Day 38, Basics

Practice: 3, Studio class performance: 1 (took 20 minutes), Rehearsal: 0.  I didn’t have any good excuses for not practicing more today other than having work, which was only two hours.  I was glad I chose to perform in studio class today, despite feeling pretty anxious about it.  I’ve been practicing doing “auditions” almost every day and those definitely helped.  There’s no replacement for actually playing for your peers though, and the easier that gets, the better.

Today for the first time in ages I started my practice with scales and arpeggios.  I know that for many, the day *always* starts with scales and arpeggios.  I know why they’re good for you, but I think (like a lot of aspects of music-practicing) no one really talks about how you’re supposed to use these exercises to your benefit.   Knowing them from memory is step one, and I think we all get past that part somewhere in high school.  That alone is valuable given that much of Western classical music is built on scales- knowing them is like practicing music you haven’t even played yet.

After the point of memorizing your scales and arpeggios, they become about as interesting as musical wallpaper.  But at that point, when the brain power necessary to play them is around .001%, scales and arpeggios become grounds for experimentation.  Joaquin and I have been trying out different approaches to the way I use my fingers.  The source of the movement comes from the first knuckle (by the palm), and ideally (personally) I’m pressing into the keys more.  The result in my lesson the other day was very audible.  So here I am playing scales and arpeggios again, but in a way completely different from what I’ve always done before.  On each one I needed to think very consciously about each finger.  Only towards the last three scales in the circle of twelve did I feel like I was really getting the hang of it.  Then I wanted to do all twelve again with this new improved approach.

One of the things I keep telling myself:  If you’re doing your warm-ups without actively thinking about what new habits you want to reinforce, you’re wasting your time.

Other miscellany today:

  • I’ve been reading The Talent Code.  It’s come highly recommended by many musician friends.  It discusses the nature of “talent” and what “geniuses” did to earn that title.  The focus of the book is that they did in fact earn it.  I’m really loving it.  So far one of the things I’ve picked up from it is that the three examples of super-talents (Brazilian soccer team, the Brontë sisters, skateboarders from Venice CA in 1975) is that they spent intense amounts of time focused in small mediums, and also had a great deal of feedback.  This has inspired me to spend more time on micro-levels of improvement (hence scales), as well as renewed my fervor for recording myself often.  So far so good!
  • Along those lines, the concept of creating little games for myself while I’m practicing is always a good one.  How can I turn these three groups of four notes into a game?  Into a little song?  Into some cool mathematical permutation?  For more on this, read the book Flow by Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi.  Creating small mediums of fun for yourself not only makes problem-solving seem more like “playing around”, it’s a good way to live life.


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