Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Practice Motto: Amongst Our Weaponry Are....

Surprise, fear, ruthless efficiency and a fanatical devotion to the--- wait a minute ----- that's not my practice motto, that's The Spanish Inquisition skit from Monty Python!

Hmm, well, surprise and fear do come into play now and then. It's the term ruthless efficiency that's been running through my head recently. Ruthlessness seems to be the rule, given minimal practice time these days in which to prepare for May's difficult ensemble concert and July's solo concert. It's a tough juggle, my husband is working almost round-the-clock to make a deadline, and my 7-month-old son could care less about my piddling artistic/flutey problems. So practice moments need to be cunningly snatched. Linked with my policy of brutal honesty, which involves keeping the tuner by my side, I seem to have a very pugnacious attitude in the practice room these days. It's a place where "no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" But guess what? It's paying off!

I will share some of my weaponry that inflicts ruthless efficiency:
  • a daily task list and
  • a projected schedule of when I will practice each piece

Since it is impossible to practice every piece every day, I take what is difficult from each piece and work it into my daily practice. Some things on my list now are: the multiphonics found in Berio Sequenza and Takemitsu Voice, double tonguing as fast as possible....

The projected schedule is something I make when it seems there are too many pieces and too little time. I start from the first day and project up to the concert day(s). I figure out how much practice each piece will need, and assign one or more pieces to practice in detail each day. That way, I don't have to worry about practicing each piece every day. It keeps me from panicking, and importantly, from procrastinating. If it's my day to practice that difficult trio I was dreading, just do it. Put the other pieces aside - the items on the daily task list will keep me up-to-date, in shape and on top of them.

I do seem to be making headway, and watching Monty Python for a laugh now and then does help!


  1. This is a very effective way for students to practice when it is around midterm or final testing time! I absolutely loved your suggestions to make a task list and a projected practice schedule...I am finding these extremely helpful!

  2. Great post! I have found such lists to be extremely helpful as well. I think smart practicing is the surest way to improve and in many ways allows people with less time to improve quicker and more than people with lots of time.