A lot of people ask any professional musician or teacher how much they should be practicing. The answer? It varies.
This recital was different from the first solo recital I presented last December (less than a year ago – zoinks!). Not just in the content, but in the preparation. I picked my pieces last May and early June. And then I didn’t practice them. Not ever, just for a while. I just wasn’t in the head space to do it. I was a little (ok a lot) burnt out from the previous semester/season and I just wanted to be home and play with my little people and have folded laundry again.
I’d also sent my horn back to its maker, ostensibly to have the bell cut, but in reality, he basically rebuilt the thing. In the meantime, I played around on a borrowed Kruspe, didn’t spend a lot of time commuting anywhere, built a bookcase and immersed myself in Charlotte’s Web and play dough. Oh, and started this blog.
So it was more like July, maybe even mid-July before I started what I would call actual recital preparation. Around the same time, I started doing some different technical routines and I was also taking a goal-setting course for musicians. So, basically a new horn, a new method of practicing and now new repertoire. It didn’t really occur to me until now, but that’s a lot to mess with just before something like this.
How much time I spent is a really good question. Because I wasn’t keeping track and I have no idea. I do know that I fell into a routine of technique in the morning with pieces and etudes in the afternoon. What I didn’t do this time around is an evening session, until a few weeks before the recital. I probably should have. But I was in a pretty good head space about things, mainly because I found myself day-dreaming about my pieces, pretty much all the time. Being a little older (and possibly wiser?) I physically can’t spend 6 hours with the horn on my face to fix problems. It’s inefficient, physically silly and with the little people running around, I don’t have that kind of time.
The two weeks before the recital was where I really worked my endurance. Endurance prep for me is running the whole program, warts and all, with no breaks, not even for the bathroom. Some people do a version of this where they don’t take the horn off their face, even for a second, but I’m not that extreme. I just tried to create situations that could only be worse than any possible worst-case scenario for the recital. I figured that if I’d already practiced in the morning for 90 minutes, had a lesson and a 45 minute rehearsal in the afternoon and then run my program in the evening without any breaks that it was far worse than what I’d likely do on the day of the recital. Despite all that, I was still in doubt mode in the hours before I played the recital. Would my face give out? What if I didn’t use enough support? Will my legs hold me while I play for that long? At some point, I had to let that all go and just walk on stage.
There was also the non-musical preparation that people in the audience didn’t see. I was back at the gym for the first time in a year, doing cardio to better my lung capacity and lower my heart rate. I’d been doing some goal-setting for the recital and before each practice session. I’d done some visualizing of myself playing the space. The afternoon of the recital, I wrote out a list of affirmations about who I am and my playing and tucked it into my case before I left for the venue. And the sessions with my pianist were so helpful for me to make my musical intentions clearer and brighter.
All this, because time marches on. The countdown was over.