In week 5 of My Arban Adventure, I took the time to look back at the last 4 weeks and assess my progress. In my effort to rate my progress as objectively as possible I have been recording my practice sessions. I want to focus on some observations made while reviewing the recordings up to this point.
After listening to several weeks of recorded practice sessions, I observed my timing was decent, most of the time, before I started using the metronome--decent, but not perfect. I know my internal timing is better than it was in 1980 when I started college. In college, I hated playing with the metronome--I really struggled to stay with it at times. One of my biggest problems was a tendency to rush through difficult passages. With rushing came more mistakes and much frustration. Another bad habit I had in college (and several years after) was stopping when I made a mistake. It took me a long time to get past that. I suppose my timing has improved over the years because of maturing as a musician in general, but I think the single, most helpful thing is 20 years of directing choirs and instrumental ensembles. I find myself working through difficult or unusual rhythms by "directing" the beat and singing the rhythms. Thinking back over the years I can recognize a definite improvement with my sight reading and I'm sure improved timing helped a great deal with that also.
I have found working with the metronome to be surprisingly helpful.
I have noticed great improvement with articulation--being clean and more precise. I was beginning to hear some improvement since I started getting more serious about practicing (about 7 months ago). But, I can hear drastic improvement in the last month (since beginning My Arban Adventure). Recording my practices has really made it possible to see how much improvement I have made in the last month and, at the same time, listening to the recordings has helped with many needed corrections. I hear many subtle things on the recording that I don't hear or notice when playing--things like articulation, subtle changes in dynamics, pitch, "shape" of each note, and tone just to mention a few.
In the last month, I have noticed much more consistent and better tone from the low to higher range. There is no doubt, in my mind, this is directly related to the First Studies and the Scale Studies from Arban and sticking to the regimine I set for myself. Listening to the first couple of weeks of recordings helped me hear my need for more emphasis on breath support. As a result, my higher range does'nt sound as pinched as it did a month ago and the tone is much better. There is still much work to do, but I hear much improvement.
I wish I had started using the metronome and a recorder in my practice a long time ago. I had been told to use both in college but I didn't think I needed them. Also, I didn't want to take the time to listen to my practice sessions and using a metronome to work through difficult passages takes more time than I wanted to take. Stubborn pride has a way of leading me to make very poor choices. I encourage you to learn from my mistakes and use these valuable tools, if you do not already use them. I guarentee they will help.
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