Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Simple Idea for a Quick Fix

Looking for something to latch onto during the June practice slump season? This won't take long, shouldn't be tiring, and could be your instant quality adjustment. In fact, that is the goal: first notes will sound great. Never mind the whole page, just pay attention to those first sounds. We're not going to sprint, but only practice bolting off the starting block in grand fashion every time.

Most of us are pleased if we can produce our best quality notes soon after we begin. But audition committees are not so forgiving. We will be expected to impress listeners with great quality instantly. Think of the horses at the start of the Kentucky Derby. That's how we are to produce - highly competitive from the get-go.

Begin by piling up a bunch of etudes, solos and excerpts on the stand. We're going to go from the top of as many as possible. Stop right away, and play no more than about three seconds max. No matter what the piece, the agenda is getting off to a great start. It will be very tempting to abandon this quick-stop plan as we are so accustomed to playing till we drop. For now though, we want to learn to listen for instant focus of tone, and develop the discipline to stop and make necessary corrections immediately.

Imagine two loud irritating obnoxious buzzers, just like you hear at basketball games at every time-out. Buzzer #1 will instantly buzz if your first note is stuffy, blipped, fuzzed, split, or unfocused to any degree. Buzzer #2 goes off if you continue playing, or as soon as your quality disintegrates. You will obviously be doing great if you can avoid activating them. Poor quality triggers the buzzers. Got it? The only thing worse than those buzzers are those dreaded three words, "Thank you. Next." So that's what this is about - staving off the hook.

So give it a try. Orchestra committees are looking for a few good notes. Bet you can't play just one!

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