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 Best Use of Limited Practice Time
Author: aspiring clarinetist 
Date:   2007-08-29 14:43

I posted some time ago about getting back into playing after a bit of a hiatus. I'm happy to report that I'm having a great time - bought a used A as I'd hoped and have taken a couple lessons with someone I'm really enjoying studying with and is encouraging. I am still feeling very motivated and look forward to my practice time increasing when my children are school-aged.

I have recently read "The Inner Game of Music" and "The Mastery of Music" by Barry Green which I've found have helped me hone my idea of practice and performance and how they should be approached. I'm also currently reading "The Art of Practice" by Madeline Bruser and plan to read Don Green's "Fight your Fear" and "Audition Success." I'd love to hear of other book suggestions too.

So now the question at hand is what is the best way to practice. If I'm extremely organized and use my time to it's best, I may get in an hour a day. (Usually my toddler hangs on my leg and wails when I practice, so I'm going to try to get some playing in just as she wakes up in the AM and from her nap before I get her up and see how that goes -- she may give me 20-25 min. at a time if I'm lucky.) I can also practice in the evening sometimes at our church which I really enjoy but can't get there every night and usually again only have an hour.

With these time constraints would anyone have a good method to recommend (i.e. how much time on the CF Baermann 3rd div., long tones, etudes, excerpts, etc.) My goal is to in the next few years audition for sub lists and symphonies in smaller cities in my area as the opportunities arise so although I look forward to having time to enjoy solo work in my practice time, right now the excerpts and anything that increases my endurance, tone, and technical ability is probably most important.


- AC

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 Re: Best Use of Limited Practice Time
Author: Sylvain 
Date:   2007-08-29 14:58

If you have two 20mn slots per day, my advice is:

Spend the first 20mn on the fundamentals:
warm up, scales (with different articulations, including arpeggios), and large intervals (in my opinion much more useful than long tones).

Spend the other 20mn slot working on something you like, an etude (Rose 32 are always a good place to start) or a sonata. Concentrate on phrasing and making sense out of the music in front of you.

Careful scale practice is probably one of the most important aspect of getting yourself back in shape. If you only have 10mn in a day, pick a key, practice the scale very carefully with a metronome and a tuner and you will see your endurance and technique improve.

Finally, listen to a lot of music, if you can get different versions of the same piece just to hear how a piece can be interpreted differently.

Good luck!

Sylvain Bouix <sbouix@gmail.com>

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 Re: Best Use of Limited Practice Time
Author: Bob Phillips 
Date:   2007-08-29 15:16

I work on the assignments given by my teacher. Those take precedence over my work on pieces to be performed or played with my ensemble groups. At this time, my core work is on scale memorization, a couple of exercises from the Kroepsch studies and a "big" etude --a page or so of challenging stuff.

In addition to the core work, I focus on one piece for my repertoire, and that gets reviewed as time permits with my weekly hour lesson. Again, the core work has priority.

When I have time, I work on things that I just love playing.

Unlike you, I do have time to put into my clarinet work; but am able to make progress on those days when an hour is all I get.

Bob Phillips

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 Re: Best Use of Limited Practice Time
Author: clarinerd 
Date:   2007-08-29 15:44

As far as books go, I would suggest "Psycho Cybernetics" by Maxwell Maltz. (costs about $6) The book focuses on mental practice and using your imagination to accomplish what you want. Since you can't play out loud most of your day, perhaps you can learn to dry play or "shadow box." The author suggests that this method is as effective as actually doing it. I'm not sure if it's as effective, but it certainly keeps me from wasting time while I'm actually playing and has helped me a lot.

For the Don Greene books, "Fight your fear and Win" and "Performance Success" are far superior to "Audition Success." These books are of course best in preparation for auditions and big performances. The Maltz book is perhaps best for your situation right now.

If you finish all of these and get bored, just check out a sports psychology section in your local library. The nation is obessesed w/ sports, and you may find quite a few techniques from those books as well. Learn how a boxer practices w/out an opponent for example.

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 Re: Best Use of Limited Practice Time
Author: Ed 
Date:   2007-08-29 17:26

Spend some time working out of The Vade-Mecum by Jean-Jean. They are technical exercises specifically designed to work your technical over difficult problems in a short period of time. If you have limited time, do a half-page to a page each day. It will do wonders to build or keep your technique up, especially the trill, left and right hand studies.

Post Edited (2007-08-30 01:20)

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 Re: Best Use of Limited Practice Time
Author: D 
Date:   2007-08-29 19:03

I would suggest scheduling in a small portion of time, maybe 5 minutes a day or one session a week to just play something you like for fun. You are not doing this for a living, and although you want to improve and are prepared to work for that, don't loose sight of what you love about playing music in the first place. I try and make sure that I am honest about practice times. I will be aware of if I am practicing or if I am noodling around. Both are fine, but pretending to yourself that you are practicing when you are actually just making a noise is counterproductive.
Perhaps as you are on a tight daily schedule with bratletts around, you may feel that you are getting nowhere at times. You might find it helpful to draw up a set of things you want to achieve, stepping stones on the way to those and then break down that into smaller bits. At least you can see where you are headed, things where you might need input from others and things you have achieved already. For the longest time I had a mental block about C major. Could play most other scales, just not that one. It was definitely on the list of stepping stones and it felt so good once it was moved off the list of 'things I really need to work on right now' and down to 'think about it on the bus occasionally but not play it everyday'.

Post Edited (2007-08-29 19:03)

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 Re: Best Use of Limited Practice Time
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2007-08-29 19:12

5 to 10 - fun is critical as it keeps you motivated and feeling like you can still play after your butt is kicked by some tough passages.


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 Re: Best Use of Limited Practice Time
Author: butterflymusic 
Date:   2007-08-29 20:55

I agree with the idea to make sure and play for fun. When I was a music major I focused way too much time and energy on playing the toughest stuff out there better than anyone else and ended up losing sight of that. Later in life I've learned to relax and enjoy, and it's so much less frustrating!

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 Re: Best Use of Limited Practice Time
Author: skygardener 
Date:   2007-08-29 23:44

books on acting by Stanislavski (sp?) are very interesting and much of it can be applied to music performance.

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 Re: Best Use of Limited Practice Time
Author: aspiring clarinetist 
Date:   2007-08-30 05:14

Thank you very much! I've saved all the tips so far (and welcome more of them). I'm only taking a lesson here and there as I feel ready and will probably focus on excerpts with that teacher so as to make the best use of time/money. But I am definitely wanting to spend time daily on scales and etudes as well.

Thanks again -- you are all such a great resource!

- AC

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