Top 5 Favorite Blog Posts from July

 

"Ultimately, your technique is only as good as your sense of time." 

Great tips for simplifying the process and reaping the benefits of self-recording while practicing!

“Performance presence is born out of a sincere and deep connection to the music you are playing and the desire to share this with your audience." 

"How setting the right practice goal can help us improve more in the same amount of time (hint: practicing for time or number of repetitions is not the answer)."

"Note the acute observation required here: the tiniest hesitation or deviating muscle movement is to Lynne an indicator of further work being required."

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Improve Your Double Tonguing: Tips + Exercises [Video]

1. Air Stream and Support (0:20)

Without the instrument, get to know the feeling of support in the body. Use air sounds through the teeth to listen, and feel the natural response and engagement in the body.

2. Add Syllables to Your Air Sounds (1:09)

We often spend time practicing the double tonguing syllables away from the flute, however, using the through-the-teeth airstream exercise, we can multi-task. Airstream and double tonguing syllables should go hand-in-hand! 

Try the exercise of going from closed teeth and air sounds to a relaxed jaw and increased space in the mouth, and consciously keep the air speed fast. (1:24)

3. Breath Accents (2:12)

Improve single tongue articulations by prioritizing air speed and quality with breath accents. Once the attack feels clean and consistent, add in the T and the K syllables on top. This especially helps us understand the feeling of air when using the more difficult back-of-the-tongue syllables.

4. Double Tonguing Syllables: T-K vs. D-G (4:16)

Rather than sticking with just one or the other, I find it useful to understand the difference between both T-K-T-K and D-G-D-G, and practice them both. T-K tends to be more staccato and pointed, while D-G tends to be more smooth and legato. Having both under your belt gives you greater options in the context of a piece!

5. High Maintenance Notes: Low and Middle Register (5:07)

The low register and right hand middle notes tend to be the most prone to cracking if space in the mouth is not abundant. When we play a resonant long tone without articulating, we may be thinking of an "aww" shape in the mouth. Utilize that same "aww" feeling while double tonguing ("daww-gaww") to help these high maintenance notes!

6. Practicing For Longer, Faster Lines (5:58)

In the exercise linked above, use a single note to build up from breath accents to a long, fast line of double-tonguing. Holding the first note (as we did in the initial breath support exercise using only air), reminds us to get the speed going, and keep it the moment the tongue first moves.

7. 3-Stage Chromatic Scale Exercise (Beginning to Add Finger Movement) (7:03)

Use the notes of the chromatic scale to begin translating the single note exercises up the range. With each repetition, begin decreasing the number of articulations per note as you begin coordinating finger movement with tongue movement.

8. Coordinating Finger and Tongue Movement (7:53)

Try saying or whispering the syllables while moving the fingers slowly and precisely to encourage better coordination. This provides a chance to isolate the tongue and fingers without producing a flute sound, so we can really focus and uncover difficulties. Even if you're relatively coordinated, I always find this exercise enhances the connection between movements!

9. The First Note Influences The Rest! (8:31)

Use an expressive tenuto to translate the resonance of the first note of a run into the double-tongued notes that follow. Begin with a held note, and practice making the first note shorter and shorter without losing the sound quality.

10. 2-Octave Major Scales: Slur and Double-Tongue Back-to-Back (9:00)

Break up your 2 octave scales into one octave at a time, first slurred with a singing quality, then translating the feeling to double-tonguing. Try 2 articulations per note, and think of a smooth, legato sound that resembles your singing slurred sound.

11. Singing and Playing (10:56)

Using the first notes of Exercise No. 1 from Taffanel and Gaubert's Daily Exercises, sing and play, slur, and double-tongue in one breath to reap the benefits of a relaxed throat and naturally supported airstream!



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Don't Forget About The Legs! 5 Awareness Exercises For Today's Practice Session

Does your awareness have a tendency to narrow as time goes on while practicing? I often begin with good intentions of feeling my feet grounding my entire body, but at some point, I lose full-body awareness and become only aware of what feels uncomfortable in the upper body or the notes on the page. 

Perhaps you've never considered the way your lower half influences the entire body while playing! Try the five exercises below while playing, and scan the body carefully for changes in tension and release, holding, or ease. 

1. Shifting Weight Forward and Back

  • Are you habitually standing with more weight on the heels or the balls of the feet as you play?
  • Scan the body for changes as you slowly shift forward and back from the heels to the balls of the feet.
  • Do you feel a change in the legs, the back, the abdominal muscles? Does the sound change as you play?
  • Notice your breathing as you do this:
    • I recently realized I felt quite locked and without breath, so I rolled from my heels to the balls of my feet, and felt a tremendous difference in my ability to play with freedom once I rolled forward from my locked position on the heels!

2. Shifting Between Left and Right Legs

  • Uncover which leg habitually receives more of your weight while playing.
  • By slowing shifting your weight side to side while you play, you may notice changes all the way up the body. 
    • Do you notice a release and increase in space in the opposite side body?
    • How do the ribs feel?
    • Does the opposite arm change in effort?
    • Does anything happen in the neck?

3. Standing on One Leg

  • Take it one step further by standing on only one leg, lifting one leg behind and leaning forward to maintain balance. (Something like this image of a Modified Warrior 3 Pose.)
  • Do you notice a change in your sound? Breathing? 
    • This elicits a change in resonance for me, and naturally allows the abdominal muscles to release, making breathing easier!

4. Walking in Place Along with the Tempo

  • Invite ankle movement by lifting the heels off the ground to the tempo. 
  • Embody the tempo beyond listening to the metronome or tapping one foot, while avoiding a locked-in-place stature. (Try this if you're prone to locked knees!)
    • What is it like to watch leg movement while you play?

5. Bend the Knees

  • Take the knees from locked to generously bent.
  • Notice the relationship between the abdominal muscles and the muscles of the back. 
    • Going from the extreme of locked knees to bent knees, I notice just how much my torso and abdominal muscles release and allow easier breathing and resonance.

 

Are you aware of your lower half and the relationship to the whole body while playing? Take the time to observe changes in the body while trying these 5 ideas during your practice session! 

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Leave a comment below to share your own discoveries, or use #practiceroomrevelations and tag @joleneflute on Instagram!

How I Learned to Put Paralyzing Perfection Aside and Improve A Little Bit Each Day Instead

Recently, perfectionism and procrastination have come up in one way or another for myself, my colleagues, and my students, and it has encouraged me to take a look at my own patterns and find real solutions to break out perfectionist habits.

What is Perfectionist's Procrastination? 

Have you ever thought about the immense amount of work standing between yourself and your ideal perfect self, and been paralyzed or discouraged from taking any action at all?

Here's what it sounds like for me:

I should really improve A, B, and C, but I'll tackle all that next time when I feel really ready and focused and have lots of time.

I'll wait until I can dedicate a full hour to tone exercises, then I'll finally work on those tapers I need to improve. 

Perfectionist's Procrastination Latches onto ideas like these:

  • Waiting for Ideal Conditions 
  • Waiting for "Enough" Time
  • Waiting to Sound Good
  • Waiting for More Energy

Ultimately, my mind creates an unrealistic to-do list in an effort to fix everything all at once, and when I think about the amount of work ahead of me, I tell myself: next time, next time, next time.


Perfectionist's Procrastination can be deeply rooted in fearing failure and mistakes.

For example, a more honest inner dialogue to the above example might sound more like this:

I could work on my tapers today, but I don't know what I'm doing. I know I'm bad at it, and I don't want to face my weakness.

In addition, the fear of not doing enough leads to fear of not being enough. And that's paralyzing.


Perfection-Oriented vs. Process-Oriented

For at least the past eight years, I've been organizing my practice sessions in the order of tone first, technique second, and repertoire after that, and attempting to do at least an hour of each thing.

However, I often spend most of my energy and focus on the initial stage, losing motivation before I've given the next stages any attention. 

Why do I keep falling into this rut so often? 

  • Perfection in the Practice Room

Perfection wants to finish everything immediately and achieve perfection now. Our faults can give us tunnel vision, and we can throw all our energy into one task, like tone work. While we're giving tone good attention and improving, we can burn out out entire supply of energy and focus, and we have nothing left for anything else.

And musicians need all the skills. Perfection knows this, too, and feels like a failure when giving up before moving on.

Perfection doesn't like to Let Go.

  • Process-Oriented Practice

Process-oriented practice puts in the highly-focused practice that perfection loves, but it comes with permission to let go and move on to the next task.

 

The following two ideas led me to break out of perfectionist mindset and find breakthroughs in process-oriented practice in the past two weeks.


A. "Improve A Little Bit Each Day"

I recently raved about Dr. Terri Sanchez's Epic Flute Warm-Up, which ultimately led me to purchase her book, The Aspiring Flutist's Practice Companion.

In her book, the smallest phrase came up in the Epic Warm-Up 2.0, and it really struck me:

"Improve a little bit each day."

I've consistently been doing her Epic Warm-Up almost every day for three months because it's fun and manageable, only taking 15 minutes total to feel thoroughly warmed-up. And you know what? I've improved a little bit each day in those three months! 

This was a huge lightbulb moment.

B. Set Yourself Up for Success To Prevent Early Practice Burnout

Now that I've given myself permission to improve a little bit each day, I've created room to realistically invite more tasks into my practice session without feeling overwhelmed.

My next goal involves organizing my tasks in a way that ensures I don't burn myself out too soon, as I was consistently doing before.

I came across a video on Facebook by Denise Tryon, Adjunct Horn Professor at the Peabody Conservatory, on practicing. 

Essentially, she separates her day into three separate sessions, practicing in the morning, afternoon, and evening with ample time in between.

Right away, I realized that I could be improving a little bit, three times a day.
Lightbulb moment number two.

Tips for Beating Perfectionist's Procrastination + Improving a Little Bit Each Day:

After re-approaching my practice mindset based on the above ideas, I implemented a few more ideas to really help motivate me towards consistent, well-balanced, process-oriented practice experiences.

1. Get yourself excited for tomorrow's practice session tonight

  • Re-set your practice space: Tidy up and re-organize your materials, placing tomorrow's first to-dos on your stand so you're ready to go! (Or, place your materials in your bag in the order you're going to use them to make it easier on yourself once you arrive at your practice space.)
  • Listen to recordings, watch videos, or read words that inspire you.
  • Write down or e-mail yourself your schedule for tomorrow, which leads to the next tip!

2. Give yourself a completely reasonable to-do list

  • It is way too easy to prescribe yourself an 8-hour practice session, because your perfectionist self would love that, but I've never executed anything I've planned for myself when it's unreasonable and unattainable.
  • Set yourself up for success! If your to-do list allows you to easily complete every task, you'll feel accomplished and begin craving more rather than feeling burnt out.

3. Use a timer (And actually listen to it!)

  • Many times, I've put a timer on while practicing certain exercises, and have continued on long past the buzzer. When this happens, I usually end up feeling frustrated, exhausted, or both.
  • If your inclination to work past the buzzer comes from feeling antsy or incomplete, learn to give yourself a pat on the back for really focusing and putting good work in, and move on! It'll still be there tomorrow. And the next day. If you leave it feeling like there's more to continue on with, that may motivate you to pick back up and put more work in the next day!
  • In addition, you can now channel all that energy into the next practice task!
  • Timer Tips:
    • Try 3-minutes for one-measure chunks within a piece, 5-minutes for shorter exercises, and 10-minutes for longer ones as a starting point.

In Conclusion

  • I've come to realize that I'd rather put in a highly focused 10-minutes-each on six aspects of my playing every day than one hour of work on only one area. 
  • The best way to improve your weaknesses is by working at them daily. Put your timer on and put in the work!
  • Make the most of your minutes, and keep yourself feeling fresh and focused for each aspect of your practice session.
  • You don't need to "finish" everything. You don't need to solve every issue every time you practice. In order to be sustainable, there must be a point at which you let go and move on. If you feel like you're not done, you'll know right where you need to go tomorrow, and you'll still have energy left to focus on the next tasks on your list. 
  • If you find it difficult to move on before achieving perfection or completion, just remember that there is no end to the possibilities of improvement.
http://media.boreme.com/post_media/2013/pablo-casals-cellist.jpg

Here's permission to put perfection aside and enjoy the process!


Finally, I came across this video the other day, and found it particularly fitting in the context of doing a little bit of work each day with a lot of focus and care. A few months later, the results are beautiful

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