Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Building and Maintaining Consistency When Doubling

I've recently begun preparing music for four concerts between now and the end of June, and I'll be doing a lot of doubling. The first concert is only alto and sopranino recorder, the second is both recorders and flute. The third is going to be my first multiple woodwinds recital (piccolo, flute, clarinet, alto sax, and alto recorder) ever, and as the woodwinds professor at NSU.

The main concept I have to remind myself about - which is not earth-shattering - is that you must carry over as many concepts as possible when doubling. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the differences between instruments that basic concepts fall by the wayside.
Concepts like:
- consistent airflow
- swift, relaxed finger motion
- clarity in tone and articulation
- intonation

It's far too easy to let yourself think "Oh, I'm just running through this, I'll worry about intonation(tone/fingerings/etc.) later."

The issue here is that by allowing yourself to essentially drop your guard this one time you're setting yourself up for inconsistency in performance later, which is a much steeper price to pay than to just focus in on an issue when it springs up. I remember once when I was still in school I was playing clarinet in the pit for "Annie Get Your Gun." I hadn't prioritized clarinet, and wasn't practicing properly or enough. In the middle of the show one night I went to play an exposed solo - and completely blanked. I simply couldn't remember which key to press! If I had just been practicing the tiniest bit, I really doubt that would have happened.

If you're getting back into the routine of doubling, try this:
Set aside some time *before* your practice session starts to plan out your practice session. Incorporate some time to work on fundamentals (tone, articulation, scales) before delving into repertoire. I also strongly recommend that you work toward a "standard warm-up" for each instrument. Whenever I practice other woodwinds, I start my practice the same way and it always helps me "settle" into the new horn quickly and easily. Even something as simple as five minutes at the beginning of a session will an immediate impact on your practice session and, perhaps more importantly, will set you up for long term success.

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