Week 5…

This past week was not as productive as I would have hoped.  While the rest of my co workers were in San Francisco playing gigs for Fleet Week SF, I was hanging back here in Hawaii, so you would think that I would have gotten a lot done!  Nope.

I had plenty of desk work, and when you throw in the temptation to go home early everyday and hang out with my little bambino, things did not go well in the practice department.  Ha.  It ended up being a nice break though.

Oh…I forgot to post my week 7 assignment video!  Well, here it is!  As I promised, I recorded it on Monday.  Its actually been on YouTube all week, I just never got around to posting a blog about it.

I did the same thing as last time and I doubled up my recording with a Zoom audio recorder.  The sound is just so much better!  Its a little more work to put the video together, but overall I think its worth it.  Its a good reminder that my sound isn’t as wacky as I was thinking it was.  I am also starting to hear more little subtle things in my sound that I want to improve.  Unfortunately, I have really come down with a case of the lazies and haven’t put in effort to work on it at all.  Perhaps it would be different if I were taking a real audition at the end of this challenge.  Its so easy to let things go when there’s really nothing at stake…

I am still frustrated that I keep making little mental errors that result in technical flubs.  Ugh.  I think it might be prudent to start doing these little mock-audition recordings every day or every other day.

Week 5:

I definitely took an unscheduled break in the challenge this past week.  And that’s ok!  Sometimes its good to take a minute and balance yourself.  So for that reason, I am going to repeat the previous assignment.  Here it is again, if you need a reminder:

  • Revisit group 3 excerpts, and keep polishing all excerpts (mental practice counts!).
  • Choose a favorite recording of the Mozart Concerto.  Focus on the first thirty seconds of the solo entrance, and write down a few words that you think of when you listen to it.  Listen a few times, and finalize these key words.
  • Practice visualizing those first thirty seconds.  For more details on how to do this, read Nathan Cole’s Audition challenge week 5 blog entry.  This should be hard, it will probably take multiple tries over several days.  Come up with some key words for your visualization once you get the hang of it.
  • The final assignment is to compare your key words from the favorite recording to key words that you come up with.

I hope I can have a more productive week in the practice room.  I will also share my word assignments from week 7 in my next blog post (I forgot my stuff at work, hahaha).  Happy practicing (and visualizing)!

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Sometimes we forget…

I’ll be honest.  I completely forgot to do my video yesterday!  Well that’s not entirely true.  I remembered on my way home from work, but then it was definitely too late.  I definitely wasn’t going to turn around and go back.  And seeing since I don’t ever practice on the weekends (weekends=family time) that means I won’t be getting my video recorded until Monday.  So yeah.  Whoops.

Although I totally suck and I don’t have a video ready, I did want to write a post about next week’s assignment.  This week will be kind of a break from recording videos.  I was going to wait until next week for the visualization assignment, but because my friend and colleague Deanna who is doing the challenge with me, will be with the rest of my coworkers in San Francisco for Fleet week, and there just isn’t time for much practice or video recording!  Of course, I am staying behind, so I will have all the time in the world!  But I figured it would be a good opportunity for this type of assignment.

Week 6:

By now you should be able to execute all the excerpts at or close to the final tempo.  The next phase of preparation is going to work to polish up all that technique work that we’ve been doing the last two months and really focus in on playing the excerpts vs. executing them.

Assignment:

  • Revisit group 3 excerpts, and keep polishing all excerpts (mental practice counts!).
  • Choose a favorite recording of the Mozart Concerto.  Focus on the first thirty seconds of the solo entrance, and write down a few words that you think of when you listen to it.  Listen a few times, and finalize these key words.
  • Practice visualizing those first thirty seconds.  For more details on how to do this, read Nathan Cole’s Audition challenge week 5 blog entry.  This should be hard, it will probably take multiple tries over several days.  Come up with some key words for your visualization once you get the hang of it.
  • The final assignment is to compare your key words from the favorite recording to key words that you come up with.

In reality, you don’t even need to pick up your instrument this week to finish the assignment.  We’ve spent the last 8 weeks concentrating on technique and execution, now its time to transition to a more artistic and musical approach up to the end of the challenge.  I guarantee everyone who shows up for these auditions can execute the excerpts.  But the person who stands out and wins auditions have that extra something, and that extra something is what we need to work towards for the next 6 weeks.

And I promise I will post my week 7 assignment results/video on Monday!  To make up for it, here’s a cute pic of my son:

See, doesn’t his face make everything better?  Well I think so.

I’ll report back on Monday!

Make sure you empty your SD cards, folks.

Before I say anything, this week turned out much better than last week.  I felt much more organized, and I really felt like I got something accomplished!  I went into my recording session feeling much more prepared.  Unfortunately, I neglected to empty my SD card and I ran out of space about 3 ½ minutes in to my recording.  Whoops.  Luckily, I had decided to also record an audio track with a decent recorder (aka not a phone or a GoPro), so I had a Zoom recorder going at the same time!  So it wasn’t a total loss.  If I were preparing this video for an actual audition submission, I would be screwed and I would probably have had to re-do it.  But for my purposes here, I just did some editing to add the audio track to what I did get on video.  The audio keeps going in my video even when the picture cuts out (I just dubbed the audio track over the video, Voila!)

Obviously, I’m still struggling with focus and keeping the mistakes at bay.  I’ve actually been doing a really good job in my practice sessions to be extremely deliberate in my execution, and I never “practice” the mistakes I make in my videos.  It is so frustrating when I make stupid mental errors when it comes to the actual performance.  Ugh.  I guess this is why I’m doing this challenge!  Practice, practice, practice.

I am much happier with my sound though.  Not sure if its actually better, or the recorded audio is better.  As I said before, the audio is from a Zoom recorder, so its actually decent, even though the room kinda sucks.

Week 7:

The assignment for next week (week 7) is pretty much the same as last week.  We are still focusing and working on technique, but all group 1 and 2 excerpts should be played as close to the final tempo for the video this week.

  • Mozart concerto, entire exposition. Play with metronome set on half note = 58 (or whatever your final tempo is)
  • Three group 1 excerpts chosen at random
  • Two group 2 excerpts chosen at random

After this week, we start “Phase 2” of our preparation, in which we polish our technique and start to focus on more musical ideas rather than technical.  To prepare for this transition, I am also assigning some listening.  Find at least one example recording for each excerpt, preferably more than one, though that can be difficult with some of the band excerpts.  I want you to come up with a word or phrase that comes to mind for each excerpt when you listen to it.  Write it on a sticky note and put it on the music, so that you see it when you play it.  This is meant to help you get “in the mood” musically.  Do this for all excerpts, including our group 3 excerpts and the Mozart Concerto.

Have a great week!  I would say see you Friday, but lets be honest…its gonna be Saturday or Sunday.  Ha!

Video and Challenge Week 8

Ok, so this week was kind of a wash.  But even though I didn’t upload my video until today, I did manage to get my recording done on Friday.  To be honest, it took a lot of motivation to get it done.  I didn’t have a lot of time for practice last week and I was not feeling as prepared as I wished I could be.  I also had a very long gig on Friday morning, and I really wasn’t in the mood to practice afterwards!  All I wanted to do was go home!  Especially because I was about to have a really long workday that started super early on Saturday (I went to the Big Island for a parade).  I also forgot my GoPro camera at home, so I had to use my phone to record my video.

There were so many reasons that I could have used to make excuses to not record a video.  But I decided to look at it as an opportunity to see how I play with no proper warm up and in not so ideal conditions.  Although I wasn’t going into it completely cold (like I said, I played a gig that morning – but on a plastic reed haha), I knew it would be interesting.  I basically selected a reed, and pressed record.  Here’s what happened:

In general I think I did OK. A few mistakes here and there…mostly due to lack of focus!  I took everything under tempo, but that was the plan originally.  I had to do the Mozart concerto without a metronome, because I use my phone as my metronome and it won’t record video and run the met app at the same time. But it ended up being a really good test in my inner pulse. The tendency is to start at the correct slow tempo, but then creep faster and faster. I tried my best to hold down the tempo without the aid of the met.

Also, I have not been that pleased with my sound lately. It sounds too unstable and squawky to me. Ugh. I’ve been trying to put more time into reed working, and also really  working on the beginning of the sound to try to see if it helps. But it could quite possibly be the room and recording equipment though. I’m going to dig out my husband’s old Zoom recorder this week and see if there is a difference.

I also focused this week on being 100% ready to go and focused on the task before I start anything.  Its a challenge!  It is so easy to just start playing on auto pilot.  I felt like I started all my excerpts much better than the last few weeks.  I am going to keep that focus this week, since it seems to be a weak area for me.

Now to this week’s assignment:

  • Mozart Concerto, entire exposition with metronome set on half note = 50 (focus on inner pulse!)
  • Three excerpts from group 1
  • Two excerpts from group 2

As you can see, it’s pretty much the same as last week.  I want to improve my pulse for the Mozart Concerto, that is why I’m putting the metronome on such a big beat.

I am going to do something different with my practice schedule starting this week.  So far in the challenge, I’ve been only practicing the excerpts that I assign myself for the video recording.  I had a thought though…that’s not really how auditions work!  So I am going to practice all my group 1 and 2 excerpts, and then pick some at random to play for the video on Friday.  I think that will better represent an audition situation.

So for the next two weeks, I’m going to split all the excerpts (groups 1 & 2 only) into three equal groups and rotate through a three day schedule:

  • Day A: Dahl, Holst, Mozart Serenade
  • Day B: Holst, Borodin, Gounoud, Williams
  • Day C: Borodin, Bach, Beethoven, Grainger

As you can see, I worked it out so that I practice the group 1 excerpts more often.  I’ll work in the Mozart concerto when I have time.  My schedule this week is a little more forgiving, so I hope I can get more practicing done, and record a better video.

Well, I’m going to go enjoy my Monday off of work.  Back to the grind tomorrow though!  Good luck and happy practicing!

Week 10 Video, and Week 9 assignment

Oops I’m a day late!  But I did record my video yesterday, but I didn’t have time until now to write a post about it.  Honestly, I’ve had one of the worst weeks of practicing in awhile.  Not sure what it was, probably a combination of lack of time and focus. I’ve just felt super distracted and unorganized this week!

Anyway, to recap, this week I organized the excerpts into three groups based on practice priority.  And then the assignment was to select three excerpts from group 1, and two from group 2 (5 excerpts total).  Here is what I chose for this week:

  • Dahl Sinfonietta
  • Holst Hammersmith (1st excerpt)
  • Borodin Polovetsian Dances
  • Williams/Lavender Midway March
  • Beethoven Symphony no. 8

And here’s the video!

I haven’t had a chance to watch this video yet, but there’s one thing that I noticed especially this week.  My biggest problem is getting started.  For some reason, I tend to just start playing without having my focus 100% on what I’m about to do.  My mind is in a thousand places when I start, so then I make mistakes.  You can see it in my video this week especially.  So that’s going to be a theme in my practicing next week, for sure.

This is why this challenge is so good for me.  It brings to the surface many general issues that I have glossed over time and time again!  I’ve also tried to mimic a real audition situation each time.  I usually record my video at the end of my work day, and I basically just select a reed and then press record (I usually practice in the mornings).

Now to next week’s assignment.  Its pretty similar to last week.  In addition to the video, I want you to think about a general thing to work on this week in all your practicing.  For me, as I mentioned above, I’m going to work on only starting when I’m 100% focused on the passage I’m about to play.  But it can be anything that you feel needs improving.

Assignment for your video:

  • Mozart Concerto, entire exposition, recorded with the metronome set at quarter = 100
  • Choice of 3 excerpts from group 1
  • Choice of 2 excerpts from group 2

Again, don’t worry about tempo as much as being 100% accurate.  The idea is to have progress, not perfection.  When selecting your excerpts this week, remember that the goal is to have all the technique work done by the end of week 7.  Feel free to repeat excerpts from last week, or choose a different set.  Its all about what you need to work on, while giving space to those that don’t need as much work.  With that, these are the excerpts I’m going to work on this week:

  • Dahl Sinfonietta
  • Borodin Polovetsian Dances
  • Bach duet
  • Gounoud Ballet from Faust
  • Mozart Serenade (first excerpt only)

As you can see, some repeats, some new ones.

I have a really busy week coming up, but I’m hoping to make enough time for practicing that I can feel like I actually accomplished something.

Have a great week!  See you Friday!

 

 

 

Week 10 assignment

I’m lucky in that I get a four days off this weekend!  So since I have a pretty strict policy of not practicing on my days off, I went ahead and recorded my video for week 11 this afternoon.  Aaaaaaaand of course I left my camera at work!  So I will have to wait to post my video until I have a chance to retrieve my camera.

But, I want to go ahead and post the assignment for next week, week 10.  We’ve been exploring our fundamentals and playing things slow and deliberate for the last couple weeks, and I’m ready to move on and start really woodshedding some of these excerpts.

First thing to do is divide all the excerpts on the list into groups, organized by practice priority.  I will use three groups: group 1 will be excerpts that need the most technical practice, group 2 will be technical excerpts that I already know, and group 3 will be the excerpts that don’t need much technical work.  Here is how I divided it up:

Group 1:  Dahl Sinfonietta, Holst Hammersmith (both excerpts), Borodin Polovetsian Dances, Bach Duet

Group 2: Gounoud Ballet from Faust, Mozart Serenade (all excerpts), Midway March, Beethoven 8, Grainger

Group 3: Brahms 3, Schubert Octet, Berlioz Symphony Fantastique, Mendelssohn Scherzo, Bizet Carmen, Mendelssohn Hebrides

I’m going to say this up front.  For the next four weeks, we’re not even going to touch the excerpts in group 3.  Relax.  You won’t need 10 weeks to practice them, I promise!  We’re going to model a three phase process throughout the rest of the challenge: woodshedding and technical practice, polishing, and “taper”.  The next four weeks is the woodshedding phase.  You can read more about this process here.

Here is this week’s assignment:

  • Organize the excerpts into three groups as described above.
  • Record a video of the following, focusing on technical perfection (play the excerpt only as fast as you can play it perfectly):
    • Mozart Concerto – Fermata to end of exposition
    • 3 excerpts (your choice) from group 1
    • 2 excerpts (your choice) from group 2

The next 3 assignments will be very similar to this, just FYI.

I’m swimming in the Waikiki Roughwater swim on Monday, so wish me luck!  Well as long as Hurricane Lester doesn’t spoil our fun.

Just a reminder not to forget your fundamentals!  Do them everyday.  EVERYDAY.  It will make everything easier.

Happy practicing!