Better Playing in Five Minutes! No, really!

One of the joys -and frustrations- of learning any musical instrument is that it takes time. Improving your playing is a journey requiring sustained energy, effort, and attention.  It’s a wonderful, and lifelong, process.

But what if you only have five minutes?  On some days and in some seasons of life, that’s all we have. Can you still improve?

The answer is a resounding yes!  Try one of these five ways to improve your playing… in less time than it takes to read this article.

Check your posture.  The way you stand or sit has an enormous impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of your breathing.  It also affects your range of motion, the angle of your ai rstream, your resonance, the degree of tension in your hands and throat- even your mood.  Use a mirror to help guide you, and aim to stack your shoulders over your hips.  Your head should feel as if it is suspended by a string attached to its crown, and your chin should tip neither up nor down.  Your recorder should tilt at approximately a 45 degree angle from vertical.

Vibrate.  Play a note, concentrating on the points of contact between your instrument and your fingertips.  Can you feel vibration? If you can’t, you’re probably gripping the instrument with more force than you need.  Optimize the ease of your motion by keeping your fingers loose.

Begin.  Even if you don’t have time to finish a piece, you have time to start it. Practice putting your best foot (finger?) forward by being purposeful about your inhalation.  You want a loose, efficient inhale with a relaxed chest and throat.  You also want to make sure you’re breathing in time with the piece you’re about to start, as if you were cuing yourself.  Practicing this skill will help you to implement it automatically when you need it- like in performance.

Listen.  Listening to other recorder players can jumpstart your practicing, show you new possibilities, and introduce you to new repertoire. Pick something you’re working on or try something you’ve never heard before.  Listen deliberately, with your full attention, and the score in front of you if possible.   Take notes.  What do you like?  What don’t you like?  What would you like to emulate?  Youtube has a wealth of good (and bad!) recorder music.  If you’re a member of Early Music America, the Naxos Music Library is free to stream on EMA’s webpage.

Journal.  Keeping a practice journal can transform your practice.  It helps you track your progress, set goals, stay accountable, and keep track of things you’ve learned and things want to learn.  Any small notebook or other method of recording will do.  If you’ve got five minutes today, spend them purchasing or re-purposing a practice journal or practice journal app.  Then write your first entry: Today- bought a practice journal!

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© 2016 Anne Timberlake