Notes for young players!-how do you Practice?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by SteveA, Mar 30, 2004.

  1. I wrote this out after reading Davy0's post about getting into / going to school! Then I realised that that was an old post (2000) and Davy0 will probably be finishing his degree this year ! Chuckel! Anyway I'm someone who dosen't play anymore but I did go to school and These thoughts may be usefull for someone ....

    Get Organised
    Get your self a diary probably a week to 2 pages layout is good (or if you have a laptop put it all in that ultimately what ever works for you ... but get a diary!!) your going to have lessons gigs rehearsals classes and around that your going to have to organise your practice. Your diary is your friend don't lose it! Also don't forget to block in some R&R!

    Think about what is the most difficult stuff you have to play? Take in mind that you only ever have 3-4 really productive hours a day. use that time when your sharp (for some it's first thing in the morning I'm a night person) use your best time to do the most difficult stuff.

    When you have a gig or a lesson coming up look at what you need to play for that session and arrange your practice during the week accordingly. If you have something that's very challenging, work slowly up to it with a metronome try and plan your practice so that you can play the piece at speed (or even a little faster) at least 3 days before the lesson or concert.

    If you have something that's just real big and scary to work on (That 1st big concerto or say a Beethoven orchestral part or what ever) remember that if you can break the problem down your doing good work don't let the overall size of the thing scare you. Take a passage a line or 2 and say to your self "What's the difficult part of this passage?" Is it the string crossing? Is it the speed and a fingering issue? Is it about controlling dynamics is it about phrasing? Ask yourself what is the problem and how can I break it down?

    Get into the habit of inventing your own simple exercise to help you knock over the problem. Eg if it's a string crossing issue put the metronome on slow just play the open strings involved (say it may be an a to g crossing) how does bow placement feel or how should it work? Then add the left hand to the process still playing very slowly. Go back to the open strings and crank up the metronome a few clicks then add the left hand again. Keep doing this until you reach the tempo or it starts to sound bad if that happens (it starts to sound bad) it's ok either wind the metronome back down or it’s time to stop and approach another problem or take a short break. Record what speed you got to with the metronome on that day (diary use again). Try the same passage the next day you'll probably find an improvement!

    Break it all down
    Also make a note of all the most difficult parts you have to practice and make a list of this stuff. You may have 4 or 5 orchestral parts 2 or 3 major works and goodness knows what else that your working on. It's real easy to miss something that you should have worked on. To get around this I developed a system that worked like this.

    Every week I’d go thru my all the music I was working on. I’d list only the difficult sections of each work easy stuff I would not practice and I’d review the list after lessons as well. In retrospect I call it the Matrix approach!

    Name of work Page Line Bars Issue
    Mozart 2 4 2-15 Dynamics
    Bach 4 3 4-16 Fingering
    Concerto 1 5 3-17 Tempo
    1 6 12-18
    2 2 1-23

    If I only had limited practice time I would focus only on the most difficult parts, most days my goal was to get thru the list at least once.

    Also you can use this information in lessons ask your tutor how do you approach this section? Can you show me how you would play this? This is about using your lesson time productively sometimes your tutor may not be aware of all the music that your working on or you may have a spare 15 minutes

    Away from the bass
    You can do constructive work away from the bass as well, take your music around with you sit at the piano and play the notes (sing them even if you can’t play them on the piano sing the notes it helps your body to become part of the music, and is very good for intonation) Listen to recordings see if you can find different versions of the same work? What do you like about and dislike about the different versions? How can you incorporate that into your playing? Write these notes down chat with other musicians about what your listening 2 what do they think. Take the time to sit down with a score and a piece of music and go thru it with a recording may be once a week.

    Just before you go to sleep look at your music. What are the most demanding parts? What do you need to remember to play the part well? Visualise yourself playing stuff perfectly (even if you can't quite do it yet) this helps prime your subconscious.

    Give your self time to warm up and remember to take a break about every 45 minutes get up and stretch for 5 (go get a glass of water what ever) be aware of your body although it's great to hunker down and work hard you can forget that your back is getting sore or your hand is starting to feel cramped up be careful!

    Use a mirror when you practice is the way you move around the instrument smooth? Does it look relaxed? Watch your tutors see how they move when they play try and realise that bass playing is a very athletic physical process it is like being a long distance runner.

    Remember to eat!
    Food is energy which can be turned into music! Make sure you grab at least 2 meals a day! And snack on something, if your playing the bass all day this is a very large amount of energy your going to need. remember the body needs fuel!

    Record your lessons listen to them the next day make notes and act on those notes. Also record your practicing at least once a week listen back to that? Whats good whats bad also see if you can get a recording of groups your playing with this can be usefull. You can never hear what you sound like from the point of view of the audiance as your always with the bass not in the audience ...this can be usefull information!

    Once every 4 months try and record something a major piece your working on .. in a years time 2 years time you will have a record of your progress and sometimes it’s good to have a recording that you can submit for an audition as opposed to having to run about and organise something at the last minute.

    And finally have fun! Your going to learn, make friends and become a musician! Enjoy that process.

    Steve A

    After posting this may be we should have a new Forum how do you practice???
  2. That's a great post; those are all really good pointers. One that I'm going to take advantage of is the idea to record your lessons. I'm going to get a little micro cassette recorder and do that from now on, because I can never remember exactly what my teacher said during that short hour. Seems like a great way to get more instruction for your money, since you can go back and listen to those lessons over and over again...
  3. Nick Ara

    Nick Ara

    Jul 22, 2002
    Long Island, NY
    SteveA, recording is a GREAT idea.

    I bought one of those tiny digital recorders ($100) from Rad&% Sh)3'. It will store about 70 minutes of content. Best of all, its real tiny (about 1"X.5"X4"), and uses two AAA batteries. Sounds decent, and since a lesson or clinic is usually a low volume, uncluttered event, you'll get very good clarity.

    The best part is that the recorder comes with a USB cable and a CD with pc software so you can import the lesson as a file in WAV format. If you like, you can convert this to an MP3 (Google up some shareware for this) and burn it to CD.

    I find it VERY valuable to play back my lessons while driving or commuting with my discman player. You'd be surprised how much information is imparted by your instructor that you could swear you never heard the first time.

    Just make sure you first get permission to record, of course! ;)
  4. ArenW


    Jan 14, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA
    I'm starting lessons in June- thanks for all the great ideas!