audition coaching

9 Essential Pieces of Advice for Music Majors

I had wonderful experiences as an undergrad and graduate music major. Reflecting on my own experience, these are the things I would tell my younger self knowing what I know now.

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1. Take Opportunities While They’re There

There are a lot of them when you’re in school and attached to a program. You may have already heard that you should “take advantage of every opportunity,” and it’s true. Once you graduate, it can become increasingly difficult to come by opportunities to network and build your resume.

If you’re slammed with too many opportunities at once, use your best judgement to say “no” to things that aren’t worth your time and energy. Be as forward-thinking as you can to pursue opportunities that will benefit you both now and in the future.

If I could go back in time, I would take advantage of competitions and auditions while I had the support of my teachers and colleagues, as well as easier access to recital halls, recording equipment, and experienced collaborative pianists. 

2. Create Your Own Opportunities

While you’re in school and have the support of faculty and colleagues, go after your own vision and create opportunities that speak to you! Start an ensemble, dive deeper into your area of research, or start a side hustle while you’re surrounded by potential clients.

Start trying and experimenting. You don’t have to wait until you come up with the most unique vision in the world to begin developing your own unique voice. Your personal endeavors can and will change over time, so take the plunge and start exploring!

 

3. Keep Your Lesson Notes, if Nothing Else

While practicing on my own after graduating, I frequently pull out old lesson notes and practice journals to be reminded of the most important ideas my teachers shared with me. Your future self will thank you for recording this information in great detail. (Bonus points from your future self if you're well-organized!)

 

4. Be Efficient With Your Time While Waiting for a Practice Room, Or Adapt to a new Practice Schedule

As an undergrad, I attended a school that had just about a dozen practice rooms (with a lot more than a dozen students wanting to practice.) There was almost always a line for the practice rooms, so I'd do homework or mental practice while waiting.

While I love using 20 minutes to work on something between tasks these days, in school, you could sit there waiting for 20 minutes without ever getting into a room. To ensure I could practice and touch my instrument before my lessons and rehearsals, I ended up adapting my routine to one that allowed me to thrive (although it seems crazy to me now!):

I would wake up by 5:00 in the morning to complete assignments that were due that same day (sometimes earlier if I had a lot of work do), then, I'd get to a practice room as soon as the building opened and practiced until the dining hall opened for breakfast. After that, classes began, and my schedule was usually packed until the late afternoon. I often wouldn't get back to practicing until later in the evening before or after dinner, but I'd always be back in my dorm room by 10:00 to wind down and watch the Golden Girls! (Some things never change!)

 

5. Get Recordings of Your Performances

Many music schools record recitals and ensemble performances and allow you access to a copy. In grad school, there were times I procrastinated getting particular recordings and I never ended up getting a copy before I graduated. 

If I could go back in time, I would carve out the time to go get myself a copy of the concerts where I had the chance to play solos and excerpts from major orchestral repertoire in addition to solo and chamber recitals.

 

6. While You're At It, Get To Know the Perks and Resources of Your School and Take Advantage of Them

Does your school have a music library or a dedicated music selection? Go explore and take advantage of the resources! (Don't wait until you have an assignment that requires it like I did!) Does your school have career counseling or guidance? (Go ask them what-on-Earth kind of job you should be looking for once you graduate like I wish I had.)

Do they offer resume assistance? Gig listings? Entrepreneurial workshops? Grants or competitions? Early music ensembles? Discounts or free anything? Especially free or discounted concerts and other live performances? Stop and read the posters!

 

7. Cultivate Community and Extend Your Network

As an introvert, the word “networking” has always frightened me. However, saying yes to social opportunities during school can be just as important as participating in performance and educational ones. The more people you connect with in school, the bigger your support system will be after graduating.  

If in-person interacting is difficult for you, use social media to your advantage. Friend and follow your colleagues’ pages and support their endeavors. They’re more likely to notice you if you’re interacting positively, and if you run into them in-person, you’ll have something to talk about!

 

8. Enjoy Your "Academic" Music Courses

Courses like Music Theory and Music History are extremely important for enriching your performing artistry and teaching skills, but the coursework can be dense and demanding while you're juggling everything else. If you’re struggling in one of these courses, apply what you’re learning directly to your own instrument.

Because I went into my music degree without any background beyond playing my own instrument (or any intent on becoming a music major before I got there), I felt like a fish out of water in many of the academic music courses. Bringing flute into it helped me feel more comfortable and confident while learning, and allowed me to apply new dimensions to my performance right away.
  • If you’re about learning about seventh chords on paper, start memorizing them on your instrument.
  • Practice singing solfège using your etudes.
  • Practice analyzing chords using your current solo or orchestral repertoire. 

 

If your're really struggling, ask for help. Your teacher is a teacher because they want to help you learn. Take advantage of their office hours and get one-on-one help. You can also start a study group to help and support your classmates!

 

Side Note: If you have to take general academic courses for credit that you're simply not interested in, consider it an opportunity to practice focus and efficiency - another skill that will help you later on. Also, apply anything you're learning to your instrument to make it more interesting. See number two: this could enhance your unique point of view in a new and insteresting way!
 

9. When You Graduate, Things Might get Hard, But It Doesn’t Have to Stay That Way

After you graduate, there’s a good chance you’ll get a job that isn’t related to music. You are not a failure. If you fall into a low place with your instrument while working an outside job, remember that your degree is still valid.

You haven’t stopped learning and you’re not going backwards - you’re just going slower. (Especially compared to being in school, when you’re going lightning speed for a few years in a row).

Learning to grow slower is all in the attitude - appreciate the process! Continue refining fundamentals a little bit each day. Listen to music as often as possible. Go see live performances. Find out what inspires you the most, and lean into that in your own way.

How My Philosophy On Warming Up Has Changed (And How It Helped Me Learn To Love Long Tones!)

I just completed my first Instagram Live session which was All About Exercises! In preparing for the discussion, I began to sort out the what, why and how of each of the initial steps of my typical practice session.

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In doing this, I realized that I’ve come to value my warm-up, tone, and technique studies as independent tasks with specific goals of their own. Viewing them as separate tasks that build upon one another has helped me to find more freedom and enjoyment while practicing.

Let me tell you why...

Up until the past year, I never truly distinguished a difference between warming up and working on tone and technique exercises. I would jump in and start warming up with scales, long tones, harmonics… and by the time I had completed several exercises, I would feel "warmed up."

Some days I would love long tones, and sometimes I would dread them. It felt like the thing I was supposed to do first to warm-up *slash* work-on-tone, but it often felt frustrating to jump in and try to make my best sound right out of the gate. I was missing a step.

 

What Changed My Mind About Warming Up?

I finally realized the benefits of distinguishing my warm-up from my tone studies when I discovered Dr. Terri Sanchez's Epic Flute Warm Up! In doing this warm-up each day, I’ve come to realize that I have one primary goal for warming up:

 

It's All About Getting Air Moving.

 

We normally take shallow, automatic breaths during the day, but when it comes time to play, we need to begin to breathe deeper and with greater intention to make sound. Just like we need to stretch our arms and legs in the morning, we need to stretch the muscles surrounding the structures of breathing to prepare to play.

Think Of It Like This...

When we warm-up at the gym, we're preparing for our workout. The first 5 minutes on the treadmill are about loosening up and getting the heart ready (Warm-Up). Then we're ready to strength train (tone), and jump into more cardio (technique). When the basics are refined, we can use these tools to enhance our artistic choreography (repertoire).


Messy Sounds = Less Perfectionist's Tension

The first page of the Epic Warm-Up provides the perfect opportunity to begin breathing deeply and flowing through notes without forcing to transition from not playing into playing. I don’t analyze my sound or try to perfect anything.

I especially love the singing and playing and breath kicks, because opening up with messy sounds is a great way to start off a practice session - it’s freeing and fun! I add in even more “air movers” with jet whistles and beat-boxing syllables.

Dr. Sanchez strategically includes a warm-up for the lips, fingers, and tongue towards the end of the warm-up once you’ve had a chance to open up the sound with freer breathing.

Warming up in a fun way that addresses what the body needs to transition from not playing into creating a beautiful, resonant sound has been key for allowing me to enjoy long tones and subsequent tone studies!

 

I Can Achieve More When I've Prioritized Air First

My mind is ready and I’m no longer dreading how I’ll sound. I’ve invited more of my whole self into breathing, and from here, I can refine the focus, resonance, and projection of my sound, and translate this to all register with long tones. I can work more in depth on lip flexibility because I’ve prioritized air first. I can more easily practice phrasing with shapes, dynamics, and colors because I can support efficiently from the start of my tone practice.


In Conclusion

I was missing out on really digging in and refining all the good stuff when I was using my exercises as my warm-up! Now that I’ve made the distinction, I’m enjoying my warm-up, and I'm diving in to bigger and better goals and improving with intention each day!



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Surviving the Warm-Up Room (2 Things That Helped Me Play My Most Confident Audition Yet!)

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In the last audition experience I wrote about, I had discovered the importance of simplifying my pre-performance routine to remove crippling over-thinking in the crucial moment just before beginning an excerpt. It helped tremendously. (Read all about that here!)

This time, however, I wanted to address another issue.


Confidence

...and how it all went out the window in the warm-up room.

Any confidence that I had mustered up on my way to the audition had crumbled once I stepped into the warm-up room and started hearing 20 flawless Peter and the Wolf excerpts from every corner.

It got worse once I heard the flutist in the corner telling someone else she just got her degree from fill-in-the-blank-conservatory and has been playing with such-and-such wonderful orchestra. 

I made my best effort to say: Don't listen...just warm-up...who cares...I'll be fine... but I spent so much energy trying to block out everyone else that I had lost myself completely. 


1. Finding Confidence Earlier in the Process

On Day 79 of #100DaysOfPractice on Instagram, I made an important realization when I started warming up just before going to get lunch one day.

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I had been listening to inspiring recordings by my favorite artists that morning. When I went to play, I waltzed right up to the big window in the living room, started playing, and I realized that I was uninhibited

I was not over-thinking any aspect of my playing, and I realized this is what confident playing feels like.

I knew that performance mode can't thrive when you're still in analyzing-practice-mode, but experiencing it in this moment was illuminating. This was a whole new level of letting go and simplifying my effortful thoughts and actions, and I wanted to access this every day leading up the audition.


2. Headphones

After understanding how I could access confidence through spontaneity and turning it into a daily habit leading up to the audition, I needed a new tactic for holding onto confidence in the warm-up room. 

Several books, articles, and friends told me to wear headphones. (Why wasn't I doing this before?!) I made a playlist of comforting and uplifting songs paired with about 50% Beyonce, and I warmed up with headphones on. 

I was already comfortable using ear plugs while warming-up, but I also made sure to practice warming up with other songs playing to get used to the feeling before doing this on audition day.

In the actual warm-up room, I still heard Peter and the Wolf, but I also heard songs that remind me of who I am and what I enjoy outside of a warm-up room.

This is the part that made a world of difference in allowing me to remain confident: not just blocking out everyone else, but also fueling my own identity and connection to confidence outside of playing an instrument.

 

The Bulletproof Musician just shared an article on the subject of using music to ease anxiety this morning: Click here to read it!


In Conclusion

With each new audition experience, some new part of the preparation process comes into focus, especially regarding the mental aspects of performing under pressure. 

Confidence comes with every new learning experience, and the ability to simplify and trust is key in removing mental obstacles.


How do you remain confident in auditions? Do you use headphones in the warm-up room? Tell me in the comments below!


#practiceroomrevelations

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17 Must-See Resources if You're Preparing for an Audition

In the spirit of audition preparation, I've been collecting various resources on auditions, effective practice, mental skills, mock auditions, and more. There are countless resources available, but here are a few that I've found bookmark-worthy. Many of these resources contain further articles and links to even more resources that you may find useful in your own audition preparation.

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UNDERSTANDING + RE-FRAMING PERFORMANCE STRESS

 

Why I Don't Talk about "Stage Fright" and "Performance Anxiety" by Kate Conklin

  • "They’ve got the idea...that to perform, one should be “calm” or “relaxed.” And so when they experience *excitement, they re-interpret it as “stress” or “anxiety.”

 

Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement by A.W. Brooks

  • "Compared to those who attempt to calm down, individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement feel more excited and perform better. Individuals can reappraise anxiety as excitement using minimal strategies such as self-talk (e.g., saying "I am excited" out loud) or simple messages (e.g., "get excited"), which lead them to feel more excited, adopt an opportunity mindset (as opposed to a threat mindset), and improve their subsequent performance."

 

Go Ahead and Sweat It! A Flutist's Unconventional Guide to Handling Performance Anxiety by The Self-Inspired Flutist

  • "When you fight your performance anxiety, you actually give it strength." 

 

What To Do About Performance Anxiety by Barbara Conable

  • "There are four distinct phenomena that go by the name performance anxiety. Each requires a different response, so it is important to name all four and distinguish them from each other so that the appropriate response may be chosen."

 

A Few Things Every Musician Ought to Know About Stage Fright

  • "Have you ever had a performance when everything just “clicked?" ...You may have heard of this referred to as “the zone.” Well, this magical state pretty much requires that you experience some degree of anxiety. No anxiety, no zone."

 

Helen’s Highly Recommended Books for Confident Performance via The Flute Examiner

  • Fourteen resources compiled by Helen Spielman, Performance Anxiety Coach

 

Douglas Yeo, Trombone, on Performance Anxiety

  • "Think about all of this in a different way. Instead of trying to solve the problem of performance anxiety, think a little deeper and work toward putting your performance in context with your broader life. Performance anxiety may not really be a problem, but rather may be a symptom of other issues (such as insecurity, or emotional hurt, lack of preparation and dedication, etc.) which, once addressed in a straightforward, direct way, can lead to a healthier life in all areas."

PREPARING TO PERFORM UNDER PRESSURE + STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVE MOCK AUDITIONS

 

Bulletproof Musician: How Can You Create the Feeling of Real Pressure in Practice Situations?

  • "Being clutch under pressure is a skill we can get better at – by practicing under pressure...What are the most effective ways of manufacturing pressure training situations in advance of a big performance or audition?"

 

How Juilliard Teaches Musicians to Handle Stress by Daniel McGinn with Noa Kageyama

  • "In another class, he makes them do burpees until they’re sweaty and breathing hard — then asks them to play for the group. “It’s distracting when your heart is pounding,” he says, but if you practice playing while feeling that sensation, it can become a little less unnerving."

 

Rob Knopper: How to Stop Shaking Snare Drum [Video] + Stress-Inducing Exercises Download

  • "Going through a realistic mock audition forces you to experience the full range of things that you're going to have to get used to and get comfortable with at an actual audition. If you're not practicing like this, then you're not really practicing for an audition."

 

Four Alternative Methods to Make Sure Your Practice Efforts Survive the Pressures of Performance - The Strad

  • "A violist with a background in neuroscience, Molly Gebrian shares some alternative practice methods informed by studies on how our brain processes learning."

 

Audition Practice - Mock Auditions by Toby Oft, Trombone

  • "I want you to consider one thing: The better you get, the less often you perform for just trombonists."

 

MockAuditions.com - An Online Platform to Help You Win Your Next Audition

  • "Mockauditions.com is an online platform that connects and enables users to play for professional coaches and receive valuable feedback." 

ADVICE for Advancing in Auditions + REAL AUDITION STORIES

 

Rob Knopper's Free Mini-Course: How to Advance in an Audition 101

  • A free, 3-video course: 4 Reasons Why Anyone Can Win an Audition, The 3 Vital Phases of Audition Preparation, & What a Winning Audition Sounds Like

 

How to Win an Audition: Advice and Strategies from 3 Renowned Performer/Teachers by The Bulletproof Musician

  • "We all know that success requires talent and hard work, but on some level, we’re also deeply curious about the “secret sauce,” or those tiny, but significant little details that can be the difference between advancing and going home, or winning and being runner-up."

 

New World Symphony Audition Panel Discussion [Video]

  • "NWS Coaches on Auditioning with Craig Morris (trumpet), Marianne Gedegian (flute), David Allen Moore (bass), William VerMeulen (horn), Daniel Matsukawa (bassoon), Jonathan Vinocour (viola), Mark Kellogg (trombone), Robert Davidovici (violin)."

 

Doug Rosenthal's A Tale of Two Auditions

  • "This is an account of a specific time in my specific life.  What I did for these specific auditions worked well enough specifically for me at these specific moments. I hope you find it helpful, insightful, or at the very least, entertaining."

Have you utilized any of the above resources? Share your favorite resources in the comments!

#PRACTICEROOMREVELATIONS

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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.
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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

#practiceroomrevelations

July Inspiration Calendar [Free Download]

Tips for Using Your Calendar

  • While this is not a practice calendar, there are several actions that are to be implemented directly into your practice session, such as the Practice Intention ideas.
  • There's no need to do every action in the order specified. If you're one to print out calendars like this one, then stop using them after one day if you haven't done everything as listed perfectly, here's permission to use it however you'd like
  • Half the days are intentionally left blank, and you're encouraged to fill them in with actions that are very specific to your own personal sources of inspiration or goals.
  • The first action involves reviewing your goals, and writing them specifically in the space at the top. 
  • Items with an asterisk (*) have corresponding links and explanations that are available below the calendar at the end of this post! 

Set Your New Goals

Take a moment to reflect and check-in on goals, experiences, and behaviors, ask the following questions:

  • Am I on track with my overall goals?
  • Are my behaviors reflective of what I wish to accomplish in the short and long-term?
  • What have I observed in myself that I wish to change?

Here you Go!

Click the image or click the button below to download your free PDF!


#practiceroomrevelations

I am SO EXCITED to see your calendars and the ways you're staying inspired throughout the month! Use the hashtag #practiceroomrevelations and tag @joleneflute to share!

Summer Workout Practice Planner [Free Download]

Summer is a great opportunity to spend some serious time practicing! If you're on break from school, perhaps you have a list of repertoire to tackle before the fall semester begins, or you're using your free time to work on pieces that have been on your to do list for a while.

I'm constantly grappling with the number of exercises and etudes I've gathered over the years, in addition to all the pieces in my library that haven't been thoughtfully practiced yet.

I'm always looking for ways to organize my thoughts onto paper and make sense of a realistic plan to help me feel well-balanced when it comes to practicing.

See how I'm organizing my summer practice below and download your own planner!


SUMMER WORKOUT PRACTICE PLANNER

Click the button below to download a free PDF to print and use!


TIPS For Using Your Planner

  • The first page contains spaces for fundamentals and ultimately creates 3 different practice scenarios.
  • In the DAILY boxes, write the bare-minimum that you'll commit to each day - the tasks that you're motivated to do daily and help you feel "in shape."
  • The combination of Warm-Up, Tone, and Technique DAILY tasks may equal 20-30 minutes, and should be your basic practice session on the busiest days!
  • The A & B boxes should be the additional materials you'll do in addition to the daily tasks. You can either rotate daily, weekly, or separate your tasks into the first half of your summer and the second half to focus on only a few at a time.
  • The second page contains repertoire, excerpts, etudes, and miscellaneous tasks, and can be divided into two sets. 
  • (For myself, I'm dividing my repertoire into the first 4 weeks, and the second 4 weeks, for example, working on one piece at a time, doing a little bit each day.)

Here's My Own Example:


Want to Track Your Practice Progress?


Happy Practicing!

- Jolene


#PracticeRoomRevelations

Are you using the Summer Workout Practice Planner? Share yours on Instagram and tag @joleneflute or use #practiceroomrevelations!

8 Ways to Practice Effectively Without Your Instrument

I recently sent my flute to the shop for a COA, and in the midst of preparing for upcoming events, I began thinking of all the ways I can continue to improve while it's away.

Perhaps your living situation limits you to quiet hours, or you've slammed your finger in a door and cannot hold your instrument for a month. (I can speak from experience.) 

Instead of considering the limitations of being unable to play your instrument, consider the ways it can be beneficial:

  • You won't feel distracted or discouraged by a "bad tone day."
  • You'll be able to focus purely on the composition and musicality.
  • You'll have the opportunity to practice being mindful, present, and focused.
  • You won't feel the temptation to mindlessly repeat passages and risk learning mistakes.

Here are 8 ways to practice effectively without your instrument:


1. Research

Spend time researching your repertoire. Dig deeper into the life of the composer, important influences, the history of the instrument at the time of the composition, and so on. This is a crucial step is that is often cut short when tempted to get started learning the notes. There are boatloads of articles and resources available online. Even in five minutes of searching, you can learn something new! A heightened awareness of the background and context of a piece allows for an informed interpretation. 

2. Pre-Record

If you're anticipating being without your instrument and can pre-record at least one performance of your piece, use your video as a tool for self-study. Watch yourself practice and take notes. Be your own teacher. This will be immensely useful in Step 3!

3. Listening 

Find as many recordings of your repertoire as possible, in addition to related works. Listen first as a whole, then on a granular level. 

Go phrase by phrase listening to all of your recordings back-to-back, taking specific notes. Oftentimes, we limit ourselves to only a few possibilities when playing. Hearing many possibilities from others opens your ears to fresh perspectives, and gives you the chance to determine which is the most effective.

Once you've determined the way you'd like a certain phrase to be played, listen to your own recording if you pre-recorded yourself. Are you already playing it exactly as you want? Great! Now you've confirmed that you should keep playing it that way! Are there areas to improve? Great! Now you have a detailed plan. 

I've written a whole post on this process! Click here to read: Maximizing Improvement with Video Recordings.

4. Visual Aids

Make a copy of your music for personal note-taking. Write notes on your own playing while you listen to your own recordings, and add notes and ideas from your favorite recordings.

Most importantly, add reminders throughout: Anticipate where you'll need to remember to "stand tall and sing" or "remain soft," for example.

Use color to enhance the visual road map of your piece, and gain a visual of the bigger picture. You can also add color to imagine the tone color you wish to use in each phrase. 

5. Staying in Shape

Do you notice when you first play your instrument in the morning, the muscles tend to tight when taking a full breath? After warming up, however, the muscles become more mobile and breathing feels more free. Without your instrument, you have the opportunity to shift awareness to the full-body experience of warming up, rather than simply listening to your sound. Try stretching and movement exercises, notice patterns of tension in movement, and uncover an effective full-body warm-up to use before playing your instrument.

6. Breathing

Take the last step further by laying on the floor and observing the experience of breathing as a whole. Notice patterns of tension in the abdomen, the neck, the arms, the legs, and replace holding with subtle movement. Feel the movement of a full, efficient breath, and maintain effortless expansion while exhaling. Breath is the foundation of sound, so this is essentially tone practice without your instrument!

7. Sing

Sing your part! Oftentimes, singing a note with a feeling of space in the mouth just before playing it on your instrument translates a beautiful, natural singing quality. Attempt to sing your parts with ease and beauty, and imagine how this feeling relates to your instrument. You can also practice hearing and singing intervals in tune!

8. Mental Practice

Actually practicing through imagination only. In addition to mental practice with the goal of learning notes and patterns, try a mental performance as well. Practice increasing your heart rate through jumping jacks or jogging in place, then come to a focused, grounded, and accepting state.

The benefit of practicing mentally is that you can imagine yourself playing your best. Imagine physical ease, clear musicality, a luminous sound, and captivating presence. You can even attempt to memorize the notes and rhythms through mental visualization.


How do you find ways to improve without your instrument? Let me know in the comment section below!

 

How I Upped My Mental Game For Auditions

The last time I took an audition, I prepared thoughtfully, recorded myself a lot, and learned about centering and mental focus. The day of, however, I under-performed.

This time around, I spent even more time working on my mental game. Here are a few of the key resources I turned to:

One crucial aspect of a strong mental performance that came up in all three was developing a Pre-Performance Routine, or a Pre-Shot Routine.

Pre-Performance Routines

A pre-performance routine is the idea of having a moment of simple, optimal mental programming that is consistent.

While I had specific ideas for how I wanted to approach each excerpt previously, I did not have a thought-out and consistent plan for my thoughts and actions. As a result, my mind ran wild with all the ideas I've collected from lessons, master classes and practice sessions over the years. Was this helpful? In the practice room, yes! On stage during an audition? Definitely not.

Instead, I followed the guidelines and advice from each of the three resources and came up with my own:

1. Breathe in for 6, Out for 8

2. "Feet, Peripheral Vision"

3. Hear it First

4. Move & Take the Leap!

In the moment, it became easy to sweep through these ideas, and I could efficiently clear my head and come to a place that felt grounded and confident.


Centering Breath

The Centering Breath was a part of my last audition preparation, but my mistake the first time around was way over-thinking it. I ended up adding tension as a result.

This time, I kept it simple and adapted the easy instructions from 10-Minute Toughness: A 15-second breath, counting 6 in, holding for 2, and out for 7. Focusing on counting alone means less room for mental chatter, and it prevented the issue of overthinking a "good" breath. According to 10-MT, a 15-second breath is also long enough to slow the heart rate.

Letting Go

While exhaling, I let go of tension in my abdomen and lower back. This was a far more simple "letting go" process than my previous one, where I tried to cram in a full body scan and get every muscle to be free and every bone perfectly positioned. While a full body scan is useful the day of an audition while laying on the floor, trying to do this in the moment before beginning each excerpt is far too overwhelming. The simpler answer is remembering to move as a whole. (See the last step!)

Reminder Statement

In 10-Minute Toughness, this concise, consistent statement is a key component of a pre-shot routine for athletes. For me, it was:

"Feet, Peripheral Vision"

That's it. I opened myself up to the room, remembered to feel my feet grounding me, and allowed myself to feel the confidence these ideas provide.

Hear It First

You're more likely to produce the sounds you hear mentally! Hear the most optimal, beautiful sounds, and the whole orchestral part in your head just before beginning to achieve the appropriate character and get your ideal sound concept.

Move & Take the Leap!

Taking the plunge to actually start the excerpt was the last part of the process I was overthinking before. I finally thought about the fact that if I simply take my flute of the case and begin wandering around the house playing Mozart or excerpts, it goes well because of the inhibition. I don't warm up, I don't stand in one spot and try to perfectly set myself up to play. I just go for it, move freely, and enjoy myself!

After going through my concise pre-performance routine this time, I knew I was ready to play, I felt calm and grounded, and I was able to take the leap of faith and just start. Allowing movement through the breath was the key to starting with ease and using the body as a whole. This ensured I would breathe naturally and freely, and tricked me out of overthinking my initial inhale, ultimately risking a tense breath.


Do You Have a Pre-Performance Routine?

Use a video camera and allow yourself only one chance to play through an excerpt or a piece you're going to perform. Identify the thought process you go through in preparing to play.

  • What do you instruct yourself to do?
  • What do you tell yourself not to do?
  • Does your process feel efficient in optimizing yourself for performance?
  • Is your process the same or different from how you approach a practice room mindset?

The Bulletproof Musician's Pressure Proof Hacks provide a guideline for developing your own pre-performance routine.

This is a commonly utilized concept, and there are many resources out there for both athletes and performing artists to check out!

In Conclusion

I can't begin to tell you how much this helped me. Doing it every time for every excerpt made an enormous difference when I went in front of a video camera for a mock audition, and again the day of the actual audition. Not having this mental plan the first time left far too much room for overthinking and trying too hard, and ultimately, I was inconsistent. 

I knew I could allow myself to take as much time as I needed before beginning each excerpt, but this time, I was able to use the time in the most efficient manner.

Keeping it simple and consistent is the key!