I’ve been playing quite decently for the past several days. I had a good lesson on Friday and have practiced for two hours each day since with nice results. I was thinking today of what may have changed and one of the things I realized is that if I really concentrate I can actually play without missing too many notes.
There are two different types of problems that I usually encounter. One is just not being able to play the notes until I spend time working on them. Usually 16th notes are the culprit and I just have to practice them until I get my fingers to work and coordinate successfully with my brain. Sometimes this can take many weeks but it doesn’t frustrate me too much because I know eventually I’ll get it. What does frustrate me are those passages that I can play just fine but end up clamming or missing notes or forgetting fingerings. When I repeat the passage I play it okay. And I don’t miss the notes in the same places. So I think this problem is due to a lack of concentration.
I’ve also noticed this concentration issue at lessons but in the reverse. Many times when I try to demonstrate something that I’m doing wrong I play it correctly and I can’t duplicate the problem. I also play decently in band and, interestingly, I play better in the harder band than in the easier one. Sometimes I even play decently when playing duets. I think I’m much more focused when I’m not playing by myself. I have also noticed that when I play by memory I have to concentrate more and I rarely clam any notes. What I have to figure out is how to get to that level of concentration when I’m practicing. Maybe I should turn off the TV. (Just kidding.)
2 thoughts on “Concentration”
I have been playing the horn in my high school band for about a year and a half, switching over from cornet last year as a freshman. After a nerve racking audition last spring, I was placed in the middle band. However, this year I got private lessons to prepare for the audition in April and hopefully nail it. The only concern weighing me down is the possibility that I will freeze up and bomb it just like last year. My top priority and goal is to ensure that I will get a spot in top band as a junior, but how do I kick those nerves?? Any ideas, as I have encountered similar concentration issues like you?
I have a few thoughts but bear in mind that I am not an authority on how to take an audition. First I suspect that your concentration problems are probably due to having too much going on in your head – upcoming plans, tests, homework, etc. If you are practicing when you have a list a mile long of other things you have to do you won’t be able to concentrate completely on practicing. Try to get as much of the other stuff done as you can before you practice. Sometimes that’s not possible so make a list of what you have to do after you finish practicing so you don’t feel like you have to think about it when you are practicing.
For auditioning, know your audition pieces cold. Having the confidence that you know how to play the piece does help nerves. Work with your teacher on how to practice the harder passages so they just get in your fingers without having to think about them. Remember that the goal is to make music and that’s what to focus on. Think about the phrase and not the individual notes. Horn players miss notes and you must not get into the ‘oh no I missed that note’ mode in your audition.
Have practice auditions. First just for yourself. Don’t stop no matter how many notes you miss. You need to learn how to recover from missed notes, even playing an entire passage with the wrong notes, and keep going. Then play your piece from start to finish for your teacher standing up as if you are auditioning. Try to simulate the entire audition process from walking into the audition room and then picking up your horn to play the first note. Play your piece for your family. Try to get the other players who are also auditioning to get together and play for each other. Get to band early or stay late if you can’t find any other time. You are not competing with the trombones or the trumpets and they are going to be just as nervous. Do all of this as often as possible. You have to get to the point where you trust yourself that you know the piece. If you have a list of audition pieces pick one that’s not too hard for you. Don’t go for the hardest or showiest one just to try to prove that you can play it. Remember to play musically. That’s by far the most important thing. Hope this helps.