'm full of it. Dude would have died of iron poisoning after a week...

Real moral: Break your practice into digestible chunks and you can do just about anything.

Today I'll start working on those chords.