Day 33, Conceptual Tools

Practice: 3, Rehearsal: 1.  At the beginning of the day I made a To-Do list for practicing.  I did this, I did that, I did the other thing and I also re-listened to the lesson I took (and recorded) yesterday and felt like I got every last drop of advice out of it. Yet because I didn’t do four hours I feel a bit like a slacker.  That’s what this blog is for, I guess!

Despite that feeling, I highly recommend having a separate “to practice” to-do list.  That way at the end of the day I have a very specific list of things I accomplished and this contributes to my sense of well-being, even if “play clarinet for four hours” didn’t get checked off.

Another conceptual tool I’ve started to dabble with is mind mapping software.  You can do this with a pen and paper or you can download free software to do this.  For those who are a bit fuzzy on the term mind map, here’s the wiki definition:

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid to studying and organizing information, solving problems, making decisions, and writing.

I’m playing around with mind maps as a way to define my goals.  What do I want?  Where do I stand?  What defines what I want?  How do I get those things?  How is that method different from what I’m doing?  It’s a great way to get specific.  Here’s a good example of a mind map that I found using google:

The other thing that came through my mind today was the concept of a “comfort zone.”  Most commonly these two words together indirectly imply that someone is being lazy, shy, or unambitious.  It can mean these things.  A comfort zone is talked about as something people don’t often try to leave.  And it’s true, if you only do what’s comfortable, you’ll never improve.  A better way than what you are currently experiencing is by definition outside of your comfort zone, simply because it’s new!  I try to get outside of my comfort zone a little bit every day, and not just on the clarinet.

The flip side of the “comfort zone”, to me at least, is making sure to be gentle with yourself.  On Wednesday we had the first round of the concerto competition where the studio watched as seven of us performed parts from all three movements of the Weber 2nd concert.  With a few exceptions, most of the performers really beat themselves up over small mistakes. Some only expressed this physically while some even went as far as announcing their mistake to the class.  I know what this is like.  I do it. I may do it in the future.  I know how it feels.  But it was also uncomfortable for us (me at least) to witness these really talented players damn themselves over trivial mistakes.  It’s not that I’d rather not see it, it’s that I wish it didn’t happen at all.  I know that it’s a reaction to the mistake- they’re hoping that by punishing themselves they’ll prevent it from happening again in the future.  It makes me think of Inner Game of Tennis.  If you damned and berated a student for making a small mistake,  how do you think they’d take it?  Is beating yourself up and bringing yourself down really the quickest way to get better?  It was useful to witness this from the outside.


  • Thinking in opposites: Technique during a slow melodic excerpt and lyricism during a technical excerpt.  This had some cool results.
  • I did a mock audition today for my recording device.  I knew right away that it was a great idea because I really didn’t want to do it!  I kept procrastinating, fiddling with reeds, getting more water, practicing something slow… Performing 7 minutes of music for my recording device made me antsy!  I’m hoping that every time I do this I get less antsy, so that by my next audition it’s just another day of performing.  I’m going to do this again tomorrow.  Tonight:  Jean-Yves Thibaudet playing Ravel G minor concerto, and then Harry Potter!  Woot.

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