What is the best way to practice? How can we use our time efficiently? How can we maximize our joy in music along with our progress? In “Practice Tips,” we tap the wisdom of performers from the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, one of the country’s premier training orchestras for young professional musicians.
Whether you’re a seasoned performer or just starting out, everyone can benefit from experimenting with their practice methods. In this edition, we hear from bassoonist Quinn Delaney and violist Roslyn Green.
Quinn Delaney’s Practice Tips Highlights
- Put your phone on airplane mode – your practice session should be free of distractions.
- For double reed players, make sure you have a comfortable reed. If the tone isn’t great and there are minimal imperfections, that’s okay, as long as you can focus on the music that you’re making.
- Try an “anti-warmup” by starting with something that’s technically challenging. For Delaney, that’s a piece like Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee.” The goal is to make sure you’re playing music with the very first note of the day.
- Practice (slowly!) with different kinds of rhythms, especially for technical excerpts.
- Tackle tough repertoire by transcribing your part by ear. Learning the piece aurally gives you a deeper understanding of the music.
- Find ways to be creative. For Delaney, that comes through exploring jazz and improvisation.
Roslyn Green’s Practice Tips Highlights
- Start your work on a new piece by listening to recordings. Take notes on dynamics and mark any exposed or important moments.
- Next, turn on the metronome and sight-read everything at tempo. Mark an “X” in the margin of any passage you can’t immediately play.
- Don’t get stuck on one tough passage. You can break up your work on tricky areas by switching to other passages.
- Don’t try to solve lots of problems at once. Fix one bar at a time before putting everything together.
- Take care of your body. As Green puts it, the weight and size of the viola makes for “an ergonomic nightmare.” Develop a habit of exercise that balances out some of the stresses of playing, including exercises that improve posture by stretching and opening your chest and neck, and strengthening your back.
- Don’t forget that the goal of all this work is to create beautiful music and share it with an audience. Try having a musical outlet that has a completely different set of priorities.