The importance of Practising Performance Pieces

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Sethoflagos, Sep 9, 2015.

  1. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    I guess am well through putting together my basic beginning skill set at the moment, but there's still work to be done particularly with the basic tongue articulations.

    Being a pretty single-minded and patient type of chap, it's quite common for me just to work on one particular stumbling block all day (after a warm-up) and if I'm not careful that can spread out to a week or so. Eventually some of the bits I'm not practising (such as keeping above stave open) start going south.

    I guess Rowuk will say that I'm not being diligent in setting a structured practice schedule and he'd probably be right.

    But a useful little palliative I've found is to dig out a not-too-difficult performance piece that exercises most of the skill spectrum. At first I'll be all over the place with it as it taxes aspects I've not been practising for some time. But eventually it will usually start to turn around after a while.

    I know I tend to neglect practising pieces. Maybe I get a little dispirited remembering that they seemed 'easy' when I was in my teens.

    How do the rest of you balance technical exercises versus 'proper tunes'.
  2. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    For me?

    1/3 Ever-Morphing Evolving Routine, 1/3 tunes and 1/3 technique specific exercises, about a half of which are Clarke and Arbans and other structured stuff, as needed. The other 1/6th of the technique specific exercises gets interspersed amongst the tunes.

    Let's say there is a slur in a tune from A in the staff to e at the top of the staff that bothers me. My personal Ever-Morphing Evolving Routine has "hard-wired" that slur, but only in the context of a 1+2 fingering. I'll then bang out a few A/e slurs (by banging out I mean stuff like tuning the interval by lowering the A, getting the slur to "pop," all within the context of the music) and go back to the piece. At the end, a few chorale tunes straight through, enjoying the sound, power and expressiveness of the trumpet.
  3. peanuts56

    peanuts56 Pianissimo User

    Jan 18, 2009
    I would eventually play the piece as if it were being performed. We tend to stop at the slightest mistake and start over. We don't have that luxury in a performance. I studied with Ray Kotwica when I was at Berklee. Ray was notorious for stopping you at the slightest problem. Ray was a great guy but he was also a stickler for the tiniest detail, it could be frustrating. I asked him one lesson to listen to the etude I was working on and to let me finish. When I was done he actually said it sounded good. He also pointed out the little things I could improve on.
  4. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I'm probably bad in the fact that a lot of my practice is performance-oriented, so I spend a lot of time running charts where I know there are tricky lines that have to be maintained. I also spend a lot of time running charts playing along with the original tunes or the backing tracks the band uses. This is to keep things in order from a timing/articulation/inflection standpoint. Such is life when your performance book has 500+ charts in it I suppose.

    There are times when I run my practice back to basic fundamentals though, and I'm at a point where I need to spend some time doing that - that's when my technique starts to get a bit fuzzy around the edges for the playing I have to do.

    It is what it is - I don't think that any 2 people will have the same practice regimen because we all are going to have different things that need additional time and attention.
  5. neal085

    neal085 Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 6, 2012
    Ft. Worth, TX
    The short answer is that my approach is pretty similar to yours, Seth. I have to remind myself to practice tunes and otherwise mix it up, or I'll go an entire week plugging away at the same section of Arban's, which is generally not healthy. Turning to an actual piece helps bring it all together, and also makes the practice more enjoyable and rewarding.

    I've occasionally had the rather odd experience of not being able to do something properly in an exercise, but if I drop the exercise and go to music, it somehow just works for me. I have no reasonable explanation as to why that happens, other than I think it's my mind subconsciously screwing with me. Maybe there's a mental gear that switches from 'work' to 'play', and I'm more relaxed and uninhibited.

    I've also had the experience of not touching a piece for a long time and focusing on scales, slurs, tonguing, articulation, et cetera. Then when I go back to the piece after a significant layoff, I think, "Huh. That used to be a lot harder."

    It's fun when that happens.
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I actually have no problem with non structured playing. We all have different goals. Mine is to maintain a broad cross section of playing qualities allowing me to accept a broad cross section of gigs. This requires a certain amount of structure to cover the ground. My teaching starts the same way, but for my kids playing in the community wind band, we "overdose" on repertory up to about a week before the concert. Then we play other stuff to build fresh insite until the concert. Afterwards we cover things that got weak.
  7. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    Practicing Performance pieces is 90% of my practice time, with 5% warm up, and 5% Technical skills. And for some reason I find if I end the practice in Technical skills, my endurance and control is much better the next day.
  8. richtom

    richtom Forte User

    Dec 7, 2003
    Here is another tidbit from Bud Herseth.

    Practice solos much more than drills or exercises for tonguing. Every time Bud learns a new solo (or rehearses one) it adds a new spark to his playing. Vocalize through the horn. Get a message across to the people - tell them a story, an interesting one. REMEMBER THINGS THAT YOU DO NOW WILL BECOME CONSISTANT LATER AS YOU APPLY CONCEPTS.

    Whether it is a new solo, old solo, or just your part for performance it is of utmost importance that you play music. Herseth carried this concept over to various studies as well. Always play music, not just notes.

    Rich T.
    gmonady likes this.
  9. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    I've been looking at bring a bit more structure to my warm-up and practice sessions. One method book I've been looking over is Harold Mitchell's "Warm-ups for Brass Instruments" which for my current stage of development is a tad less demanding than most of Schlossberg.

    Two quotes caught my eye:

    My impression is that there is a progression from a beginner's or recent comebacker's need to focus mainly on the fundamental skills developed from the technical methods for a year or two, and then gradually shift emphasis across to performance pieces as perfected techniques can be applied to a musical context, and the technical studies take on more of a periodic maintenance role.
  10. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    There is a very simple truth to virtually any musical endeavor - the purpose for practice is to gain the technical proficiency so that we can perform real music. Therefore the better your technique and the easier it is to execute those elements of technique, the better the music you can make.

    To take this to the next step, it becomes necessary to practice performance pieces, and although elements of technique can be learned by practicing performance pieces, generally it is my belief that the technique needed for the piece should have already been learned independently. When you practice a performance piece it should be mostly about assembling it from a technical perspective, then polished from a musical perspective. If your technique isn't up to the level of the performance piece, it will the piece will always suffer musically.

    Of course this doesn't apply to the player who never makes it out of the practice room. Those are the folks I don't understand. I know that some people play solely for their own enjoyment but for me it had always been about practicing with the idea that I will perform.

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