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Grad School Auditions: What I Wish I'd Done Differently + What I'd Definitely Do Again!

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Many students choose to embark on their grad school journey just after graduating as an undergrad, and this was the case for me. I found this helpful because I had my teacher by my side to guide me through the process.

Our lessons in my final two years were geared towards preparing for grad school auditions, and it really contributed to the sense of confidence I felt about going through every step of the process from choosing schools that were right for me all the way through making my final decision.

I've learned a lot in the years that have passed since graduate school, and if I were to go through the application and audition process all over again, there are some things that served me well, and some things I wish I had known or thought to do.


What I'd Do The Same

I had an overall positive experience during my grad school auditions, and I ended up attending the school that was the perfect fit for me. I'd consider the following four things again:

 

1. Choosing Which Schools to Apply For

 

I developed an interest in body awareness techniques as an undergrad, and as a result, it led me to seek out schools and potential teachers that had a strong interest in those techniques.

There are plenty of highly respected schools and teachers out there, but narrowing my focus in on my main interests helped me ensure I was applying to the programs that I'd be happiest learning in.

If you're still early in your undergrad career, take an opportunity to explore what you're passionate about. What kind of artist do you want to be? Get to know the artists, teachers, and schools that align with your values and interests.

 

2. Keeping Fundamentals Strong

 

I was working on fundamentals and etudes with my teacher every week surrounding audition preparation, and as a result, I was in good playing shape beyond my repertoire. I had a strong practice schedule that felt well-rounded, and I was committed to improving each day.

If I were going through the process again without the guidance of a teacher, I would be sure employ a strong plan for fundamentals that helps me address my weaknesses on a daily basis. I would challenge myself to go above and beyond what feels easy to make sure I'm fully prepared.

The Paul Edmund-Davies Warm-Up Book has been incredibly challenging and rewarding, and comes with a guided plan in the front of the book for rotating through all the exercises if you're looking to up your fundamentals!

 

3. Choosing Repertoire


Applying for grad school during undergrad meant I was also preparing for a senior recital. I chose bigger pieces I had performed at my junior recital so they would only need polishing, and for any new, required pieces that I needed to learn fresh, they went straight onto my Senior Recital program.

Don't spread yourself too thin by choosing too many different pieces. Overlap and re-use as much as possible! Fortunately, the repertoire at my four prospective schools overlapped quite a bit, which is common for many school requirements. 

If I were doing this all over again, I would still choose the pieces I'm familiar with and feel strongly about. Playing those pieces that you end up playing for fun from memory translate into energetic and convincing performances in the audition room.

 

4. Audition Day


I did four in-person auditions, (one of which was a regional live audition that was video-recorded by a representative from the school), and I felt confident at each of them. I followed along with several consistent things that really served me well, and many of these "Audition Day Rituals" still stick with me and bring me comfort.

I shared a post on the 9 Things I Did Before Every College Audition, and I would still do all nine of these things again!

 

What I'd Do Differently

Knowing what I know now, there are several things that I'd go back and change about my audition preparation and pre-screening recordings. Here's what I'd do differently:


1. Excerpt Preparation

 

Having spent more time preparing for professional auditions, I know WAY more about orchestral excerpts, their context, and how to practice and perform them in a consistent, convincing way.

If I had known about the resources I shared in the following post, my excerpt game would've been especially strong:

 

2. Pre-Screening Recordings 

 

I did my pre-screening recording the day before Thanksgiving, so campus was very quiet and it was easy to use the recital hall without feeling rushed. 

If I were doing it all over again, however, I would bring a back-up recording device. I utilized our school's recording services, but the best take of my Mozart Concerto had an issue where several seconds in, it only played out of the right side of the headphones. I ended up using this recording and passing pre-screenings, but it wasn't ideal. Take steps to avoid any issues that could be a distraction away from your playing!

 

3. Balancing Preparation + Travel with Everything Else

 

I remember one of the weeks where I was flying out for an audition but also had a million other things to do with concerts, recitals, recording sessions, projects, and more. It was overwhelming to say the least!

Your music professors understand the grad school audition process, so speaking with them early on and letting them know when you're going to be travelling is a good idea. Ask for advice on how you can get ahead and keep from falling behind, and get started on projects and big assignments early!

I was definitely a procrastinator and did not take initiative in this department. If I were doing it all over again, I would've given myself at least one good marathon day a week spent in the library with plenty of coffee, snacks and a best friend to focus on getting ahead. I'd also use the Pomodoro Technique to focus and be more efficient with my time!

 

4. Preparing For a Strong Performance

 

I didn't experience too many issues with performance nerves as an undergrad. It wasn't until the end of grad school into my first couple of years of independence that it really began to expand and become an issue.

Because of this, I've since practiced having stronger focus while performing under pressure, employed meditation and mental practice, and most importantly, learned to practice in a deeper way to ensure muscle memory would prevent slip-ups.

Here are a few of the resources that have helped me practice and mentally prepare for stronger audition performances:


Whether you're years away or just a few months away from graduate school auditions, know that you'll end up right where you need to be to grow in ways you haven't realized yet! Enjoy the excitement of it all, seek balance, and trust the process! You got this!


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Better Low Notes: Optimizing Air, Space + Lips

When it comes to low notes, some players have a natural ease while others struggle to find consistency. I frequently spend a good deal of practice time problem-solving in the low register, and have found the following ideas to be the most useful for me and my students.

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Breath Is The First Priority:

Keeping A Low Center of Gravity in the Body

  • I discovered this phrase in an article by Helen Bledsoe filled with ideas on playing low notes. In the article, she mentions an idea from Robert Dick: "Drop the belly. A trick from brass players, it keeps the center of gravity low." 

  • Releasing excess tension in the upper body (arm structure and abdomen) allows the center of gravity to shift towards the body's natural middle- the hips joints! A body in balance is supported by the floor, with the the upper half balancing on top of the legs. From here, the torso is free to enjoy the movements of breathing - Our inhalations can be efficient and we can maintain spaciousness to support the airstream.

  • Are the arms overworking? Release the weight of the arms, allow the elbows to hang, and keep the hands and fingers light: There's no need to squeeze the keys if your flute is functioning properly without leaks!

  • All-in-all, squeezing is a sign of effort that can get in the way of breathing, and we can redistributed this effort in a more useful way! Try singing and playing to encourage and open and well-supported airstream and notice the resultant feeling.

SECOND: JAW FREEDOM + SPACE WITHIN THE MOUTH

How Do I Drop The Jaw?

  • In addition to releasing tension in the upper body, releasing excess tension in the jaw and face is important, too! If the direction to "drop the jaw" involves forcing or pulling downward, you may begin to feel discomfort over time, as well as excess tension in the face. Consider the feeling of releasing or softening the face.

  • Do you clench your jaw as a habit? As an emotional response? Have a look at the muscles that move the jaw and lips! The masseter is a strong muscle used in chewing that helps us close the jaw, and it's attached to the cheek bones! Consider a feeling of softness surrounding the cheeks to encourage a more natural, neutral jaw feeling.

  • The tongue can lie low within the mouth to encourage a feeling of spaciousness. Imagine a warm, window-fogging airstream gliding across the floor of the mouth. What is it like to play with an "ooooh" vowel shape? What about "awwww?"


Finally, Embouchure:

Mushing the Lips Forward + Freeing the Lower Lip

  • Releasing and softening the face forward can also encourage us to release the embouchure forward, especially the corners. (We can get away with playing higher notes with corners that are pulled back, but the low register is especially difficult to play this way!) What is it like to release the face and the lips toward the lip plate?

  • Low notes need the embouchure to be available in order to be flexible, which means the lower lip also needs to be free and available. Use a mirror to experiment with a lower position if the lip plate is covering too much of the lower lip. 

  • With greater possibility for embouchure flexibility, we have more possibilities to uncover the optimal air angle needed for low notes. What is it like to roll out? What is it like to aim down toward the elbow? Does my airstream aim left, right, or straight? Is the aperture focusing the sound?

 


In Conclusion

The best way to get better at low notes is work on them daily with a sense of curiosity! Improving should involve a spirit of experimentation and trial and error, so be patient. Use a mirror, try out different ideas, and be kind to yourself if you make messy sounds, they're just information! Every day is a chance to become a little bit better than yesterday, no matter where you are!

recommended exercises: 


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How I Beat "Bad Tone Days" Using Ear Plugs

You put your instrument together, play a few notes, and things just aren't feeling or sounding right. You're cracking notes and struggling to find comfort. All of a sudden, your tone is gone.

In an effort to sound better, you force your sound to come out. All in all, nothing is working, and it's frustrating.

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Where Did My Sound Go?

There are several reasons why a bad tone day can happen. Here are a few reasons I find to be true for myself:

  • I'm physically tense, fatigued, or congested.

  • I've just eaten something cold.

  • My headjoint is slightly off the ideal mark.

  • My flute has a leak.

  • I've gone several days between practicing and feeling "out of shape."

 

Let's look at that last one...

 

I've gone several days or weeks without playing many times. (Such as that time I slammed my finger in a door and couldn't play for a month.)

I've found that it is possible to come back and feel like nothing's changed. In some cases, I'm so refreshed and excited to play again that I sound even better than before.

 

A Deeper Reason

This week, however, my two days off were associated with guilt and fear because a deadline is looming only a few weeks away. When I came back to playing, I was nervous about having diminished my own progress and worried about how much work I still have to do. 

Before I even played a note, I was imagining my sound as being closed off and stuffy.

I convinced myself I was out of shape, and I played that way.

 

Beating the Cycle of Frustration

  1. Before I began practicing, I told myself I was "out of shape."
  2. I played with the closed off sound I heard in my head before I even started.
  3. I heard my sound and confirmed I was playing poorly and without ease.
  4. I judged myself for taking two days off and began self-loathing.
  5. The frustration extended to my physical use, and I tried forcing sound out.
  6. More tension meant more frustration, more judging, and more self-loathing.
  7. The cycle continued until I became too frustrated to continue.

 

END-GAINING VS. MEANS-WHEREBY

I've recently been reading Indirect Procedures: A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique by Pedro de Alcantara. One of the first Alexander Technique concepts discussed is the principle of End-Gaining vs. Means-Whereby.

As described by Alexander Technique teacher Hilary King:

"End gaining is the tendency we have to keep our mind and actions focused on an end result whilst losing sight of, and frequently at the expense of, the means-whereby the result is achieved." 
(Click here to read the full article on End Gaining by Hilary King!)

I'm discovering that this concept can appear on many levels, from the action of a single note, to long-term life goals. When it comes to sound, I was desperate for the end-result of "sounding better," and I found myself forcing sounds and feeling frustrated. I lost sight of the means-whereby.

 

EAR PLUGS

When I was first learning about the benefits of singing and playing in relation to support and optimal body feeling during grad school, Professor Amsler had me use ear plugs to turn attention to feeling rather than hearing. With the work we were doing to change and improve sound, the dramatic difference in tone from my ears often sounded strange from my own perspective: my sound no longer sounded big to me, because it was projecting and sounding big for the room. 

 

using ear plugs, the emotional response of hearing and judging can be replaced by feeling and observing.

 

Since my sense of hearing caused me to end-gain, adding ear plugs re-directed my reliance on hearing and allowed me to include more senses into my approach.

I could invite my kinesthetic sense (the sense of movement) into my awareness, and observe the movements that would allow me greater freedom:

  • The 6 Places of Balance
  • Can I Release the lower back and abdomen to allow freedom for breathing and support?
  • Where do I lose support from the ground?
  • Where is my tongue?
  • What is the space between the teeth like?

 

Singing + Playing

Singing and Playing naturally encourages me to notice optimal support within the body without forcing. Doing this with ear plugs is a powerful way to observe the body with greater clarity, and the first thing I lean on when I'm bringing my best sound back.

 

20 Minutes Later...

After using ear plugs and lots of singing and playing, I was out of the loop of self-misery and enjoying a more resonant sound with ease! I could move on to a more productive practice session, feeling grateful for having worked through it!

 

Want 20+ Ideas For Bad Tone Days?

One of the first posts I wrote back in 2012 is called How To Cope with a Bad Tone Day.

Reading it again now, I still rely on these same things! (Minus travelling up and down 3 flights of stairs to the practice rooms at the University of New Hampshire!) 



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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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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

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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!


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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!

My Go-To Warm-Up Routine

Have you ever gone grocery shopping and stocked up on really good breakfast food that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?

I've always wanted to find a warm-up routine that does the same thing for me. I consider myself to be a morning person mentally, but physically, my body feels closed off and lacks full flute-playing mobility until I've been awake for a few hours. As a result, diving in with notes right away often feels uncomfortable and frustrating.

However, there are times when I need to be ready to play very early in the day, so the remedy is a 5-minute cardio warm-up that stretches the body and creates mobility for breathing to happen more easily!

Here's my favorite warm-up from Blogilates!

Cardio Warm-Up

Blogilates Quick Cardio Warm Up (5 Minutes)

After completing a whole-body warm-up, I can MOVE and therefore, I can BREATHE! After just five minutes, I'm ready to have a better time playing my first notes of the day.


This warm-up makes me excited to warm up in a way that I've never experienced with any other! I've done this warm-up almost daily for the past two or three months, and I'm already excited to warm-up again tomorrow. 

 

Why Is It So Good?

  • Dr. Sánchez has achieved a fun, satisfying 15-minute warm-up with lots of useful tips and reminders for good physical habits sprinkled in.

  • It's written in such a way that it feels good to play, and it's easy to focus and complete the entire thing without getting frustrated or distracted. 

  • There are plenty of harmonics and singing and playing which I can't warm-up without!

  • It is well-rounded and hits on all registers, articulations, dynamics, vibrato, and more.

 

I've enthusiastically ordered her new book The Aspiring Flutist's Practice Companion, and frequently utilize her other resources and enlightening blog posts!

Click below to visit The Self-Inspired Flutist's website and access a free download of the Epic Flute Warm-Up!


In Conclusion

These two resources simplify the process of warming up the body to breathe well and play well. I can easily and consistently follow along to completion, and when I do, I feel totally prepared to continue on with my practice session or feel ready to perform!

 

Do you have a holy grail warm-up routine?

Share in the comments below or tag me @joleneflute / #practiceroomrevelations on Instagram to share!

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!


May Technique Workout [+ 3 Free Downloads!]

I am excited to start May off with a boatload of fun ways to re-energize your daily technique workout! I received multiple requests for technique tips and a request for a technique plan or calendar. The possibilities are endless with regards to technique, books, schedules, and so on, but with some careful thought and lots of great feedback from Instagram, here is what I came up with!

There are three main parts with corresponding downloads! The first is my own flute-specific workout plan containing my core technique exercises and a breakdown of ways to practice them. Second, a prompt sheet containing ideas to invigorate your technique workout. Third, a 31-day tracker to view your progress!

A video complete with tips and demonstrations of the exercises in the Workout Plan will be shared soon!


1. WORKOUT PLAN

I have nailed down my top 6 most-utilized technique exercises (and some others that I want to bring back into my daily/weekly routine), and have listed several ways to approach them. Embrace the possibilities within each exercise and enjoy the beginner's attitude each new day!

Scale Game for Taffanel and Gaubert No. 4:


2. Prompt Sheet

In need of more inspiration for your scales? Use the prompt sheet to change the mood, play in a spectrum of colors, and add ornaments and trills to spice up your daily exercises! This is merely a jumping-off point and a reminder to always be musical!


3. WORKOUT TRACKER

If you're a visual person, the bullet-journal style Workout Tracker will break down your technique menu for the month, providing visual motivation to fill in as many boxes and days as possible!

  • Write the name of your exercises in the boxes on the left.
  • The numbers 1-31 represent each day in May. Upon completing an exercise, mark the box! 
  • If you are rotating through exercises, the tracker will make it easier to see which exercise comes next. For example, if time allows only playing the Flat or the Sharp keys, fill in # or b so you'll know which keys to focus on the next day!
  • There are lots of spaces to fill this up with anything you'd like to keep track of!

Following Along?

Use #practiceroomrevelations and tag me @JoleneFlute! 

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