Lists & How To

5 Ways to Rock Your Preparation for Solo and Ensemble

District XVI Middle School Solo and Ensemble is only 5 days away! Consider these 5 tips for preparation this week.

1. Practice Performance


Practicing your piece goes without saying, but practicing performance is an entirely different animal. Once you've nailed the music and rhythm in each measure and you're playing the piece through, it's time to practice the performance. Play through the piece in its entirety and if you mess up, don't stop--practice the recovery. Practice the piece as you will play it at solo and ensemble--if that means standing, then stand. Gather your family or some friends together and perform the piece for them. The more comfortable you are with performance the easier it will be to play your piece as you play it alone in your practice space.

2. Video Yourself


Videoing yourself accomplishes two preparation exercises. First, videoing yourself can create a rise of nerves within you much like the nerves you have when performing for a group of people. Learning to push through those nerves will help you immensely. Second, after having captured your performance visually and audibly you can study it and see where you've made mistakes or can make improvements.

3. Know the Song


Listen to the piece you'll be preforming. Listen to multiple musicians playing it, watch them on YouTube. Listen to the piece so much you begin to anticipate certain passages and phrases. Know the song inside and out.

4. Be Prepared


Have your music ready the night before, if you need music for your piano accompanist be sure that's in your folder as well along with any copies the judges may need. If it's your first year at Solo and Ensemble look up directions with your parents ahead time. Check your reeds, and your greases or oils.

5. Arrive Early


There's numerous benefits to arriving early at S&E aside from finding a parking space. You'll want time to find the room where you'll be performing, and then you'll want time in the practice room to warm up and prepare. Give yourself time to settle in and time for anything that may come up before you play.

Our New Year Challenges!

Are you looking for a challenge in the new year? I mean, a real challenge to your musical skills, not just a resolution? Great! Here are a few things we here at A&G think might help you along in your musical career.

Learn Your Scales
Learn the pure form of all the minor scales. If that's too much, then first do all the flat minor keys, and then once you conquer them, try all the sharp minor keys. If you are really motivated, try learning the harmonic, and or melodic forms as well!

Learn The 26 Rudiments
If you're a percussionist, make a plan to learn all 26 rudiments for snare drum--- perhaps one rudiment every two weeks. If you have not tried to master melodic percussion, then give that a go. Start by learning your major scales.

Copy Music By Hand
Try your hand a being a copyist. What's a copyist? A music copyist's job is to create neat copies of a composer's music/arrangements. There's no a huge call for it, but writing music by hand can help you learn to read music better. Making sure you get the correct number of beats per measure and the right key signatures can solidify your existing music skills.

Record Yourself
If you have never tried to record yourself while practicing, this needs to be added to the to-do list. There a lot of things you can do with just a cell phone digital recorder. Record one part of a duet, and play the second part with yourself. There are apps that allow you to create multiple parts of compositions. This is a great challenge!

Improve different aspects of your playing by listening to what's coming out of your horn. Find out common mistakes you're making over and over. Get comfortable with a recording device and listen for imperfections to work on.

Commit To Cleanliness
Something else, which will not necessarily tax your musical skills, is to make a commitment to cleanliness. Keeping your instrument clean, especially if it is a wind instrument, will pay dividends in a number of ways. Your instrument will function a lot better, and if it is functioning better, it will ultimately sound better. You will also help maintain your personal health. 

Give Back
For long time players, if you are winding up your musical career, or have instruments or music you are no longer using, consider donating it. Choose a younger musician to be the recipient. I recently handed off a stack of my old music to a young college student studying horn. Recycle it, don't just throw it away. There's a player who'd love to receive your collection!

The Central Music Team hopes you have a prosperous, musical New Year! Now go challenge yourself!

6 Steps To Creating Your Practice Routine!

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6 Steps to Creating Your Practice Routine!

The semester has come to an end, and for many this means taking a break from anything related to school. But, for us musicians, this means more time to practice! Band students know Solo and Ensemble is just around the corner, and of course, we want to take advantage of the extra time we'll have! For beginning musicians, and for musicians who have not done so yet, it's time to create your practice routine.

To improve, we must put in the time, and having regular practice builds discipline. During practice, if we have a routine, we're able to maximize the time we have. Whether your practice sessions are 20 minutes, or an hour, with a routine, you'll feel accomplished.

1. Be Realistic
Be realistic about how much time you can practice a day. We want to set ourselves up for success! Students in school are busy, but lets hope to get AT LEAST 15 minutes in a day, and maybe we take one day off.

2. Find Your Space
Find a practice space with limited distractions, and where you feel comfortable spending time.

3. Warm Up

The first 1/4 to 1/3 of your practice should be a warm up. Scales and rudiments are great warm ups. Warms ups should be something you've already learned, and exercise technicalities. You can tailor your warm ups to your main focus.

4. Main Focus
Now that you're warmed up, it's time to practice what you're working on learning and improving. Your main focus can be a particular piece your learning for a performance, or a piece that practices your weaknesses. If you struggle playing 16th notes, make your main focus a piece with lots of 16th note rhythms. Slow it down, get it right. Maybe your main focus is the piece you'll be playing for Solo and Ensemble.

Whatever you choose to work on, take a break after 20 minutes (if you have longer practice sessions) and come back to it in 5 or 10. Your brain needs time to process and retain new information.

5. Dessert

After practicing our warm ups and our main focus, we're ready for a little dessert. Use the last quarter of your practice for playing music you absolutely love. Pick up some fun music books, Disney play-alongs, or your favorite music score, whatever your fancy is! It's important to end every practice smiling!

6. Log Your Practice
Keep a notebook to log your practice. Prepare your practice BEFORE you practice. Too many times I've sat down to practice, and then I can't think of what to work on! I play this or that, and it turns out I never really practice at all! Have a plan before you sit down, this makes it easy to stay on task. 

Use the notebook to jot down what you'll practice next session, and then take notes to help formulate what'll you'll need to hone in on for future practices.

Video or record you sessions, listening and even watching our practices can point out the areas we need to improve on, whether it be dynamics, or posture.

 

REMEMBER, practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Playing music teaches us a lot, one characteristic being patience. Slowly increase your tempo as you're able to play with dynamics and without mistakes. Use your tuner, and use your metronome.

Below are two examples of a 30 minute practice routine.

5 Minute Warm Up, 15 Minute Main Focus, 10 Minute Dessert

5 Minute Warm Up, 15 Minute Main Focus, 10 Minute Dessert

10 Minute Warm Up, 15 Minute Main Focus, 5 Minute Dessert

10 Minute Warm Up, 15 Minute Main Focus, 5 Minute Dessert

5 Things Successful Musicians Do

By Tim Brennan

The following is a comprehensive, but not exhaustive list of things that successful musicians do. There are undoubtedly more to be added to the list, and there may be some that are more important than those listed below, but these are some of the ones that helped me in my career as a musician. If you even do a portion of these things, you will be well on your way to being a well trained, well rounded musician.

1. Practice!

The number one thing that successful musicians do is practice. Daily is the most preferable, but life gets in the way sometimes so try to keep your practice habits as regular as possible. Also practice in the same place and same time of day. Don't try to jam all your weekly practice time into one or two days. Spread your practice out over the week, an hour at a time. Regular muscle conditioning will serve you better in the long run than trying to get it all done at once.

2. Listen

You can never listen enough. If you are an instrumentalist, listen to a pro who plays your instrument. If you are preparing a solo, find a copy of your favorite player performing that solo.  Try to model your performance after his or her performance. Who better to copy than a person who has attained all the skills you are trying to learn. If you are an instrumentalist, listen to a vocalist. Expand your horizons. Vocalists can produce great emotion in their singing and that is not a bad characteristic to emulate in your playing. Listen to ensembles - duets, trios, and large ensembles as well. You can never listen enough.

3. Have a Private Instructor

Find a teacher who can help you on your way. Not just your band or orchestra director, although they most likely would be an excellent choice, but a private teacher who can sit with you, play with you, and build your confidence. You must be willing to accept criticism from this person because they have reached a level you are trying to attain. Your teacher has been there and done that.

4. Never Stop Reading

Never stop reading. Not just music, but books, newspapers, articles about music. Reading, like playing music, makes you smart. It can expand your horizons and help you develop new interests.

5. Make Music With Others

Last but not least, play or sing with a friend or another person or group of people. That is why bands and orchestras and choirs are so important. Being in an ensemble gives you a group of friends who automatically share your passion and interest in music. Performing in ensembles gives you one of the most important tools you can have as a musician. A critical ear. Not just to critique others, but yourself as well. When you are in an ensemble, it's like you are part of a team. Each person has a different job on the team and it is your job to be able to listen and adjust to the other team members so your sound blends well with them and doesn't overpower any one voice or instrument in particular.