Friday, June 22, 2007

No Music Needed

Your music stand is probably loaded with assignments, etudes, solos, excerpts, technique, etc. It all stares back at you daily and scolds you for not getting it all done. By the end of the day you're getting blasted with waves of guilt. That music stand is beating you up! How about taking a break from the visual for a change? Grab that stand, turn it around and set it in the furthest corner of your practice room. Now let's just play. You don't have to throw out playing properly, just don't be looking at any notes for a while.

Get started with scales (majors, minors, whole tones, and chromatic). Consider these more than fingering tests. Play them smoothly and musically with varied rhythms, dynamics, speeds and articulations. Can you play them in thirds. Fourths? Are you able to start at the top? Of course, you are welcome to eventually fly as fast as possible. No speed limits, just keep control.

How about noodling on arpeggios (majors, minors, augmented, diminshed 7ths). These are great for flexibility. Maneuver up and down with ease, speed, and obviously, accuracy. Leapfrogging is a nice mental and finger challenge. Include starting at the top.

Octaves seem to appear somewhere in every piece of music. Be prepared for those instant huge leaps. Be creative as you practice these in all keys, not just C. Adagio jumps are just as important as Presto changes. Efficient movement from range to range is your goal. Avoid chop-jamming. Relax that left and right hand death grip, and give your lips a chance to vibrate. Notice how easily octaves happen with the woodwind instruments? Copy that.

Now that you have both warmed up and given yourself a theory refresher, you need to play something fun. Your music stand is still banished from sight, so you'll have to use other instincts. Make a list of your top ten or twenty favorite songs, and learn to play them from memory in lots of keys. For starters, can you play Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring? The organist with no trumpet parts may ask this of you at your next church job. Don't be dependent on the music. Other songs. How about Josh Groban's You Lift Me Up, or any of his other hits? Or who else? Do I hear, In the Air Tonight? You'll be in My Heart?

Ballads, hymns, carols, sappy love songs, whatever, just play. Call this "Sunday Practice," easy stress-free playing. The flugelhorn is nice therapy for weary chops. It tends to relax tightness and makes it easier to product that rich velvety tone. These songs can help you combat burnout and down days of joyless drudgery.

Other ideas? We have the slow movements of Haydn, Hummel, Neruda, Arutunian, you name it. There are endless favorite lyrical works to choose from. Memorize and play them for those colleagues secretly listening just outside your practice room. Amaze and impress your friends! You'll also encourage yourself as you become a proficient songster able to play it without seeing it.

How are you at Here's That Rainy Day? (Sinatra, for the elderly. He's great if you don't mind his singing a bit flat. I suppose that goes with the mood of the rain.)
(Botti) (Chet Baker)

Or, I'll Be Seeing You (Linda Eder)

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