Wednesday, January 05, 2005

head games

I was a bad trombonist over my vacation, only picking up my axe to play for the Googaloo jam weeks ago, I guess. I don't really let these kinds of relapses bother me anymore, though. Used to be I'd stress myself out, "why aren't you practicing, you're going to suck, you don't care enough," etc, etc. The thing is, that only made me less motivated to practice. And there's nothing wrong with a little healthy distance from something you do 24/7 in a regular schedule.

I'm starting to put some things together in my head that jive with the whole "playing is 95% mental" aspect of performance.

For one, someone (I can't recall who) had mentioned that some professional is starting to espouse the idea that our lip muscles are such that they do not get stronger indefinitely. Instead, after about three days of playing our embouchure is as tuned up as it's going to get. I'm pretty practiced at not practicing, and to some extent I agree with this theory. There's a difference in this context between strength and endurance, which I can see- strength being the capability to perform complexities and range-nastics and endurance being the ability to withstand playing for long periods of time. I'm certainly tired today after only having played in lessons, and not very much at that, but it only took a few minutes for me to get up into the range I was at before and to remind myself how to do flexibility slurs.

And two, Jason had mentioned that in his lesson with Mark Hetzler Mark picked up his trombone to play something, made the excuse that "oh, I haven't played in a few days" and then produced near perfection. If a professional like Mark can do that, what's the difference between him and me?

I think his head's in the right place.

He's got all the technique and all the musicality at his fingertips he needs, and a few days off isn't something to stress over. His endurance may be low, but perhaps he doesn't need it to be ship-shape at this point in time. My endurance was high in college simply because I was playing nearly seven hours a day, including practicing and ensembles, and I needed it to be. Building up your stamina for the long haul of a major recital is one thing, teaching 10 lessons a day to middle school kids who can't play above middle C is another.

I'll certainly need to work on that before grad school auditions- although only having two and weeks apart at that, I can focus more directly on musicality and strength. Can I do convincingly what I have agreed to perform for the judges?

Sure I can. And none of the preceding is an excuse for me to work less hard; in fact it's revealed to me that there is a lot of work ahead. Instead, I've just narrowed down what I need to focus on to best prepare myself for challenges ahead. It's a shame I can't afford to take any lessons (stupid John Kitzman and the $100 fee), but I did this on my own last year, albeit unsuccessfully, and I can do it again.

Of course, I've cut my losses and I'm well prepared to play the schmooze game. I'm still suspicious that perhaps my lack of acceptance letters last year was due to a failure to fawn on the right people. I still say, by rights, I should have gotten into Michigan what with how much I thought David Jackson liked me.

But that's what I keep telling myself in order to not, as I stated before, lose my head completely and come crashing down crying in the rain at the futility of it all.

Your thoughts on effective practice/cognizant physical manipulation/healthy practice breaks?