Where has the time gone? The last post I made was in January, and here we are in April already...the light is starting to blind us at the end of the tunnel, it's so bright - the end of the semester is in sight! Many of my students may be wondering the same thing, especially those finishing up their degree programs. It's exciting, something many have dreamed about and looked forward to - and it's also a little scary. Ok, sometimes it's very scary...and confusing, and terrifying, and exhilarating! Often we can't wait for time to pass....or we eagerly wait in anticipation for
an exciting event that can't seem to arrive fast enough, only to discover that it's over before we have a chance to really appreciate it. Time has so many implications in life and music, but especially when experiencing a life IN music:
Rhythm. We know that rhythm is vital to a musical experience, especially when playing with others. We are guided to be "on time" and "in time" in order to match those around us. Typically, the most important aspect considered in an orchestral audition is rhythm. We use our metronomes regularly to guide us rhythmically so that we are not late, early, or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Do we teach ourselves to follow the metronome, or develop a rhythmic sense between the beats? Experiment with using your metronome on offbeats, in larger increments of the beat, on only downbeats, and other ways to encourage larger groupings. While you're at it, try having it play the subdivisions so you hear and even play every increment of the beat.
Breathing and time. Lately I've been thinking a lot about breath. As flutists we tend to sometimes feel that we need to apologize for taking a breath, or that we are less of a flute player if we actually take a breath here or there....it's important to have a totally energized use of one's air, but I think that it is liberating - if not JUST as important - to consider that taking a breath within the fabric of a melody is an artistic event, with just as much meaning as the placement and pacing of a particular note. If we had that approach would we take a different, more "nourishing" breath that creates a sense of ease and balance in the body? I think it's worth exploring! Many instrumentalists who do not rely on the breath to produce their tone actively breathe to effectively shape a phrase.
Creating space. By creating an "artistic" approach to breathing and breath pacing, we can also experiment with overall pacing and note placement. If we practice with a metronome, can we try to "not be with it" in between the beats, or downbeats? Assuming we are adequately prepared with a passage, what happens if we allow a touch of flexibility? Robert Willoughby always taught that if we take time to complete a phrase, we "start as we leave" - or take the general sense of time forward to get things going again after the sense of relaxation and completion. As they say, timing is everything - and it can really make or break a performance. Take chances, surprise the listener and maybe even yourself, and stretch/push a phrase to help it unfold in a new way. How can you play a piece in a way that also encourages the audience to breathe differently?
Preparation. Figuring out the best strategies to effectively attack what is holding you back in your piece or etude will make the most of your time in the practice room. It often requires practice and time to develop a discerning ear and a positive, constructive attitude. If you have many pieces on your stand in various stages of preparation, try creating a timeline so that you can plan out your practicing, listening, rehearsing, and overall personal lesson plan strategy for everything. Although this just takes a few minutes, it will save you a lot of time and boost your confidence. Try using a countdown app to help you, or an online practice journal (or practice app).
Well, it's almost time for my rehearsal! This is a topic that we could spin for many entries. . . I wish you all the courage to make the most of the time we have, and appreciate the time you invested in reading this!