Shift to summer, regular practice techniques

In the last two posts, I talk about my goals over the next summer. One of them is to make a professional video recording of five commissioned pieces that have something to do with outer space. This is an important objective for me, because one of my big goals is to get tenure at CSU, and this relies on better recruiting, better teaching and better performing. A recording is a benchmark for achievement in performance–especially in academia.

This recording session will be in the middle of July. Yesterday, I talked about a weekly rotation of the recording material, so that I can have three heavy days and four light days per week. Today, I’ll write a little about some of my basic practice techniques that I like to use; tomorrow I’ll go through some great ideas for off-trumpet practice; then I will start laying out an eight-week practice plan for optimal fitness and preparation for my recording sessions. At that point, I plan on turning my blogging attention to some of the other big goals I mentioned earlier.

Practice techniques.

The first, most important, is to simply isolate any problems and repeat those problems until they sound better. This is the “eat an elephant one bite at a time” approach. The partner to this technique is to slow the isolated passage down to a speed which can be played really well (I’ll try to avoid the word “perfectly”).

Another great practice strategy is to clump passages in greater and greater amounts as each clump becomes polished. An example would be to practice measure 1 (let’s say four times in a row, perfectly–oh no, there’s that word). Then measure 2 (same). Then combine 1 and 2 (practicing three times perfectly). The measure 3 and 4 the same way. Then combine measures 1 through 4 (two times perfectly). Continue this way through the piece.

If you do this clumping strategy from the end of the piece, you call it “back-chaining.”

I like to practice while listening to a recording, so that I can get familiar with the accompaniment and the flow of the piece. I like to use some sort of audio app that lets me slow the audio file down to different percentages of the original speed.

I like to record my practice to hear objectively what is going on. It can be excruciating to hear yourself, but it is so helpful. Also this technique puts in much-needed rests in your practice session.

I like to practice playing the passages on my mouthpiece. The mouthpiece provides a certain transparency to playing technique that enables you to correct things that couldn’t be detected when playing the trumpet normally. It’s important to maintain a pitch reference when working with the mouthpiece, so that a good sense of pitch is developed. A truer sense of pitch enables the trumpet to sound more resonate and fluid.


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