Practice vs. Efficiency

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by silverstar, Jan 25, 2006.

  1. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Lara, when I think of the words "practicing efficiently" I think in terms of making sure that you cover the basics, and not spending a lot of time working the music so much, unless of course you have some trouble spots to work out. In a nutshell, it's covering the bases that need to be covered.

    Back when I was playing my best, my practice routines were very simple. I worked the basics with very simple exercises, albeit in a focused, structured way, and only worked the parts of the music that were giving me actual problems, such as a passage that had some tricky fingering.

    For instance, I used to break my practice days down into specific aspects of technique, working only one technique per day, rather than try to pile a little bit of everything into every practice session. One day would be a day to work articulation and I would do fairly basic exercises that really worked articulation.
    One exercise was just single tounging lots of 16ths per note, all from G on top of the staff down (mostly in the staff) but the point was to really get the articulation to focus and pop on every note, spending more time with the notes that didn't naturally articulate quite as well for me. I would also work various other aspects of articulation such as working everything from legato tonguing to staccato tonguing - just to know that whatever was called for musically, I would be able to execute it without fail, without having to think about it.

    Another exercise was single tonguing up and down scales, starting almost excruciatingly slow to insure syncronicity between the articulation and the action of the valves, and then gradually speeding up and slowing down, focusing on keeping that syncronicity.

    Yet another exercise was to work multiple tonguing, working to get the 'K' part of the articulation as crisp as the 'T' part of the articulation - once I would get that in focus, I would work to double tongue up and down scales, and triple tongue up and down chromatic scales.

    Then I had my tone and control days, where I would work long tones, focusing on keeping the tone pure and steady, and one exercise I would do would be to play a note, starting it as softly as I could cleanly attack, pushing it through a crescendo to as loud as I could play it with good sound and control and focusing on intonation as well, and then decrescendo down to nothing, all in one breath. My goal here was to make it sound like someone was merely turning a volume knob up and down.

    When I did work music into my practice, it was to work consistency and phrasing - playing musically, but playing it virtually the same every time.

    This to me is practicing efficiently - working the basics in a systematic, focused way. I already "knew" the music and thus, that bulk of work on bare fundamentals made playing music the easy part because I had worked the basics to the point that they easily tranlated themselves into my regular playing. Back then, playing trumpet was everything to me and I have never been at that level of technical proficiency before or since, although I did get close one other time.
     
  2. bandman

    bandman Forte User

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    The Great OZ -- I liked that until my wife reminded me that the GReat Oz was a phoney :-o
     
  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Question: why work with a metronome? Unless you know that your time is bad or you are a drummer, what's the point? Is the ensemble going to play to a click? Does the conductor conduct to a click?

    I never really worked with a metronome because on the few occasions as a trumept player where I did, I never had a problem using one. I could always feel whether or not my time was staying steady, and if it wasn't, I simply backed off on the tempo to a point where it was, and then built back up from there. Of course I use one NOW, but not when I practice trumpet - only drums, and even on drums, I don't have a problem playing to a click in my general playing and I only use it to work more complex grooves where my coordination is not quite happening and I want to tighten up the screws a bit faster. I guess I have been fortunate in that regard.

    Metronomes have their place, but in the grand scheme of things, IMO, unless you really need to work on your time, to me, they become a distraction, pulling focus away from more important aspects of the practice, and when you are playing in an ensemble, that's what the drummer or rhythm section is for.
     
  4. Alex Yates

    Alex Yates Forte User

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    Oh, sorry Bandman. You are no phoney....just GREAT. ;-)
     
  5. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

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    Remember that song by America: "Oz never did give nothin' to the tin man...that he didn't...didn't already have"?

    Oz WAS a great and wise man. He was a figment of Dorothy's imagination, to be sure, but that personification in her dream brought out the very qualities in those characters that they sought him out for. In my view, he was not a fake; he simply allowed them to see what they already had but were unwilling or unable to see within themselves.
     
  6. tromj

    tromj Piano User

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    I would've practiced with my metronome, but it was broken. Everytime i would play along with it, it seemed like it couldn't keep time.... :-)

    Seriously, practicing efficiently to me means a lot of what Alex said, plus using your most important tool..your ears. Be self critical about sound quality and clean phrasing, and don't spend too much time doing things that are easy- just enough to keep them in shape. If you do a Clarke exercise, pick out the keys that give you the most trouble and practice them. Jim Thompson told us (shameless name drop) at Lake Placid that practicing was like entering data into a computer. If you enter it perfectly, you will be able to reproduce it perfectly. So worry less about playing things at the fastest tempi, and get them as perfect as you can, even if it is at a slower tempo.
     
  7. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

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    Sorry Pat, but I could not disagree more. It is not the job of the rhythm section to count for anybody but themselves. To me when playing in a Jazz group the time is in the center and we are in a circle around it so to speak, time is what we all agree upon, not what we blindly follow. With a legit group it is the same but the conductor is the one that is the center of control.

    I would also add that since playing of the trumpet involves the coordination of many different things practicing with a metronome is very important. Supposedly any time Herseth practices he has the metronome on, not sure if the story I heard about that is true but there has to be something to it



    ;-)
     
  8. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    That's fine - we can agree to disagree. Like I said, I'm fortunate that I have better than average time and any ensemble I have been a part of, I have never had to worry about it - I can always feel it and hear it when everyone else is screwing it up, to include the drummers, and my time is the least of anyone's worries in that regard. Even when I'm not using a metronome, I can feel it when my time is wandering.

    I also disagree with your assessment about following the drummers and the rhythm section. Unless you want to sound wrong, even if the drummer is wandering a bit with their time, you have to go with them- you don't have much choice if you want to try to lock in as an ensemble. In my opinion, if all you are doing is circling around the rhythm section when playing in a jazz ensemble, you are wrong - you have to be locked into it, and that is what I feel separates a good ensemble from a mediocre one. It's not something you blindly follow, it's something you consciously lock into - you aren't following, you are a part of it.

    With a legit group, it's a different story - yes, you have to lock into what the conductor is doing, but there is a natural ebb and flow there and it certainly isn't metronomic. I never said that practicing with metronome is a bad idea because for some, it allows folks that don't have eveness in their playing to work on it. In some ways, I'm constantly working with a "metronome" because whenever I listen to music, I'm moving - either I'm dancing on the inside, dancing on the outside, tapping my foot or fingers or something, but I'm always locked into the groove.

    Again, don't get me wrong - I own a metronome and it's a dandy. I own a Yamaha Clickstation which has much of the same functionality as the well known Boss DB-88 Doctor Beat, and there are times that I use it, but I don't make it a daily practice to use it.
     
  9. ethogers

    ethogers New Friend

    I'm only a student so I probably don't know what I'm talking about. But, all of the trumpet professors here urge us to use a metronome in the majority of our practice. Now, I'm not saying all of it. There occasions where you are better off not practicing with one, in my opinion. My teacher says you should practice with one 70% of the time. I think, one of the most important instances to use a metronome is when working on an orchestra audition. Many good players don't have a chance in a competitive audition solely because they don't have crystal clear rhythm.


    -Erik
     
  10. bandman

    bandman Forte User

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    I hate metronomes -- I tell my students NOT to use them during practice. We use the metronome as a guide to the tempo of the music, but we play the music the way we feel it should be played.

    I feel that one a musician becomes mature you will notice no difference between musicians that practice with or without a metronome.

    One of the most important things a musician must have is the ability to adapt to the tempos of the band. You must watch and stay with your ensemble. This comes from listening, not from playing with a metronome.

    I think the almighty metronome is a valuable tool, but not a strict practice aide.
     

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