Thursday, October 15, 2009

100 Days of Practice, Round 2, Day 3: Practice Tips, Redux

Good morning! It's 7 am. I've practiced three instruments and stretched, totalling 75 min. I've run the dishwasher. I've gotten caught up on email. I've even cleaned the shower. (Well, I sprayed bleach all over it and walked away. It worked! Just don't breathe in the bathroom. It's toxic.)

So, this has become Practice Tip 1: Schedule it! Same time, every day, immutable. For me, that means: Get up early. Get it done! I can give this tip with some surety, as I've been through the first 100 days now. I know for a fact that the 5 am wakey-wakey is the only way to go for me. Find what works for you, guard it like a dog bone, and growl furiously at anyone who dares approach.

And here are some more, some of which you may remember from the first 100. Reminders are good.

2. Control your environment. It really helps to be uninterrupted. Let family and others in your household know that you need focused time. Select a space that is away from the fray of daily life: a basement room, or on a different floor of the house. We're lucky here at Casa Soul. We built a soundproof room in the basement, but it's not perfect. It has mice. Fortunately, they are scared of saxophones.

3. Keep the space tidy. A cluttered space can result in a cluttered mind. If you spend the first ten minutes of your supposed practice time just trying to find your instrument under piles of clothes, empty bottles, and paper, you will waste practice time.

4. Whenever you can, practice when no one's home, or when no one else is awake. You'll feel better trying new things if you know there's no one around to hear you.

5. Secure the support of those you need most, whether it be your close friends, your spouse, your partner, or God forbid, us here in the 100 Days community. Let them know that daily practice is important to you. If it really is that important to you, you'll find that you're a far more pleasant person to be around when you're doing it. The rewards will be obvious both to you and to those around you.

6. On that note, no matter how important practice is, take care of your family/friends first. Your practice will have much greater chances of success if it is in balance with the rest of your life. If you are skipping the family dinner in order to practice, you may find that family or your partner resents your efforts, and as a result, any efforts you make will be counterbalanced with the work you have to do to right your relationship.

7. But, ironically, also put yourself first. There are people who are needy, who suck the living soul out of us, and can't stand it that music is more important to us than they are, and they like to tell us that either directly or passive-aggressively. Lose them. They are not your allies, not now and not later. They're okay for occasional dates, but don't marry them.

8. Turn off the phone. Calls can wait 'til you're done. It's too easy for a phone call to completely derail your practice session.

9. Take your time. Especially when your practice time is limited, remember that it's quantity over quality. It's better to spend 20 minutes working out that two-measure bug in a tune you've been learning than to rush through all ten songs that you're trying to keep current.

10. Play slowly. Better to play a tune once or twice, but do it right, than to play it twenty times but repeat the same mistakes. Playing slowly also exposes your weak points. You'll quickly see which parts of the tune you don't really know, when you force yourself to play a tune very slowly.

11. Listen carefully. Don't let yourself get away with anything! Record yourself, if you can, and listen back. Did you hit all the notes with equal strength? Are you on the beat? Is your fingering sloppy in some passages? You've got to kick your own butt. That's a good reason to...

12. Stretch! Partway through your session, stretch out. Stand up straight and reach your hands as high as you can into the air, keeping your lower back tucked in, not arched. Then stretch down to your toes and hang out there for a few breaths. Stand up. Twist, both your neck and your waist. Stretch your sides. All of this very slowly, all while breathing. Stretching partway through a session can be more effective than at the beginning because your muscles are then warmed up, and you'll get more out of the stretches. Bottom line: Keep your body together. It's just as important as your instrument. In fact, it's what makes the instrument work.

13. Remain focused. Don't phone it in. Especially once you're getting to know your tunes well, or when you're working on one of your daily practice routines (such as playing long tones), it's easy to tune out and not pay attention. You may find that you've been playing for ten minutes and not heard a single note you've played... instead, you were thinking about the guy who pissed you off in the grocery store line, the paper that's due tomorrow, or the car repairs you haven't yet scheduled. To help you stay focused, keep a sheet of paper beside you and jot down the things you need to deal with later, but then FORGET about them until AFTER you practice.

14. Be musical! Even if you're working on scales or long tones, you're still making music. Make it beautiful. Make it expressive. Make it meaningful. This is not a drill. This is art.

4 comments:

Peig said...

day 3

ok I am in offence of #6....But partners need to understand time is short if both work all day. He stays late after work and does his practice. I on the other hand come home, walk me and the dog and if took time to make dinner for two would have no time for me to play. Always a balance issue. It is what it is!!!

this am worked on transitions.....much better. tonite MBB out all night so I can focus on new tunes.

Got thumbs up from Soul Moma AND got to play with herself and Soul Papa. Got through first two tunes then crashed and burned on third.

Grand all together!!!!

Dr. D. Running said...

After finding some of my old music from back in the day, I have decided on two pieces for study. The Hidas Frigyes 'Meditation for Bass Trombone' and Anton(?) Lebedev's 'Concerto in One Movement'

The Concerto I haven't looked at since 1996 and the Figyas since 2000 - when I was using it for potential grad school auditions.

After running the concerto once, I have a lot of endurance to rebuild. That seems to be behind regaining tone and technique.

More calisthenics it is...

But look out in 100 days (well - 97)

Rob Hanold said...

Hi,
Got 2 Sally Gardens in yr e-mail, but no Morrison. That's ok. One tune is good for starters. Time to go practice.
Thanks

Ana Troyanos said...

Thanks Sue, I'm really focusing on getting my kids to practice correctly to improve and realizing I need to do the same things.