You practice and you practice and you practice. But when it comes time to play with others, things fall apart.
There are dozens of factors that contribute to how you perform when the chips are down- too many to enumerate a single blog entry. But it’s worth doing a quick audit of your practice routine to see if you’re falling victim to any of these four common practice traps. Because if you are, there's an easy fix!
What do you do when you’re practicing and you make a mistake? If you reflexively go back and replay a passage every time you make a mistake, you may suffer from do-it-over-itis. Do-it-over-itis is particularly dangerous for ensemble players: By the time you’ve gone back and fixed your mistake, your ensemble mates have moved on. (And even if you didn’t actually go back, you probably had to spend mental energy suppressing the urge to do so!)
When you practice running a piece, make a note of problem spots for later and then, after your run, spend focused time working out the kinks.
Yes, we all want to be able to play quickly. But it’s a counterintuitive truth that we only develop the ability to play quickly by practicing slowly. Practicing beyond the capacity of what you can do means practicing mistakes -and since we get better at doing whatever we practice, practicing mistakes isn’t the way to go. You know this. We all know this. But it’s 100% worth reminding ourselves.
Slow down when you practice.
I was guilty of this one for far, far too long. Guess what you’ll be tempted to do in performance? Furthermore, you’ll be missing an opportunity to develop the necessary and valuable skill of maintaining a beat internally when you’re not playing.
Enjoy –and practice- the silences.
If there’s one thing that drives me nuts, it’s hearing students warm up or practice while “marking” their breath- i.e., deliberately underblowing. Airflow is the beating, glorious heart of recorder playing, and practicing without it doesn’t accomplish much of anything.
Always practice with fully engaged air.