There are many ways in which practice, especially as a rumored professional, evokes the oniony images.

First off, it makes you cry.


What I’m after today are the peeling layers, ever-emergent, even at this stage. With a few weeks left before the audition, I have uncovered reassuring and familiar competencies to be sure. But I have also discovered a new layer of work to be done, courtesy of my new-fangled bionic arm. The Big Three (Haydn concerto, Beethoven 5, Don Juan) sound better than ever because I can now endure long hours of practice without my arm packing up. This is truly a paradigm shift, and with great power comes great responsibility, or so I hear. Now that I know how much more finesse is available, I am asking myself questions like, “Do I make that an audible shift because I believe in it, or was it a crutch?” and, “Whither Kodaly?”

Here is my new layer of practice, 20 days out from the audition.

1. Back to scales. Galamian, with martelés, in whatever key seems like something I want to avoid. The first time can sound crummy, because I need to physically warm up for a while. The last thing I need is for some other injury to level me after all of this hard work and pain!

2. Every practice session is a run through this week. I see it as taking the temperature of the repertoire. What kind of shape am I in? I’ve been recording myself on the iSight in PhotoBooth. This does double duty, because if I stumble I have a visual record of the technique happening at the moment of the foul-up. Dare I say that I haven’t had many of late. This doesn’t mean that I’m satisfied with the product I’m peddling. It just means I’m not torquing shifts or skittering around the strings like a wild woman. There’s a whole other layer of jackassery that’s available to me called questionable interpretative decisions.  More on that later.

So yeah, I run Brahms 3, La Mer, Don Juan, Beethoven 5 and 9, and the concerto movement. I actually play them, as in perform, not practice. I’ll knock them down to 2/3 speed and spot work with the metronome, listen to a few recordings, go back and do them again. I may not get the gig, but you won’t be able to fault me on thoroughness, that’s for sure.

3. I’ll take a break and lie first on a tennis ball, and then a heating pad (don’t ever get old, kids), do some stretches, try not to eat too many cookies, then come back and run the whole set, at tempo, for the love of the thing. Why else do we do this, right? Everyone who takes the audition will be able to hit the notes, so I might as well feel secure in my interpretation and be fluent in the emotional lexicon of musicianship.

4. Do other stuff for many hours, then come back and repeat it all again. It’s still about 3 hours of practice I’m getting in per day, although I did take an entire day off a few days ago, and that seemed like a good thing to do.

Still doing the alternating weeks of ibuprofen along with a fairly aggressive exercise schedule (dance class and treadmill), both of which I feel complement the rigors of this kind of regimen.

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8 Responses

  1. Sounds like a lot getting accomplished. I'm trying the whole record thing, but I'm going for more of a once a week thing. Or at least that's the attempt. I love what technology can do for practice.

    Don't get in to much pain though. Drink lots of water!!!!

  2. The tennis ball thing is solid advice. My roomate had two tennis balls that he had attached to a small wooden dowel. It was fantastic.

    Also, I have found that sometimes my right hand gets crampy (usually when I am applying too much pressure or my silly thumb curves inward) and when this happens, I place a tennis ball on a table/the floor and then rub my hand over it for a few minutes, focusing primarily on the fleshy part of the thumb and the palm. Works wonders.

  3. G: Good advice. I never drink enough water. I think I try and save room for wine!

    FM: Nothing is as good as a massage from a therapist with a grudge, but tennis balls definitely are better than anything else I've found.

    GGP: I don't know why either, but it's why I do it. 🙂 I really should buy stock in Wilson for all of the tennis balls I smash under my shoulderblades! xxoo

  4. "Jackassery", eh? What a fun blog!

    In the interest of leaving no stone unturned, might I add a couple ideas to the pre-audition prep checklist?

    1. Sleep
    Sounds awfully basic I know, but research suggests that 9-10 hours (not just one night, but for weeks in advance) is necessary for peak performance.

    2. Mental practice/rehearsal
    Sport psychologists did a study of the 1200 track/field athletes who qualified for the Olympic Trials a few years back. They found that the athletes who won a spot on the Olympic team differed from their less successful counterparts on one primary factor – they did more mental practice in the final states of prep than those who didn't make the team.

    There's plenty of info online about mental imagery (if, of course, you're not already doing such work).

    Good luck!

  5. But why martele? Not detache? Not legato? I can imagine some reasons, maybe good reasons, but my imagination can get carried away at times.

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