Friday, December 22, 2006

Wisdom gained

I had a good lesson with J Wednesday evening. The first thing we did was go over reed tying. I had started loosening up on the tension and my reeds were turning out somewhat loose. This was causing problems with overtying to compensate and with leakage. We also reviewed knife sharpening on a block (as opposed to ceramic sticks) and I got some lingering scraping questions answered.

After that we spent time on embouchure. I've had ongoing issues with this (which I'm sure has been somewhat frustrating for my teachers). We ended up having a nice conversation about what my motivations for reverting back to a wrong embouchure could be. For some reason I was spending a lot of time "readying" my embouchure before even putting the reed in my mouth to play. J helped me understand that the embouchure doesn't really begin until we start playing and that all those readying efforts are a waste of energy and tend to make me overly nervous. She made me see that it's ok if the note is not perfect from the get-go, that that's why we want flexibility in our embouchures so that we can adjust it. She also helped me see that my ears are perfectly capable of discerning whether the note is sounding well or not. This may all sound subtle or obvious but it's actually a paradigm shift in my playing. I had been in "helpless" mode where once a note was sounding I judged it as good or bad but didn't really think of it as mutable. If reeds were acting up some day and things were sounding bad I would think "oh poor me" rather than "what can I do to make this better". I feel that this is going to help me tremendously with my line problem because now I will think of my playing as dynamic. Rather than be a passive process where the music happens to me and the instrument is controlling me, I want to be the "driver of the bus" as J says. These insights came at the perfect time because as I mentioned before control will be the theme of my third year of oboe study. Before I had only a vague notion of what this would mean. Slowly it's becoming clearer.

The final subject we talked about was vibrato. We only talked about it a little bit. She reiterated the exercise she had given me the last time and explained that while I may be doing vibrato now without it, it will help me gain control of my vibrato. There's that word again! I just hope it all clicks some day.


So, I've been having issues with rushing my practice sessions. I suspect that this may be a common problem for adult amateurs. Now that I am over the stage where I wasn't producing sound consistently and am able to bungle through music, I tend to just want to only play "real" stuff. Gone are the days where I would patiently spend an hour on just long tones and slow scales. Now I do a few long tones and some fast but sloppy scales and then start playing music. This is exactly what I didn't want to do, but here I am doing this almost on a daily basis. Part of why I wanted a method book is that they have little etudes which are somewhat satisfying to play but also deal with technical issues.

I realized that the solution is not to revert back to only long tones and play no music at all. What I really need to do, and should have done a while back, is double my daily practice time. I have the endurance to do it now. And a lot of days I have the motivation too. I've just been too disorganized and lazy to get it to work. This morning I tried something I hadn't done in a few months: I practiced in the morning. My morning practice session turned out to be an hour long and I did long tones and slow scales exclusively. Contrary to the weary feeling this gives me in the evening, it actually felt quite good first thing in the morning. It helped me wake up! And my E major scale was all the better for it.

Now when I get home I can look forward to a second practice session which will be all "real" playing. Rather than procrastinate until 10PM when I am too tired I think I will want to jump right into it because I perceive that type of practice as not being drudgery. Woohoo! I think this might work. As long as I can get up at 7AM ...

I've recruited my husband to help me with this because I really feel strongly that this is the only way that I will continue to progress. An hour a day is not enough anymore. My progress has slowed to a crawl and I'm just not addressing all the issues I need to address on a daily basis. I'll let you all know how it's going.

In case I don't have time to write again this weekend: I want to wish everyone all the best for the holidays! *hugs*

1 comment:

oceanskies79 said...

It sounds like a good idea to wake up early in the morning to have more time to practise. I wish I could do that in my context.

I would have to wake up as early as 5.30 a.m. if I were to practise in the morning and still have time to prepare to go to work.

Have fun practising. Music making is a joy.