Monday, March 12, 2012

A new routine

A New Routine

I'm trying out a new routine for my practice.

If you ask someone like me -- a musician in mid-career -- what they practice you'll get a lot of different answers.

Some people have schedules that are so busy that they don't really practice much anymore.  That is, they don't seek out etudes, solo pieces, etc., but just have time to stay on top of the material they're performing that week and maybe look ahead to see what's coming up.  They have boiled down their warming up and practicing so that they can have what they need for the week ready and nothing more.

I have been in this position and I know how hard it is to try anything new. Those that know me, know that I'm a restless type, always looking for ways to stretch and stay on top of my game.

Some people are able to carve out time for work on an area of technique or prepare a recital, etc.

Hugh Michie, Second Bassoonist of the Cincinnati Symphony, loves working on etudes.  He has a very thorough regimen of etudes that keeps him in shape.

Phillip Austin, our recently retired Second Bassoonist, used to put on solo recitals every other year.  It was his way of having fun, stretching a bit and playing some solo literature.  After all, the second bassoonist rarely gets to play solos in the orchestra.

I have trouble staying in shape by just practicing my orchestra music.  My technique becomes stale and even my ability to sight read becomes sluggish.

About this time last year I detailed a weekly practice plan for a few weeks.

I just started a new one recently, so I'd like to outline it for you.  Maybe it will inspire some of you who want to break out of a rut and try something new.

I have practiced major and minor scales for decades now, so I was looking for something else to try to build my technique.

A few weeks ago, I began Guy Lacour's "28 Etudes in Olivier Messiaen's mode of limited transposition".  To help my technique in the etude, I'm putting the mode used in the first etude

through all the permutations of my adaptation of Norman Herzberg's scale routine. The first two pages are listed below.  For the rest, visit my website scroll down the page and you'll find them under "Stees scales".

Here's the scale for Etude #3 again:

You'll notice that this is an eight note scale, not like our usual seven note ones, so the scale pages above won't fit as usual, but they are manageable.  I'll have to add the accidentals and, for each octave, add a C# so there are eight different pitches in each octave.

The etude covers the full range of the bassoon using this scale.   It's an octatonic scale -- half step/whole step, half step/whole step, etc. --a symmetrical scale used by Etler in his Bassoon Sonata and frequently by other composers such as Bartok.

The Etude is fast -- ♩.=76 in 3/8 time with mainly 16th notes throughout, so it will be a challenge for me to get this up to tempo by the end of the week and then move on to the next one.

In the next post I have a plan for a more involved musical practice project that also involves reading and listening. 


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