How 2 Words Instantly Took Me From Frustration to Freedom

After refining my Fundamentals Workout Plan over the past week, I found myself pulling out all the old exercises I could find. I opened a folder and pulled out a treasure.

It was sheet of scale exercises I received from Vanessa Breault Mulvey during my summer studying Body Mapping with her. She had written two magic words at the top:

Peripheral Vision.

Inclusive Awareness

Body Mapping introduced me to Inclusive Awareness, or the idea of introducing a wider scope of awareness that includes the body as a whole, all the senses, and the space surrounding you in all directions.

Frustration

While practicing orchestral excerpts this week, I did not realize how small my scope of awareness had become until I invited peripheral vision back into my playing. My desire to perfectly play the first few notes of the excerpt led me to focus intensely on the page, and ultimately, I was inconsistent in executing exactly as I wanted to. Frustrating.

Freedom

Releasing my vision to include the whole page, the whole stand, and the whole room immediately filled me with the comfort of clarity, and the freedom to play as a whole. 

"Peripheral Vision" is now displayed right where I can see it while practicing!

"Peripheral Vision" is now displayed right where I can see it while practicing!

Letting go and allowing my eyes to be soft, seeing the ceiling, the floor, and my fingers moving, I was able to trust and produce the desired sound with ease. I was overwhelmed with a sense of confidence during the silence before beginning each excerpt because I was taking in the whole picture, rather than trying to make each part fall into place.

The benefits of peripheral awareness don't end in the practice room. On stage, opening your visual awareness to include the entire space allows you to fully connect with the audience and project with ease. 

Are you aware of your scope of vision as you play?

Can you see your fingers moving while you play?

Are your eyes soft or working hard to focus?

Experiment with peripheral vision and tell me about it in the comments below! 

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As always, I love seeing your own Practice Room Revelations and what's inspiring you throughout the month! Use #practiceroomrevelations and tag me @joleneflute to share!

Fundamentals Workout Plan [Free Download]

One of the things I love most is organizing information into one location and adding color. Another thing I love is having a well-thought out plan for fundamentals!

When I was an undergrad, I would create a workout sheet listing all the fundamental exercises I wanted to work on daily to feel the most well-rounded leading up to an important event. It would include my favorite staple exercises (such as long tones and scales), in addition to some newer ones I'd picked up from master classes, colleagues, or new books.

I would name it the Fill-in-the-Blank-Audition/Competition/Etc. Workout, and seeing it every day really motivated me to have a highly focused and thorough practice session dedicated to improving a range of specific skills. (And for some reason, calling it a workout made it even more enticing!)

See my example below, in addition to a blank template! A free PDF is available for download for both.


TIPS

  • I highly recommend including your goal at the top, naming your fundamentals workout after the school or festival you want to attend, the job you want, or the recital you have coming up. The reminder that working on these skills is directly related to achieving your goal is powerfully motivating! 
  • Be sure to be specific about which exercises or page numbers you'd like to focus on most, in addition to metronome markings. The idea is to include a realistic plan that is thorough but not too overwhelming to put into action.
  • Many of the items listed in the example are there to give you some ideas! Only include the things you feel are the most important to your growth.
  • I've listed Vibrato under the Tone Color category to break up the general Tone category. You can include any exercises that relate to special coloring you'd use in the context of a piece here.


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Multiphonics Tutorial + 5 Daily Exercises [Video]

Hello, friends! Here is my first in-depth extended techniques tutorial on Multiphonics! I've included 5 ways to practice them as a part of your daily warm-up! These really open your awareness to your airstream, embouchure, and ability to resonate with space in the mouth, making them great additions to your tone study!


Fingerings Mentioned:

  • Fingering for High D / Sounds High D + Middle C
  • Fingering for E Natural without L1 + TR1 / Sounds Middle E + Middle C#
  • Fingering for Middle F + Both Trill Keys / Sounds Middle F + Middle D

Additional fingerings can be found online via Flutecolors' Multiphonics Finder and the publications by Robert Dick listed below.




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7 Ways to Have an Inspiring Lesson Every Week [A Guide for Students]

7 Ways to Have an Inspiring Lesson Every Week [A Guide for Students]

1. PLAN + PRIORITIZE

At the end of each lesson, a clear list of assignments or goals should be established between you and your teacher. Write them down while you're discussing them to avoid forgetting anything, and be specific! If your teacher doesn't provide specific parameters (Ex: learn measures 1-50, or prepare minor scales, double tongued at MM=120), set them for yourself - you'll have an easier time focusing on tasks while practicing during the week.

Prioritize your task list and look ahead to your schedule to figure out what you'll practice when. Even if you don't stick with your plan, having a rough guide for what you can realistically accomplish each day is more motivating than having no guide at all. 

2. Keep Your Notebook Ready

In addition to writing your assignments down at the end of each lesson, your notebook should be out and ready during your lesson to keep track of important information that you're going to want to access later. I'm always more than happy to wait while my students take notes during a lesson! (It also lets me know that you've processed an a-ha moment when you can put it into words!)

When your lesson ends, add any other information while it's still fresh in your mind. I would walk straight to my favorite bench after all my lessons in grad school and write down as many details and ideas as I could, or elaborate on the fast scribbles I had made. 

3. Practice Well

Practice right after your lesson while new ideas or discoveries are still fresh. Many of my lessons involving changes to my embouchure or physical movements involved a lot of experimentation during the lesson. By the end, I may or may not have fully embodied what my teacher was explaining, so I would continue the process immediately following in a practice room in front of a mirror. 

Practice thoroughly enough during the week to resolve or remedy the mistakes that were discussed at the last lesson. Bringing the same mistakes to your next lesson halts progress. Make new mistakes next time, and you'll be able to learn something new!

4. Ask Questions

Practice sessions based in awareness, observation, and experimentation involve asking yourself many questions! Throughout the week, write down any specific questions you'd like your teacher's help answering. (For example, you may want help deciding how to phrase or breathe in a certain passage, advice on making a more effective subito dynamic change, or ideas for approaching baroque articulation.) Tip: Always try answering them for yourself, and bring your ideas to your lesson.

During your lesson, ask as many questions as you need to understand new concepts from every angle. If your teacher is asking you "open your throat," but you're not sure how to do that, ask for clarification.

Important! You are not a failure if you don't understand immediately after hearing one direction. Ask your teacher to describe their experience in detail, try it for yourself, and explain what the experience feels like for you. Since we cannot see what is happening inside while playing, exchange as much specific detail as possible.

5. Communicate Your Goals

Your lessons are for you! Clearly and frequently discussing your goals allows your teacher to provide you with the right tools at each lesson. Discuss any opportunities (such as auditions, competitions, solo performances, new repertoire...) that interest you. Your teacher wants to prepare you for success, so don't be afraid to share your dream! 

6. Communicate Your Concerns

Your teacher should be an individual you trust and feel at ease disclosing any concerns, overwhelmed feelings, or fears with. Establishing a safe environment to invite honest communication provides a space for effective learning. If you're unhappy with your progress or any aspect of your lessons, respectfully let your teacher know how you feel. 

7. Bring An Open Mind + Open Ears

Remember that each lesson is an opportunity to learn something new! Bring a positive attitude and prepare to try new things. If you tend to feel anxious or self-judging during lessons, notice when you feel challenged and pushed out of your comfort zone, and give yourself permission to be curious and grateful for the chance to learn.

Your teacher's demonstrations are another important opportunity to learn. Listen and watch like a scientific researcher, because their years of experience and everything they're trying to teach you are on display all at once! Even more than hearing how nice their sound or vibrato is, or how fast they can play, listen carefully for how and why they are musically engaging - that is the most important concept that is best explained without words.

In Conclusion

Preparation, attitude, and communication are the keys to highly productive and inspiring lessons! 

 

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