Practise Tips

2nd tenor

Well-Known Member
OK I’m the first to admit that I’m not even remotely the greatest player around but I still enjoy playing and hopefully I contribute something positive to my Band. When we play we all contribute to the sound that our Band makes so making the right contribution is important.

I do practise at home but I’ve found that doing so on Band parts can be boring and not always that constructive, well that is ‘till now. You Tube can be a fantastic resource to work with for home practise because: it allows you to hear what the piece should sound like, it allows you to follow your part whilst a ‘live’ Band play, and it allows you to play along with a ‘live’ Band (well, so long as your sheet music matches theirs). Recordings do differ in quality but You Tube certainly can be a great home practise aid.

What are your tips?
 

Stevieb

New Member
Yes I sort of agree with that 2nd Tenor, You Tube does indeed give you a free source of performances with a general idea of how the music should sound and for that alone it is a good source.
I have on many occasions listened to performances but found varying interpretations and playing standards that can confuse. I can't say that I have ever played along, but that sounds like it may be worth a try.

Having never been schooled in playing like a lot of todays youngsters at all the colleges and universities. I have always learnt from other players around me over the decades and the many, but not all, of the MD's and bandmasters I have played for, there have been one or two who have stood out! I really think that Practicing must be pleasurable and enjoyable, whether in a group of individually, because if its not then you'll quickly get bored and find other things to do.

Never be afraid to ask if there is a better way to play something, if you like the advice take it onboard, if you don't its no big deal.

I do find though that playing melodies, songs etc that you really like can extend you range and make practice that little bit less of a chore (like Test Pieces Grrr).

Final tip then for this modern age of electronics is to purchase a Electronic Metronome & Tuner which for music that has the tempo on you can practice to the beat, or listen to how in tune your playing each note.
 

norman kennedy

New Member
Yes I sort of agree with that 2nd Tenor, You Tube does indeed give you a free source of performances with a general idea of how the music should sound and for that alone it is a good source.
I have on many occasions listened to performances but found varying interpretations and playing standards that can confuse. I can't say that I have ever played along, but that sounds like it may be worth a try.

Having never been schooled in playing like a lot of todays youngsters at all the colleges and universities. I have always learnt from other players around me over the decades and the many, but not all, of the MD's and bandmasters I have played for, there have been one or two who have stood out! I really think that Practicing must be pleasurable and enjoyable, whether in a group of individually, because if its not then you'll quickly get bored and find other things to do.

Never be afraid to ask if there is a better way to play something, if you like the advice take it onboard, if you don't its no big deal.

I do find though that playing melodies, songs etc that you really like can extend you range and make practice that little bit less of a chore (like Test Pieces Grrr).

Final tip then for this modern age of electronics is to purchase a Electronic Metronome & Tuner which for music that has the tempo on you can practice to the beat, or listen to how in tune your playing each note.
This is my first attempt on this website. you can get a free metronome app on a smartphone. I have found it invaluable for home practice. With the area contest coming up I am doing a lot of extra practice and find the metronome a very useful device to ensure I am playing at the correct tempo ect. Another good thing for home practice is long notes and playing at different volumes of sound ie PP. easy to play at FF but takes practice to achieve a good PP or quieter sound. Great asset when playing with the band.

Finally, I like to practice trombone solos which are technically beyond me, as this can really stretch you as a player. don’t be put off by how difficult a piece may be. The more you play something, then it becomes more possible to play
 

Jack E

Well-Known Member
I really think that Practicing must be pleasurable and enjoyable, whether in a group of individually, because if its not then you'll quickly get bored and find other things to do.
I do find though that playing melodies, songs etc that you really like can extend your range and make practice that little bit less of a chore (like Test Pieces Grrr).
I'd second both of those points, Stevieb. I grant you, you have to practise things like long notes to check the stability of your pitch and dynamic, scales (inc. chromatic), fingering studies like Arban, and so on - and if you want to make real progress, there's no way to avoid them. You do, however, need some jam on the bread to make it palatable!

One way I've found - with great encouragement from my banjo and clarinet teachers - is don't treat pieces in tutorial books, or issued band music, as being carved in stone. Play around with them; write and play your own variations on them. Especially if you have some popular pieces, such as Chopin's Grand Waltz (Op.18), listen to performances on Youtube, get the feel of the piece, and then decide how you think it should be played and modify your sheet music accordingly.

A tutorial book for clarinet I was using has a very . . . very . . . basic arrangement of the theme from Beethoven's 9th ('Ode to Joy'), and I complained to my teacher that it 'plodded along like a weary old cart horse!' - with the opening bars looking like a scale exercise in crotchets, and no shape to it at all. She encouraged me to think about it, decide what needed to change to bring out the full drama of the piece, and the picture attached (I hope!) shows what I came up with - in particular, it seemed to me that the accented notes should stand out, and that the first note in Bar 14 was the high spot of the piece, so I added the 'sfz'. Did it make a difference? You bet it did! And working out those variations was pure pleasure, too.

Another tip I stumbled across was playing with my eyes shut - which I first tried on my banjo, to get out of the habit of looking at my fingers all the time. It also worked very well when I tried it with my clarinet - and I think the way it works is this. Firstly, by shutting your eyes, you blot out all the visual distractions - so your mind starts to focus on three things.
1) the music playing in your head; 2) what your embouchure and fingers feel like as they do their stuff; 3) the feedback you get from hearing the music through your ears.
Just my impression, but I think the overall effect is that, once you've learnt how the piece is supposed to sound, you develop a very direct link between the music playing in your head and what your body is doing to get that sound out of your instrument. What you aren't doing is focusing on those little black splodges on the score, or even "D, E, C".

I know this is commonly termed 'muscle memory', but there's an American, very accomplished banjo player, who is a professional neuroscientist - and he's adamant that 'muscle memory' is a myth, and that muscles don't have any means of storing memories. What he says is that, if you keep repeating a certain action enough times - like moving the gear lever to get reverse - then the conscious part of your brain (a staggeringly powerful computer) decides this is taking up too much time and attention, so (in computer terms) it writes a simple sub-routine telling your hand which way to go, so that when you want the car to reverse, your conscious thought "I want to back up" triggers the command "G=R", which runs the sub-routine. That gives your hand and arm muscles a string of instructions to get the car into reverse gear without any further conscious thought - so you can focus your attention on watching out for other cars, pedestrians and so on.

In terms of musical instruments, he says if you're playing the first four notes of Beethoven's 5th in your mind, this process means that your embouchure and fingers are triggered by the appropriate sub-routine to play those notes without conscious thought, so that your conscious mind can attend to dynamics on the score, matching your intonation to the rest of your section, signals from the conductor, etc.

The way I see it, it's like road improvements. If the roads authority finds traffic increasing a lot along a very narrow road, with lots of blind bends, blind summits, and very awkward junctions, what do they do? (eventually!) They widen the road, ease out the nasty bends, replace awkward junctions with roundabouts - and maybe, in the long run, turn it into a dual carriageway with a 70mph speed limit! (that actually happened to what was a very minor country lane near where I live, which is now up to motorway standards). And that's pretty much what your brain does, whether you're learning to play cornet, tin whistle, send Morse code, or doing karate!

Even if you're just at the stage of 'Merrily We Roll Along', or 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star', their very simplicity makes it easy to play around with them. Play it staccato, legato, change crotchets into quavers, add slurs and changes of dynamic, change crotchets into triplets - as long as you play it by the book in band practises, what you do with music in your own time is entirely your own affair.

Oops - my bad; another post that turned into a wannabe ten page essay . . . 🙄

With best regards,
Jack
Ode to Joy.jpg
 
I'd second both of those points, Stevieb. I grant you, you have to practise things like long notes to check the stability of your pitch and dynamic, scales (inc. chromatic), fingering studies like Arban, and so on - and if you want to make real progress, there's no way to avoid them. You do, however, need some jam on the bread to make it palatable!

One way I've found - with great encouragement from my banjo and clarinet teachers - is don't treat pieces in tutorial books, or issued band music, as being carved in stone. Play around with them; write and play your own variations on them. Especially if you have some popular pieces, such as Chopin's Grand Waltz (Op.18), listen to performances on Youtube, get the feel of the piece, and then decide how you think it should be played and modify your sheet music accordingly.

A tutorial book for clarinet I was using has a very . . . very . . . basic arrangement of the theme from Beethoven's 9th ('Ode to Joy'), and I complained to my teacher that it 'plodded along like a weary old cart horse!' - with the opening bars looking like a scale exercise in crotchets, and no shape to it at all. She encouraged me to think about it, decide what needed to change to bring out the full drama of the piece, and the picture attached (I hope!) shows what I came up with - in particular, it seemed to me that the accented notes should stand out, and that the first note in Bar 14 was the high spot of the piece, so I added the 'sfz'. Did it make a difference? You bet it did! And working out those variations was pure pleasure, too.

Another tip I stumbled across was playing with my eyes shut - which I first tried on my banjo, to get out of the habit of looking at my fingers all the time. It also worked very well when I tried it with my clarinet - and I think the way it works is this. Firstly, by shutting your eyes, you blot out all the visual distractions - so your mind starts to focus on three things.
1) the music playing in your head; 2) what your embouchure and fingers feel like as they do their stuff; 3) the feedback you get from hearing the music through your ears.
Just my impression, but I think the overall effect is that, once you've learnt how the piece is supposed to sound, you develop a very direct link between the music playing in your head and what your body is doing to get that sound out of your instrument. What you aren't doing is focusing on those little black splodges on the score, or even "D, E, C".

I know this is commonly termed 'muscle memory', but there's an American, very accomplished banjo player, who is a professional neuroscientist - and he's adamant that 'muscle memory' is a myth, and that muscles don't have any means of storing memories. What he says is that, if you keep repeating a certain action enough times - like moving the gear lever to get reverse - then the conscious part of your brain (a staggeringly powerful computer) decides this is taking up too much time and attention, so (in computer terms) it writes a simple sub-routine telling your hand which way to go, so that when you want the car to reverse, your conscious thought "I want to back up" triggers the command "G=R", which runs the sub-routine. That gives your hand and arm muscles a string of instructions to get the car into reverse gear without any further conscious thought - so you can focus your attention on watching out for other cars, pedestrians and so on.

In terms of musical instruments, he says if you're playing the first four notes of Beethoven's 5th in your mind, this process means that your embouchure and fingers are triggered by the appropriate sub-routine to play those notes without conscious thought, so that your conscious mind can attend to dynamics on the score, matching your intonation to the rest of your section, signals from the conductor, etc.

The way I see it, it's like road improvements. If the roads authority finds traffic increasing a lot along a very narrow road, with lots of blind bends, blind summits, and very awkward junctions, what do they do? (eventually!) They widen the road, ease out the nasty bends, replace awkward junctions with roundabouts - and maybe, in the long run, turn it into a dual carriageway with a 70mph speed limit! (that actually happened to what was a very minor country lane near where I live, which is now up to motorway standards). And that's pretty much what your brain does, whether you're learning to play cornet, tin whistle, send Morse code, or doing karate!

Even if you're just at the stage of 'Merrily We Roll Along', or 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star', their very simplicity makes it easy to play around with them. Play it staccato, legato, change crotchets into quavers, add slurs and changes of dynamic, change crotchets into triplets - as long as you play it by the book in band practises, what you do with music in your own time is entirely your own affair.

Oops - my bad; another post that turned into a wannabe ten page essay . . . 🙄

With best regards,
JackView attachment 5381
This is one of the best essays I've ever read. Thanks for posting it!
 

trumpetb

Member
You are totally correct 2nd tenor YouTube listening is extremely important for the reasons you have stated in your OP

As for my tips there are many many tips that I could give and some might even be useful, but I will pass on one single piece of advice that I believe transcends all others.

Choose one note, one single note, it could be any note it does not matter which note, and then practice it unceasingly for one full hour striving to make this one single note the most beautiful and most lyrical note that is humanly possible.

Then rest, and then repeat this for each note in your range.

This may well be the hardest thing you have ever done but the rewards will be worth all the effort.

Do not of course neglect other practice.
 

Jack E

Well-Known Member
Choose one note, one single note, it could be any note it does not matter which note, and then practice it unceasingly for one full hour striving to make this one single note the most beautiful and most lyrical note that is humanly possible. Then rest, and then repeat this for each note in your range. This may well be the hardest thing you have ever done but the rewards will be worth all the effort.

I can see your drift, @trumpetb - unfortunately, with my lungs in the shape they're in right now, if I did that for 20 minutes on the easiest note in my range, that would be me finished for the rest of the day. And if what I did the other day on my baritone is anything to go by, I might only last a quarter of an hour. Breathing in phosgene does more damage in a matter of seconds than smoking does in decades. :confused:

With best regards,
Jack
 

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