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How Honest Is Your Practice?

I will have just gone back into the studio to record the first part of a CD devoted to the complete clarinet music by Joseph Horovitz. I am recording with The Bingham String Quartet and together we also recorded York Bowen Fantasy for bass clarinet and string quartet.

So how is practice effected by the forthcoming recording? As I write this I am returning from my military teaching at The Royal Military School of Music, where I was working to convince a student of the importance of fixing the method for recalling his scales. To be honest in our practice, we have to know or have experience of what happens in performance, both physically and mentally. Most important is also to accept that we are vulnerable to our emotions which can effect us both physically and mentally which culminates in distractions. If we accept this as a truth, the way we practice is influenced and effected,allowing us the opportunity for honest detailed work, exploring potentially vulnerable places and where belief could be threatened.

But to do this we have to be honest about what happens in performance, fully and totally aware. Do we gear our learning to being full focused, unthreatened, best acoustics, best audience, in summary totally at one with the World!  While optimism is an all important quality, does it impair our practice? How can we discover the form these distractions take.

Then there is the vanity practice; the playing we want to hear, not looking for weakness or uncertainty but reassuring ourselves of our credibility or indeed ignoring the possibility of doubt that we might feel, because behind doubt lies a bigger story about self. Doubt is the bit we do see: it’s the bit behind that can hold truths about self which we might not quite want to face.

So let’s get real!! For this we need to look at two vital ingredients which can potentially rock the envoirement  we create for ourselves in our familiar place of practice and being on our own. Add a person/persons, expectations, physical unease and a whole list of threats can become present. I know someone who can’t practice if he thinks someone is listening. By the same token, there are musicians who practice in a way that will impress the possible listener or passer by. The point is, how honest is our practice when our mental space is being effected by negative physical distractions. But equally, how honest are we in our practice in terms of creating a similar envoirement of physical and mental distraction as in performance. We therefore need to inject distraction  which can manifest itself by effecting our physical, mental state or indeed both.

As I type this, I think of the distractions both common and personal to each one of us, which when injected into our practice will give us a much truer understanding of where the weaknesses or uncertainties might lie, a doubt over a note, an interval or the control of a night dynamically or harmonically. This is where our daily routine, ritual, practice comes into play.

As I close this blog, I sit on my Windsor & Eaton train at 5.58, with my one shot medium Latee in order to get into my room at. kneller Hall to practice both clarinet and both alto and tenor ahead of my teaching at 8.30. Last night with imminent new release, a lunch meeting today for Clarinet And Saxophone Classics to prepare for, I waxing bed unusually latest just gone. 1am. The thought of not practicing this morning as usual was unthinkable both physically and mentally; physically because my fingers and mouth, mentally, because when I do the recording next week, recital later this month etc etc, I want to eliminate one area of doubt – I am fit BECAUSE I practice!

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Samek Music

Samek Music