Weekly Roundup 5/12/15

Reading: Requested a few books on musical acoustics from the library. Thumbing through my old ear-training texts.

Arranging: In the editing stages of charts for the Satellites. We have a gig! June 27th. Details to follow. A few changes to make to Da Pacem Domine before Metro’s concert on June 4th.

Practicing: Metro Brass charts, lip trills, and a review of alto clef because I am rusty!

Rehearsing: Midnight in Moscow met last week and we had a productive rehearsal revamping some of our favorite charts. Our next gig on the books is July 12th!

Performing: Metro Brass: June 4th. The Satellites: June 27th. Midnight in Moscow: July 12th. Metro Brass: July 23. More information under “Upcoming” on my homepage.

Listening: Brandi Carlile, a little bit, but mostly silence has been nice this week.

Teaching: Two students are trying out for Minnesota Junior Winds, so I’ve been prepping them for that and helping them record. Other students are diving into learning tunes by ear, and working with the Intonation Helper.

Relaxing: Spent lots of time at Eloise Butler this weekend, volunteering. It’s so gorgeous there, you guys. Go check it out.

Weekly Roundup 5/5/15

Reading: Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Oliver Sacks

Arranging: Sam Smith’s I’m Not The Only One is done for The Satellites. I’m out of things to arrange- unless I finally get around to that instrumental version of David Bowie’s Fame that I’ve always wanted to do…

Practicing: Red Dragonfly, Annie Laurie, Elegy for Mippy II (to keep up with a student who will perform it for his MYS audition next month).

Rehearsing: Metro on Sunday had a long rehearsal in preparation for our June 4th concert. We dove into Da Pacem, which I arranged for the group a few weeks ago.

Performing: No gigs currently booked until end of May.

Listening: A friend invited me to see Lady Lamb the Beekeeper tonight at 7th Street Entry, so I’ve been rocking out to her smart, heavy lyrics.

Teaching: I may have finally found my metaphor for airflow- at least, it’s worked with a few students so far! I want air to ‘flow’ like water, I’ve talked about putting your foot on the gas pedal, I’ve asked students to move their air like a solid brick of sound. The other day I reversed the concept of control, and asked a student to imagine I was pulling the air/sound out of him, like a string. It worked immediately. And it worked again with another student. Teaching. Win.

Relaxing: Avengers: Age of Ultron! Minneapolis MayDay festivities. Long hikes along the Minnesota River. Bike rides. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love spring.

on routines

About once or twice a season I fall into a little funk. It’s nothing as serious as depression, but it’s definitely a listlessness, a desire to be lazy and do the bare minimum. Being self-employed and making my own schedule, this can seem mighty tempting. What would it matter if I took a Thursday afternoon to watch TV instead of getting some arranging done or approaching my second practice session? Can’t I just get back to it tomorrow when my brain’s rested?

And sometimes I give in, and take a nap on the couch with my kitties.

And sometimes I fight it. And I’ve been fighting it more and more lately, as I get better at routines.

In January of this year, I officially become solely self-employed. I had been working a part-time office assistant job, mostly from home, that took up about 3-4 hours on weekday afternoons. When that ended, I found myself facing whole days with seemingly nothing to do until my lessons in the evening. I know from years of experience that unlimited free time is a killer for me, and that I need to have some sort of a schedule to keep myself on task.

So I made a routine. Mornings after breakfast, I set aside an hour/hour and a half to warm-up and practice my trombone. On Tuesdays I would blog, regardless of whether I had much to say or not. Somedays I would read or do research on a musical topic, or do lesson preparation, other days I would arrange. I had it blocked off, but over time what I chose to do each day became more fluid and dependent on what was needed next. In the afternoon another hour of practice.

After 5pm, if there are no lessons to be taught, I allow myself to fully ‘clock out’ and relax.

And Friday and Saturday constitute my ‘weekend’.

Last week was tough. I really didn’t want to do much on trombone besides get through my warm-up, and sometimes even that was hard. I had things to arrange that have been on the master list for a long time, but instead I conjured up an entirely different project, and that consumed most of my week. There’s nothing wrong with mixing up the routine from time to time, but for me it can make it a lot difficult to get back on track.

This week feels different. Practicing this morning felt fresh and productive. I’ve arranged a tune, finished my other project, blogged, networked, done studio housekeeping. I’m not judging myself for my week of ‘meh’, but I am glad I pushed myself to keep to a routine throughout it, even if it was just the bare minimum.

Your routine might look different. The only thread that connects your days might be that you make your bed in the morning. Or you might do the same task or go to the same classes everyday. If you’re in my studio, I might ask that you do the same exercise everyday. I might be trying to get you to establish a routine, or I might genuinely want to see what a week of daily work on an exercise will do for you. I’m learning some of these things too, especially what makes my teaching effective over time. Start to think about what you do that anchors your days, and how it helps you improve musically.

It doesn’t have to be boring.

It could be totally freeing.

Weekly Roundup 4/28/15

Reading: Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Oliver Sacks

Arranging: Arranging went on halt last week as I undertook a new project: revamping my studio welcome packet.  Just today though, I got back on track and finished I’ve Never Found a Man for The Satellites. Tomorrow I’ll take on Sam Smith’s I’m Not The Only One and then, unless Alan picks some new tunes, I’ll be done for a while!

Practicing: Red Dragonfly, Annie Laurie, chromatic scale patterns, lip slurs up to the 9th and 10th partials.

Rehearsing: Midnight in Moscow had a great rehearsal last Wednesday- it was much needed after a stressful day for me. We have a gig on the books and are working on more- stay tuned!

Performing: No gigs currently booked until May.

Listening: Sleater-Kinney absorbed much of my weekend, being the most excellent soundtrack to clean the house on a sunny day.

Teaching: Several of my students have asked for help with intonation issues, so I’ve prescribed lots of slow scales and tunes with the Intonation Helper. Intonation isn’t something your slide does. It’s something your ears do.

Relaxing: Biking, eating tacos, petting kitties, reading in the sunshine.

Weekly Roundup 4/21/15

Reading: Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Oliver Sacks

Arranging: Charts for The Satellites are almost all done! I have two more to do: I’ve Never Found A Man (Lavelle White) and I’m Not The Only One (Sam Smith). Never Found is actually done- but our previous arranger wrote a different horn soli that isn’t as hip as the one on the track. So basically I’m just going to redo that part of it.

Practicing: Red Dragonfly, Annie Laurie, chromatic scale patterns, lip slurs up to the 9th and 10th partials.

Rehearsing: Midnight in Moscow this week!

Performing: No gigs currently booked until May.

Listening: Went to see the University Opera perform Marriage of Figaro on Saturday night. My friend Sophie was singing Susanna, and she was incredible! I’m also giving the new Sufjan Stevens album a spin.

Teaching: Lots of folks prepping for auditions. And it’s time again to do some serious intonation/tone production work. Sit tight for that.

Relaxing: 21 days into #30daysofbiking! Doing great so far- averaging at least 5 miles a day, 25 at the most! Also, reading some excellent non-music related fiction and non-fiction.

Weekly Roundup 4/14/15

Reading: Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Oliver Sacks

Arranging: Da Pacem Domine, by Arvo Pärt. Originally for choir, I am transcribing it for Metro Brass’s 11-piece lineup. We will be performing it on June 4th. Concert Details.

Practicing: Red Dragonfly, Annie Laurie, chromatic scale patterns, sight-reading

Rehearsing: Metro Brass had a great rehearsal Sunday night.

Performing: No gigs currently booked until May.

Listening: Have had a little break from consuming anything new, musically. Taking in the sounds of spring as it develops instead.

Teaching: Preparing folks for contest performances as well as upcoming auditions.

Relaxing: The Garden is open again! For those who don’t know, I volunteer at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Theo Wirth Park. It’s my favorite place on the PLANET (besides my bed) and you should defintely come visit if you haven’t ever been, or if it’s been a while. Right now, the spring ephemerals are coming up- don’t blink or you’ll miss them!

What top practicers get right

The Creativity Post: 8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently

Dear Students,

Read this article carefully. Think about what I may have told you in the past about practicing, and what my expectations for your performance in lessons are. (Hint: it’s never about speed, or agility, or knowing the whole thing).

Here are 2 things I’d like you to pull from this (although all of it is important):

1. Musicians who repeatedly practice something incorrectly will repeatedly play it incorrectly. Musicians who up the number of times they play a passage correctly will have a greater chance of performing it correctly.

(Further translation: let yourself play things the right way. If you make a mistake when you’re in the learning stages, go back and fix it. Go slowly. Speed up slowly. Take your time.)

2. The top performers in this study were found to have practiced musical intention and inflection early in the learning stages. This means that they created a total concept of what the music said to them and incorporated this into how they learned it. This accessed a deeper part of their learning and embedded the passage in a way that makes it harder to forget.

Now, what’s the difference between this and when I ask you to go all the way through a piece as if you’re performing it?

Performance is also a practice, and when you’re performing, you can’t stop and fix things. What goes wrong will just be wrong, it’s over, move on, focus on the remainder. It’s difficult to let go of mistakes and I respect the desire to fix errors. However, we also have to be able to develop the ability to keep going, i.e. keep our eye on the prize. If you are practicing a performance, you can make a mental note to go back and fix a section in your next session.

Happy practicing!

“The slower you go, the faster you’ll get there.” -John Link