On practice methods

It's a theme; I'm now riffing on my own post from last week, but at least this time I'd already said I was going to do so.

So, about practicing and how I've changed my methods. I hate to admit this, especially in front of the public, but with graduate school and a romantic relationship kicking my ass and a general lack of musical motivation (which came from rebellion at being away from music school), I don’t think I practiced a lick between the summer of 2007 to the summer of 2008. Then I got better, but my routine was nowhere near regular. On January 1, 2009, I made a New Year’s Resolution to practice twice as much as I had the year before.

Not that that was a big difference, but still.

(Two times zero is… zero!)

I didn’t kick it into gear until May. I would make excuses – or, rather, my Little Hater would make excuses for me. It was only after I realized that the AWCB had a concert coming up very soon and my parts were nowhere near ready (and I feared embarrassing myself in front of my amazing sectionmates) that I realized that I needed a routine.

So, I promised: every week, I would practice for three hours. Whether this was one hour on three days or a half hour on six days or one and a half hours on two days, I would do it.

Needless to say, this worked about as well as my regimen in music school did. The Little Hater was back with the same old song. So...

I changed my routine.

I set goals for myself in outcomes, not in times, and this was something my Little Hater did not know how to deal with. Let me give you my goals for August 1, for example:
1. Be able to produce a high C when warmed up without working up to it.
2. Re-master the Blazhevich clef studies in C, Bb, G, F, and D.
3. Practice triple tonguing T-T-K until I can play Castles in the Air at 50 bpm using T-T-K only.
4. Be able to play any Bordogni etude using jaw/lip vibrato and not sound like ass.

When you consider that my chops hadn’t even fathomed a high C in about a year, #1 was a lofty goal (I made it, by the way -- the C isn't totally consistent and still sounds a little strained, but I got it!). #2 was easy, it was just there as a motivator to get me working actively with tenor and alto clefs again. #3 – working from T-K-T triple tonguing to T-T-K – is something I’ve always known I needed to do. And #4 is the subjective goal, depending on your definition of “sound like ass” (mine is, usually, "play it so that my neighbors don't call in a noise violation on me").

My Little Hater got to me the most with #3. “You’re never going to play this piece publicly again,” she said, “why are you working on it? Furthermore, you can already play it hella fast using T-K-T, why change a good thing?”

And then I would flub a T-T-K once, and it sounds better as T-K-T than everything else I’ve been trying to use T-T-K on, and my Little Hater would tell me that I shouldn’t mess with something that’s not broken. “You’ll never be able to change it, Lauren,” she said.

My response? “I have to get this down by August 1.”

Sure, this leads to some procrastinating at the beginning of the month. Sometimes my Little Hater will tell me things like “You don’t have enough time!” at the end of the month. But this leads to those intense practice sessions that do the most good for me, the ones where I get a lot accomplished in a short time because I’m really focused.

So thank you, Little Hater, for forcing me to work around you and inadvertently making my practice time more worthwhile.

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