Monday, March 27, 2017

Preparing a Flute Solo: Are You Fighting Frustration?

Are you preparing a flute solo for a performance? Have you become frustrated? Do you feel like your tone has gone into the trash can, your technique out the window, and nothing seems to help? Are you discouraged and wondering if you’ll ever improve?
The first thing you want to explore is the source of your frustration. Mine is completely self-generated. I am motivated by performance. I want every performance to be perfect, and when I feel like I am not moving toward that goal, I get frustrated. It’s silly, I know, but that’s the way I work! Other people become frustrated because they are trying to meet the standards someone else has set for them. 

No matter where your frustration comes from, it does not have to be an on-going part of playing an instrument!  Nevertheless, if you struggle with it like I do, and if you’ve answered yes to any of the opening questions, then this article is just for you! I am going to share some tips that help me, including one I just discovered today, which was my motivation to write this article.
Techniques to fight frustration:  

First apply your scale study techniques–
  • Before you start to play through your solo music, play the scale that matches your key. Play it from the tonic all the way up and down. 
  • Next play it so that you cover the entire range that your music covers. For instance, if your music is in the key of D, and the highest note is a B, then start on low D, go all the way up to the highest B and back down to D.
  • Work your way up and down the scale, staying in the key.
  • Work your way up and down the scale, chromatically. ie: D to D, then D sharp to D sharp, now E to E, etc.
  • Now play it in arpeggios.
Now use your theory: 
  • Go through the music and identify scale progressions in other keys, and practice them.
  • Break your music into short pieces, say 4-12 measures. Then practice ONLY one section a day. Use a metronome and focus on all aspects of that section, rhythm, dynamics, ornaments, finger patterns that trip you up.
  • Go through the piece backward. Start with the last 2 notes. Play them. Make sure they work well together. Then the last 3 notes, then the last 4, and so forth. In doing this you will identify little spots where something is a problem. The fun thing is that usually it will be a surprise where those problems are!
  • Ignore your solo piece for a day, and pick up music that you played as a solo a year or two ago. Play it through, just like you were sight reading. Listen to yourself. You should be very pleasantly surprised and able to see how much more skilled you are, how much easier it is. This is especially effective if it’s something that you had to work at, or had frustration with at the time.

That’s what I did. I played a piece of music from a performance a year ago. It’s not an especially hard piece of music. It wasn’t terribly hard before, it’s just a piece of music I enjoy playing. I didn’t expect anything to happen, and what a surprise!
wow, Wow, WOW!! 
All of a sudden, my fingers flowed with ease.
My dynamics (always a struggle for me) were right on target.
I heard myself and the tone was lovely, full of the right expressions.
It was so much MORE in every way than the last time I performed it.
Best of all, I enjoyed playing it–no frustration, no struggle, just making pretty music.
So now I have a new tool for fighting frustration and discouragement: play something that I haven’t played in a while. When I do that, I re-discover the joy of making music. I see my own progress. Once I’ve done this, it is much, much easier to go back and work on the new piece because I know that one day I can come back to it and find it easy!
These are not all the techniques that exist to fight off frustration. I’m sure you have ones that work well for you. Write a comment and share your own favorite techniques!

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