Last summer I wrote about focusing on a single goal and going all-in on a single weakness in my playing over the summer break. You can read about it here. That approach was effective, so I'll do it again this summer, but with a few tweaks. This summer I'll be focused on a single goal (moving in and through the top of the staff), but I'll have other tasks as well. I've already planned-out what repertoire I'll be performing next Fall. While I won't start working on the repertoire until July, I've planned out the means by which I'll improve my playing in order to better execute the repertoire when it comes time to perform.
Here's what I did. Once I'd chosen the solos I'd perform on my next recital I looked through them and considered what techniques and skills each piece would require. The idea is that in an ideal world you should always have more of said skill than is required for the given piece. In other words, your performance skills (or lack thereof) should never govern how the piece is performed. This requires an awareness of your deficiencies as a player, the challenges of a piece of music relative to those deficiencies, and how to go about improving those deficiencies. This is a topic that's been an interest of mine for a while. I even wrote my doctoral project over similar subject. You can read it here.
Here's an example: technical pieces like Carnival of Venice are often performed with the theme at the written tempo and the variations (especially the final variation) at a slower tempo. This usually happens because the player lacks the requisite skill to perform the whole piece at the full tempo. In this case the technique in question is finger speed, coordination, and dexterity.
Next year I'll be performing Metallic Figures by Kevin Day. Here's the protocol I developed to get myself ready to perform it. I've listed each movement and the challenges associated with each as well as some general challenges that apply to the whole piece.
The reason for Loud Playing is that I'll be performing the piece with the band. Playing solo over is generally extremely demanding in terms of volume of sound. It's one soloist against 50-80 band-members. It's sort of like how you play louder with an accompanist than you do in the practice room, but way worse!
I've done that for each of the pieces I'll perform on my recital in the Fall. I've started working on them every day which is the bulk of my practice after completing my routine. There's a lot to cover, so I try to hit everything at least once a week. I'd like to know what you're working on this summer. Leave a note in the comments below.
Thank you for reading and happy practicing!
Jeremy is Associate Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at West Texas A&M University.