rharvey at brassworks-music.com
Fri May 23 01:29:19 CDT 2008
Pleased to have been able to help. I'd be interested, though, whether
in a few months time, your playing, technically and musically, shows
real signs of benefit from the work you will have done following the
advice you have been given. I look forward to a positive review.
On 23 May 2008, at 01:42, Cesar Gonzales wrote:
> This has been a fantastic answer to my question. It's helped me re-
> affirm my goals and through that has helped me find direction and
> drive again. I have to say you might have just sold your book to me,
> Thanks again,
> On Thu, May 22, 2008 at 4:59 PM, Roger Harvey <rharvey at brassworks-music.com
> > wrote:
> Dear Cesar,
> Here are some of my ideas about practicing. The first two passages
> are extracts from classes I have given at music colleges in London.
> The third is a chapter from my BrassWorkBook for Trombone (Bk 1 in a
> series of 3 - details at www.brassworks-music.com if you are
> interested.) There is some duplication between them but they each
> had a slightly different purpose and so things are expressed in
> different ways.
> Best wishes
> Roger Harvey
> Q1: Is practice necessary? Why Practice?
> Some players play well without apparently needing to practise.
> They have probably started with good physical set up and developed
> good habits while playing in bands etc. The good has been well
> reinforced through what amounts to constant practice while performing.
> (Anyone in this category can go now)
> Most players are not so lucky and need to work at basic technique
> to develop sound, flexibility, production, legato range and
> stamina. All of this is necessary if we are to be flexible musicians
> and adjust as required by the needs of performance.
> There may be years of bad technique to un-consolidate. This can
> only be done by constant attention to new, improved techniques and
> sufficient repetition for the new to replace the old in the muscle
> Having gained some degree of excellence it is important to maintain
> it.Time spent largely unemployed in an orchestra or the effects of
> ageing on the muscles can and will mean reduced technical
> response.Practice sessions need to be sensibly organised to ensure
> that deterioration is prevented from becoming a threat to ones
> playing standard.
> This is all to do with basic ability. If faced with a particularly
> demanding playing task then extra effort has to be made in order
> to develop the necessary skill or stamina.
> Leaving aside musicianship requirements, playing a brass instrument
> is a physical skill akin to an athletic activity; constant,
> sensible training is essential if the relevant physical parts are to
> be in shape to do what you want exactly when you want.
> Q2: How should practice be organised?
> 1) Goals:
> What are your realistic long term goals?
> How do you want to be playing in a year or 2?
> What do you want to sound like?
> What level of technical skill do want to have?
> 2) Short-term objectives:
> What do I need to address this week,month/term?
> What are my particular technical targets?
> How best do I maintain and develop my basic skills?
> What exercises/routines will work best?
> 3) Time:
> How much time do I need to devote to basic maintenance?
> How much time do I need to devote to developing skills?
> How much time can I find in my schedule?
> 4) Assessment:
> Am I doing the right sort/amount of practice?
> How do I set realistic, attainable and measurable targets?
> Q3: How do I develop a good attitude towards practice?
> 1) There are no gimmicks that realistically turn you from a
> struggling player into a virtuoso. Good advice might help to
> approach the activity in a more productive manner and sometimes
> results can be quickly obvios. But mostly improvement comes only
> with medium to long term practice. That is not to say that a few
> days concentrated practice on a particular aspect of technique
> cannot pay dividends. But even this needs to be consolidated and
> reviewed constantly if it is to become more or less an automatic
> feature of your playing. In other words you need to work, work and
> work and you have to accept that there is little chance of
> substabtial improvement in your plaing without it.
> 2) Work for its own sake, though is probably not very helpful. It
> could be harmful if all you are doing is repeating over and over
> again old faults. Each time you play a poor quality note it
> reinforces the bad habit and you will be extending the time it
> will take to develop good habits. Stop now practising without
> thought and learn to focus on the matters in hand. This can range
> from the aspects of playing a single good quality note to building
> an extended phrase. Knowing what you are trying to do and what it
> should sound like are essential. Then there must be intense
> concentration on the process. You should try to give the best
> possible performance of the exercise. Remember that you are trying
> to consolidate and reinforce good performance.
> 3) If the concentration os properly focused then, however
> simplistic the means to your end, you will find yourself in a
> 'zone', fully preoccupied by your desire to achieve good results.
> Practising while watching TV or otherwise distracting activities
> may sometimes help in simply reinforcing if the basics are good.
> Even then it is easy to become mindlessly repetitive and lacking in
> sufficient focus to avoid bad habits creeping in. Best not to do it.
> Q4: What materials should I use for practice sessions?
> 1) In order to concentrate fully on the technical matter in hand,
> it is best to use the simplest of materials for basic practice
> routines. Many players have their own exercises that help them with
> their particular approach and requirements. There are numerous
> books of warm-ups, flexibilities etc and these can be useful in
> directing the attention to particular techniques. Use whatever
> material you wish but make sure it is suitable for what you are
> working on.
> 2) When attempting to develop technical skills the exercises need
> to make demands on your technique. Choose or write exercises that
> will give you the opportunity to move forward at a reasonable pace.
> The carrot needs to dangled somewhere in front of you but not so
> far that you trip up trying to reach it.
> 3) When faced with something more advanced to work at, choose
> specific exercises that will help with the technique required.
> For example a difficult passage in a solo item can be isolated and
> made into an exercise in its own right.
> Do you have a burning desire to play music and play it well?
> Do you at least have a burning desire to earn a decent living?
> What are your means to this end?
> -individual practice
> -ensemble performance experience
> What are your individual goals in the short, medium, long term?
> -sound quality
> How do you organise your practice to achieve these goals?
> -Overall Objective: specific target area
> -Means: choice of material.
> -Performance - public emulation ideas to ensure full attention:
> -TV show demo of how a trombone sounds
> -last minute call to high profile concert
> -teaching video
> -someone important in next room
> -1 note audition (busy panel choose a single note at random from
> audition tape to select suitable candidates)
> -last minute of recording session - final take
> -remember that in spite of all the technical considerations, you
> must aim for a good sound - instead of thinking just about what is
> going on at the embouchure/lungs etc, try to make the air in the
> room resonate - especially if it is a large hall.
> -Awareness/assessment: must make judgements and assess (positively)
> -Review; store success, delete failure; decide how to proceed
> Chapter 11 :Practice
> A few lucky players seem to be able to pick up an instrument at any
> time and play with great facility and a good sound. Unfortunately
> most of us need to work at our playing, firstly to develop the good
> habits that give control and quality to the sound and then to
> maintain them. However, whether we are a beginner or a professional
> player it is just as important not to waste valuable time on futile
> practice. Practice time is best used if we have a clear idea of what
> we are trying to achieve and how we are going to set about it.
> Trombone players tend to play a lot less in orchestras than strings
> or woodwind and even the other brass. Often, in the working
> situation, we do too little to maintain our 'match fitness'.
> Ideally we do our preparation in a relaxed and private situation
> before the rehearsal but this is not always possible and any time
> available should be used sensibly.
> Why do I need to practise:
> As we learn a physical or mental process, repetition allows the
> brain to recognise the stimulus and respond with what it expects to
> be the correct reflex. Any repetitive activity will reinforce the
> memory; the more recognisable the activity becomes to the brain the
> stronger will be the reflex to it. This will apply to bad playing
> habits as well as good. It is important therefore, that we are
> constantly vigilant that as we practise we are providing the memory
> bank with good information and not nurturing bad habits to become
> yet stronger. It is always possible to break bad conditioning but
> the more deep-rooted it is the longer it takes. Better to avoid it
> in the first place.
> What should I practise:
> Before you start the session set out, mentally or in a written
> schedule if it helps, what the aims of the session are. This may be
> a simple list of basic exercises to develop or maintain technical
> aspects of your playing or it may include work on studies, pieces or
> repertoire. Even the more general repertoire-based practice can be
> broken down to include work on specific trouble points with some
> thoughts about how to help the specific technique required. Using a
> set programme of exercises can help to direct the attention but try
> not to let repetition of this programme become mindless. Always
> remind yourself why you are doing it.
> How should I practise:
> If you have decided what your objectives are, when you begin to play
> you will immediately be working productively. Continually
> concentrate on what you are doing so that you can assess the
> progress. It may help to imagine that you are performing to an
> audience in a major concert hall or making a video in which you are
> demonstrating how it should be done. Review your performance, even
> if it is only a single note, repeat or move on as you see fit.
> Is it working:
> Have a realistic view on what progress you expect to make
> immediately and in the longer term. For example, some gentle long
> notes and flexibilities should improve the response of the
> embouchure within minutes whereas it may take weeks to see any great
> development in range or sound quality. Be patient but constantly re-
> assess how things are going so that you can persevere or adjust as
> The 1% rule is used by some sportsmen in training and can be
> usefully applied; a difference of just 1% in performance ability by
> doing extra work may be the significant factor between success and
> failure. Repeated additions of 1% will become even more significant
> as time goes on.
> Cliché or not, a journey of a thousand miles really does start with
> a single step.
> Our mental disposition to our work is also a factor in how much we
> can achieve. We have a choice: we can approach our instruments with
> an attitude of pessimism or reluctance and the results will probably
> reflect it; on the other hand we can assure ourselves that because
> we are organised in our mind our session is going to be productive,
> we are going to enjoy it and make some definite steps forward, even
> if we are only laying some ground work for tomorrow.
> Slogans on the wall, practice diaries etc can all help but in the
> end the pleasure and stimulation we get from our playing are the
> best motivation.
> How long should I practise for:
> The amount of time spent practising is less important than the use
> it is put to. 30 minutes really sensible, dedicated practice is
> better than 3 hours of mindless doodling. This is not an excuse for
> doing the bare minimum. If you can only spare a few minutes then use
> them wisely; make sure the basics are covered, breathing, embouchure
> response, production control etc. Check out a few low notes as well
> as a few high ones. If necessary spend time working on current
> repertoire but rather than simply playing through, economise on time
> by picking out the most troublesome passages for particular
> attention. Try and include a few minutes of something entertaining,
> busk a tune, try to play something you know fairly well from memory,
> try it in different keys. Whatever you do, concentrate on sound
> quality and enjoy what you achieve.
> If more time is available work longer at basics, developing
> techniques and repertoire building. Spend a few minutes doing some
> sight reading or developing other musical skills such as
> transposing, reading from other clefs etc.
> The more time spent playing as well as possible the longer the
> benefit will last. Techniques will be positively reinforced, muscle
> tone and strength will develop with the consequent benefit to sound
> quality and stamina. In order to extend practice sessions
> substantially it is important to organise a sensible schedule that
> will allow time to work on all aspects of your playing without you
> becoming terminally fatigued. Leave heavy work such as high register
> playing till later in the day. Even if you are working at something
> which has testing high register passages, such as Bolero, you can
> assign a time later in your practice for the most demanding passages
> after you have perfected the rest of the piece.
> The majority of your time should be spent on keeping your basic
> playing techniques up to the mark. If all is well here then you
> should be able to play all but the most extreme music put in front
> of you.
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