Hello friends – thank you all for investing your time in reading this post. I’m thinking that at the beginning of each month I’ll look back on the previous months work, determine where I am in relation to my long-term goals, and make any necessary modifications. My intention is that you can use this information to make better decisions about how you direct your own energies and hopefully offer up some creative approaches to achieving your own playing goals.
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January 2015 Basics
At the beginning of the year I set a goal to get my practice time to 4 hours per day on non-gig days. The idea is to get my capacity for work up so I can learn more before I die. I want this because I fall into the trap (eternally) of thinking I’m running out of time. I do not intend to keep this schedule up forever, but I have to get there and keep it going for at least while because I said I would (in last month’s blog post).
This graph shows how many minutes I practiced each day in blue, and how many minutes I played for gigs and rehearsals in red (this is an approximation). The straight trend-line represents the practice time trend for the month, and the squiggly line shows a 10-day moving average (included for fun).
NOTE: A moving average plots data points at the average of a defined “period” (in this case 10 days). So each point reflects the last 10 days of practice.
Highest Practice Volume – 138 minutes
Days Off – 1
Daily Practice Average – 66.26 minutes
“Non-Gig” (Just practicing) Day Average – 87.64 minutes
At the outset I was pretty gung-ho. I admit that I did think my ability to practice greater amounts of time would progress linearly. I figured the longer I went the easier it would be to shed countless hours of productive work.
In fact, as the graph clearly shows, my ability to practice followed a nice down-trend over the course of the month.
I gather this happened for a number of reasons, both trumpet and regular-life related:
First off, of the 18 instances that I “played out” all of them were as a lead player. This means lots of face-pounding. Some players like doing a lot of hard playing to build up what are often referred to as “road chops” but I personally find this tiring physically and psychologically. I wasn’t giving myself much “down-time” after the more aggressive gigs and it eventually wore me down (rest assured this isn’t the first time). Since playing the trumpet is currently my primary source of income it doesn’t seem realistic to just STOP. So there needs to be a balance between work, practice toward personal goals, and rest.
Secondly, Starbucks discontinued my favorite tea and since then life has been harder 😉
First and foremost I will plan rest days (completely off the horn) at the beginning of each month. This month I will not play Feb 16, 26, 27, and 28. If I feel like more time off, I’m going to take it. I will also approach all practice in February “easily” from a physical standpoint. There is already enough heavy-lifting on the books and more always comes in last-minute.
I am aiming to increase my daily practice average to 90 minutes, and my “non-gig day” practice average to 120 minutes by the end of the month. I will calculate my current average every 5 days to keep on track. These calculation days are now marked in my calendar.
I was also writing in my practice journal “I easily practice four hours a day,” along with some other variations to try to convince myself I can do it. However, I think it works better for me to keep a running tally along the edge of the notebook and really drill an image of a larger number into my subconscious. I found myself hitting the 90 minute mark on practice days and feeling like that was “good enough.” So I’m going to increase the “good enough” mark to crossing 100 minutes.
Here’s what that looks like.
I have also decided to add in regular lip slur practice. I haven’t worked on slurs in at least a year, maybe much longer, and feel it’s time to get back on it. The plan is to practice lip slurs for 15 minutes on non-gig days. This is at the suggestion of Joseph Alessi – super-bad-ass trombone player – and you can check out his practice suggestions HERE). My strategy is to read through the Advanced Lip Flexibilities for Trumpet (Complete Volumes 1-3)
with a 15 minute timer – casually playing through the exercises at a comfortable pace, and addressing any issues as they arise. Also, I will plan where to begin the next lip-slur practice session as soon as I finish the one I’m working on. I’m not trying to master the exercises here and am considering it “eating your vegetables” type stuff.
So that’s what’s currently up with me. I encourage you to offer any and all feedback you may have. Otherwise I’ll just continue to blab on 😉
Until next time,
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