Day 4, Ender’s Game

Today was the first day I started to feel used to this new regimen.  I shortened my warmup to about ten minutes, took a five minute break, and then launched into the most productive hour and twenty minutes of practice I’ve had yet.  Part of it was because I’m getting really familiar with this music, and another part is that in the morning my brain is READY to GO.  I tore through excerpts in half the time it usually takes me in the evening, without sparing anything in the way of detail.  I guess this means now that I should aim to do my best work in the morning.  It’s kind of a productivity gold mine that I need to take better advantage of.  (sorry grammar police).  The sweet spot is officially between 8:30am and 11am.

Bite sized thoughts:

  • Actively thinking of using the back knuckle of my fingers during technical passages instantly takes my technique to the next level.  It also reduces tension on the rest of my hand and arm.
  • Thinking of “long” air.
  • Did I mention that morning practice is productive?

And here comes one of the nerdiest musical metaphors I have in my mental rotation.  Understanding it requires that you have read Orson Scott Card’s book Ender’s Game.

So you know how Ender’s winning strategy in the academy’s zero-gravity war game is “the enemy base is down”?  He harnesses his teammates’ innate sense of gravity and the inevitability of falling towards their goal: infiltrate the enemy base.  Imagining the “destination” point of a phrase to be something inevitable, like falling, creates a wonderful sense of direction.  If you imagine this path horizontally, it’s easy to also imagine it being changed or stopped before you reach your destination.  But if you imagine it vertically, there’s no stopping until you get there.  There’s no one-size-fits-all method for phrasing but this is a nice guide to help me prioritize what’s most important: aiming towards a destination.  I forget who told me this but some musician I worked with said “Music is never static, it’s always going to or coming from somewhere.”  I like that.

The last hour of my practice tonight was spent reading duets with my dad.  He’s an amateur clarinetist in the true sense of the word: he loves to play.  It was a joy to read through Bach, Mozart and Haydn transcriptions for clarinet duo.  It also made me realize that when I’m doing something new (sight reading music) all of these changes I’ve made to my playing (relaxed body, long air, knuckles, etc. etc. etc.) can go right out the window!  It was humbling but a good reminder to set aside time to sight read more often than I currently do.

Tomorrow may or may not be my first off day, I’m flying back to L.A., but I’ll get there around 11:30am, jet-lagged but with the whole day ahead of me.  I’ll try my best to save my first off day for a little later in the week. :)  I don’t want to break my streak.

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