Happy New Year! We hope you’ve enjoyed some time off for the holidays and are ready to get back into rehearsal schedules at school. You’ve been practicing over the break, right?
This month is very active for school band. Solo and ensemble along with All-Region band clinics are mere weeks away! To help get back into the swing of things, here are some pointers for refining all that hard work you’ve already done and improving your playing overall!
1. Practice simple patterns at a slow, deliberate tempo.Practicing over the break can feel pointless, and a lot of players don’t find motivation. After all, it’s WinterBreak, right? Be that as it may, getting back into a good routine can be difficult. Pull out that old Foundations for Superior Performance (the “blue” book) if you have it, or another method book you’re familiar with, and hit those basics again before you start trying to tackle harder passages. You may even want to incorporate those exercises into your practice routine going forward. I find scale exercises and etudes to be most beneficial; if you can play scales in different keys, you can play anything!
2. Work backwards.Maybe you’ve already got your All-Region music or your concert contest music and you’ve started learning from the beginning quite a bit. Start looking through the music and check yourself on each passage, making sure they’re at least comfortable. If you run into some issues, work them out! That way, rehearsals will go much smoother. If your director or clinician can work on musical elements and not so much on teaching the band how to play notes, it’s just that much more fun. Try to give your part some “due diligence” and prepare before rehearsal!
Also, if you’re back to polishing that solo or ensemble, start at the end and work your way backwards with each repetition. The end of a piece is almost as important as the beginning!
3. Use your tools.If tips 1 or 2 sound useful, I strongly urge musicians to use two things in every practice session: a tuner, and a metronome. I’d say both are equally important. A wind player can play all the right notes, but still sound less-than-great if not paying attention to intonation. If you’re using a tuner and a note isn’t in tune, stop and take the time to adjust it how you need to! If you learn a passage without heeding your tuner, you’re likely going to have to re-learn it later with what adjustments you need to make to the pitch.
Your metronome will keep you honest as well. Again, if you run into moments where you tend to rush or drag (which all musicians do), back up and slow it down to make sure you’re lining things up properly. In my experience, a lot of what sounds like wrong notes in band end up being incorrectly counted rhythms or players not syncing with tempo. Pay attention to those two aspects and you can really take off with your musicianship! We hope that everybody gets back into the swing of things this Spring, and most importantly, have fun in band! Tarpley Music is always here to help with your musical endeavors, and I am always available for questions if you have any. Hope to see you in the store or at band events soon!
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