Day 14, Playing it Cold

Woo, meeting my goals.  Had another audition this afternoon.  I recorded each excerpt in the practice room to get a document of these “at my best” and I also recorded the actual audition, which I’ve yet to listen to.  I’m still coasting on the observations from yesterday’s recorded audition.  I think I made some major discoveries about my tendencies under pressure and so today was spent exaggerating the opposite of those tendencies to see if, under pressure, I can play it the way I want, with this new approach.

What I found is that after 10 minutes of trying I could get the excerpt to sound the way I wanted, but if I left it and came back, it wouldn’t be as good anymore.  I’m tired of retracing my footsteps so I started recording those iterations that were “cold” to figure out why they weren’t as awesome as when I had been playing it for 10 minutes.  The result was discovering habits I have when I’m “trying” to “make” it happen.  (too-short short notes, too-fast tongue, in this case)  So  I would force myself to do the opposite and, in this case, it would fix it.

To recreate the feeling of starting the excerpt fresh, I used a little inspiration from something a band director said this past semester.  In describing a really tricky passage, he said we had to learn it so well that we could drink a can of soda and then play it.  This is kind of brilliant because one of the things wind instrumentalists NEVER do right before playing is drink anything but water.  Because of that, the sensation of drinking soda takes you pretty far away from the mindset of playing.  To dive right in after that would be equivalent to “playing it cold.”

Because I don’t want to mess up my reeds (they need all the help they can get at this altitude) or instrument, I replaced “drink a can of soda” with “read a short story.” It’s an awesome way to get my mind away from clarinet, especially if I leave the room and read elsewhere.  Four or five minutes later I’m done and return to pick up the clarinet, hit record on my iphone and play the excerpt.  The feeling is very close to being in an audition, at least for me.  Plus it gets me reading more.  The process of doing this today led to some really useful discoveries about what I’ve retained mentally and not just through semi-conscious physical repetition.  This is one I’m going to hang on to.

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