Saturday, November 21, 2009

100 Days of Practice Round 2, Day 37: Practicing Quietly

Back when I was in college, oh, about (mumble mumble) years ago, I attended a workshop with baritone sax player Hamiett Bluett, who performed with the adventurous World Saxophone Quartet.

He was talking about the critical importance of daily practice when someone asked him, "But what about when you have roommates or live in a dorm and don't want to bother the people around you?" That question sounded so whiny; it was probably me who asked it. I don't actually remember who asked it, but I do remember his answer. He got scary. Firey. He boomed:

"Then practice playing QUIETLY."

Despite being shrunken by the response, funnily enough, I don't remember ever having done it in my musical life. Well, it takes some of us twenty years to get around to doing things right. I did just that tonight, in a beautiful attic bedroom of a Dublin row house, while Mini Me sleeps in the room next door, and big sister and inlaws sleep downstairs.

Tonight, I practiced my entire routine, but quietly: long tones, A rolls, B rolls, low D crans, and the eight or so tunes I've been working on lately.

How did it go?

JUST AWFUL!

It is VERY difficult to play quietly while also maintaining good tone. Mine got warbly, and the sound was fluffy. What a lesson. It took immense will to continue. But, playing quietly also had a side benefit: for some reason, I also started playing slowly, which is one of the best ways to test if you know a tune as well as you think you do.

It was very, very good stuff. Not quite as good as our windy, sunny walk along the hills of Howth today, our visit with the giant wild seals of Howth, or the chat in the Pier House afterward. Not nearly as good as watching Mini Me's joy at being with grandparents. And certainly not nearly as good as sharing the "other life" I've been living with my older sister, who is here on the trip.

But very, very good, all the same.

Goodnight from Dublin!

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