Monday, January 12, 2009

"Switching Gears" in my practice sessions

I'm in another final push for a recital Friday January, 23rd at 6 PM, trying to correct/prevent/put-myself-in-a-better-mindset-than mistakes from previous recitals, while not trying to make it seem like this big monumental event.

One thing I've found in other recitals is that I will get so preoccupied with trying to make perfect, fascinating "musical" music that I will overthink every little cadence, and obsessively try to get myself into this perfect concentration space where everything sounds perfect to me (even if it sounds horrible). On the flip side, sometimes everything sounds out of tune during a recital or big performance to me, causing me to over-correct when in reality, a small adjustment will do.

So, what I'm trying this time is to just manage my tone-production better. I know this music very well. Sure, there are a couple of things that I've let be messy and I'm slowly cleaning those up, but 2/3rds of my practice is literally straight out of the Arban book. (For you non-trumpet players/non-musicians, the "Arban book" is a collection of basic exercises that cover phrasing, technique, articulation, dexterity, playing over chords, ornamentation, how to create a cadenza, melodies, and a host of other things.)

These exercises are simple but often not easy. I'll start around page one or page three, and just get myself in a place during my practice session where my response is great and it feels like the notes are "playing themselves." I'm paying special attention to blowing through the ends of my phrases (something I often don't do because I'll be quote-unquote "musical" with my phrases around recital time and often chip the end of a line because I'm backing off with my air as well) and finger technique. I've never been blessed with a particularly notable dexterity when it comes to changing directions. Most people figure this out and come to terms with it when in ninth grade or so, and it takes care of itself. I have some catching up to do as a lifelong project, and it's such a simple fix that it's easy to miss: I will mess with my tone production or embouchure to fix things that, honestly, could be fixed by drills working my third finger and its rhythmic integrity.

So, I'll practice this way a whole lot, and then pick one "messy passage" per piece to work on slowly and drill as if it were in the Arban book.

My problem comes later in the practice session when I want to make a transition to running the music. Although my tone production seems to go fine when I'm playing with a piano (so I can pay attention to intonation), I'll start fraying notes here and there--just little things, but big enough to be unnerving. When I'm in a warm-up mode my tone sounds fine and playing feels great, and when I'm in a performance-like situation, it's also more or less strong. It's that middle space--where I fix problems, apply them as they would be in actual music, and "practice"--that things get more difficult.

Any suggestions? I need to figure out a way with my nerves to play well by myself. I've never had an easy time with this. Get me with a pianist or a chamber group or a jazz band, and I lose 2/3rds of my nerves. Unfortunately, for orchestral auditions, juries, interviews, and contests, it's typically just you standing up there playing as if there were a room full of musicians around you. It's always been tough to simulate for me.

Oh well. I guess if I just try to extend that warm-up concentration a little further, much of this will take care of itself. I'm probably just getting myself all worked up over nothing.

Oh, and for the benefit of my trumpet/cornet-playing friends, I should bring something to e-attention:

If you have the recent, purple "Herbert L. Clarke Edition" from Carl Fisher, with a foreword from Michael Sachs and including all the piano parts for the Clarke solos, be aware that The Bride of the Waves has a significant discrepancy between the piano and the trumpet part. An entire B-section (triple tonguing section in concert C-minor, I think), which would be about a full page of the solo part, is omitted. The trumpet part seems to make total sense in and of itself until the piano starts going into a different key. Whoops! Glad I caught it last Friday night and not next Friday night.

It's actually good that I caught on to this; it's a bit too short on its own, and plus: it gives me something new to practice! If I can memorize this new section, that will be great and give me something to worry about rather than what I'm doing now--just being nervous about nothing. More to come about recital prep!

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