This is exciting and new and while I could make this a formal thing, come on, it’s a blog!
My intention here is to share my process of learning a new piece and my practice journey.
The reason I feel compelled to share my process is because…. (and if you don’t want to read the why and skip ahead to what I’m planning on doing with this blog head to pt. 2 which will be linked when I write it)
I spent a long time practicing in really ineffective ways that: took longer, weren’t all that thorough, weren’t always performance proof, and just drudgery.
And when I started lessons in high school my practicing pretty much involved running through things and hoping to memorize my Suzuki books through osmosis.
I was a little clueless.
I’m happy to report that my practice habits improved drastically in undergrad!
Did you believe me?
My practice habits did improve but not by any remarkable standards. I was learning a ton of music and continued to hone my sight reading skills, but I couldn’t stay on top of all of the things and my performances were always unsatisfying because I never played as well as I knew I could. And it was a little bit of performance anxiety but mostly I just feel like when it counted my fingers just didn’t show up for me. I’d get so frustrated and self critical because I didn’t understand how I could practice so much and just repeatedly fall short.
I’d work my butt off in the practice room and it was like Men in Black invaded my dreams and wiped my memory every night while I slept because it would all be gone the next day. (This is why when I pull out and dust off old repertoire it’s pretty rusty and takes a little bit of relearning things.)
Things changed a little during my masters, my arsenal of different ways of practicing grew a lot and my teacher didn’t hesitate to call me out when a passage was being “read” and not “absorbed”. Things also changed during this time because I was injured and could barely hold up my instrument to play so for the first semester and a half of my masters we changed my embouchure so I would have the “downturned lips of a despondent trout.”
AND SUDDENLY I SOUNDED THE WAY I WANTED TO.
Just kidding. I hope you didn’t believe me again!
I sounded like a beginning flutist for a while and slowly but surely started to really develop a sound. And laying off my hands for a while helped me heal and learn new and improved habits so that I wouldn’t get injured again.
Things started to stick more and I was more thoroughly learning things but often my performances fluctuated between: basically garbage to pretty good; but again the good performances were never when it seemed to count. And performance anxiety was doing me absolutely no favors because: imposter syndrome.
The end result was still teetering close that word we all hate: sloppy.
And I will own that. I was a sloppy flutist. I’m still a sloppy flutist but I’m… selectively sloppy?
It’s a different kind of sloppy at the very least. But I’m working on that!
Ok, so you’re probably thinking “you’re telling me it took you 6 years of school to figure out how to practice?”
Yes and no. Because this entire time I was practicing, and learning, and getting better, and playing harder music, I was still growing as a musician. I was still a good flutist but I wasn’t the flutist I wanted to be (yet). But these different stages were a vital part of my growth and development and an important part of “figuring it out.”
I’m the first person to admit I was behind all things flute related when I started lessons at 16. I was so far beyond clueless and I’m the first to admit that even now I’m playing catch up in some things. (and y’all that’s OKAY. You have to learn to forgive yourself for where you’re not!)
But to quote Trevor Wye:
“It is all a question of time, patience, and intelligent work.”
Or to quote my high school physics teacher: “dude work smart, not hard.”
I’ve rambled enough for now I think, so tune in for part two of Flute in Captivity as we learn some music together while we social distance!
Stay healthy friends!