The Practice Log

For this week’s blog, I made a practice log to describe how much I usually practice, and what I work on when I practice. I had no rehearsals and not many engagements this week, so I was able to really focus on practicing the clarinet. Since I do not have so much repertoire to learn at the moment, I spent a lot of time working on basic techniques in the hope of improving my overall standard of playing. As the year gets underway, and I have more and more music to learn, I will be spending less time on long tones and articulation exercises, and more time learning notes. Hopefully the work I am doing now will make it easier to learn music later in the year. My logic goes something like this: ‘If I can already play in tune at piano and forte and play crisp staccato in slow and fast tempos, then I don’t have to practice these things when they show up in orchestral, chamber or solo music.’

The following is log of what I did when I practiced this week. In future posts, I will elucidate how I practiced some of these techniques.

 

Monday

 

10.50 – 12.40 Practice

             10.50-11.30 Support exercises (see previous blog post)

             11.30-11.50 Vade Mecum exercise no. 2 (for the left hand)

             11.50-12.05 Legato tongued scales in all tempos, C major

            12.05-12.25 Opperman Master Study no. 12

            12.25-12.40 Long tones, chromatic, two octaves, pp<ff>pp

 

16.30 – 17.45 Practice

            16.30-16.40 Played about 6 reeds until I found a good one :(

            16.40-16.55 Slow staccato exercise, p and f

            16.55-17.45 Repertoire: Chausson, Andante and Allegro, technical passages

 

18.45 – 19.50 Practice

            18.45-19.10 Double tonguing practice

            19.10-19.30 Repertoire: Denisov, mov’t. 1 Played through whole movement and recorded

            19.30-19.50 Repertoire: Denisov, mov’t. 2 (mostly slow practice)

 

Notes: Chausson practice not effective. The challenge is playing tongued arpeggios with sixteenth notes at quarter note = 140. Try something different tomorrow. When warming up tomorrow and doing the legato tonguing exercise, try to tongue the tricky arpeggios from the Chausson as part of the exercise.

The Denisov first movement recording sounded great. I had a really good reed on and I got many gradations of dynamics from ppp to ff. Next step: keep the rhythmic integrity, but make it sound like I am not constantly counting and subdividing.

I usually don’t practice for one hour and 50 minutes as I did this morning, but everything was going well so I decided to keep going until I got tired.

 

Tuesday

 

09.30 – 11.05 Practice

            09.30-10.00 Support exercises and breaking in reeds

            10.00-10.20 Vade Mecum l.h. exercise

            10.20-10.50 Legato tonguing exercise in C major scales and then Chausson arpeggios

            10.50-11.05 Long tones pp<ff>pp

 

15.30 – 18.50 Practice

                15.30-16.00 Double tonguing

16.00-16.30 BREAK

16.30-18.30 Listen to an old lesson on the Chausson and practice the things we worked on in the lesson.

18.30-18.50 Repertoire: Denisov, mov’t. 2, only middle part with very difficult leaps

Notes: Todays legato exercise using the difficult arpeggios from the Chausson was also ineffective. The problem, I can now hear, is evenness of the fingers. So, from now on, when I practice the arpeggios in the Chausson, I will practice them only legato and strive for evenness in the movement of the fingers. In several days, I can add the tongue, and see if the passages sound better.

I did not practice the whole time from 16.30-18.30. I practiced about half of that time and listened to the lesson for the other half.

 

Wednesday

 

11.30 – 13.00 Practice

           11.30-11.45 Support exercises

           11.45-11.55 Vade Mecum l.h. exercise

           11.50-12.40 Repertoire: Chausson

           12.40-13.00 Repertoire: Denisov, mov’t. 2

 

14.30-15.45 Practice

            14.30-15.00 Double tonguing on A clarinet

            15.00-15.15 BREAK

            15.15-15.45 Vade Mecum l.h and long tones pp<ff>pp on A clarinet

 

17.30 – 18.30 Practice

            17.30-18.05 Repertoire: Chausson

            18.05-18.30 Repertoire: Denisov, mov’t. 2

 

Thursday

 

09.30-10.00 Practice

            Support exercises and Vade Mecum l.h. exercise

 

16.40-17.45 Practice

            Yehuda Gilad exercises

 

18.00 – 19.00 Practice

            18.00-18.20 Double tonguing

            18.20-18.45 Slow staccato exercise

            18.45-19.00 Repertoire: Chausson, last page slow and legato

 

Notes: Today my old teacher Yehuda Gilad gave a masterclass at my school. He taught for 6 hours, and I took copious notes and came away with some great new sound concepts and practice techniques. After the class, I tried to practice a number of the things he talked about. The practice was not particularly focused, but that’s ok. Some practices are about achieving greater stability on the instrument, and others are about trying new things to achieve greater flexibility and creativity. Today’s practice was definitely of the latter sort.

 

Friday

 

12.00 – 13.00 Practice

            Support exercises

            Legato tonguing exercises

            Long tones pp<ff>pp

            Yehuda Gilad exercises

 

16.20 – 17.30 Practice

            16.20-16.40 Support exercises and f sharp minor scales

            16.40-16.55 Slow staccato exercise

            16.55-17.30 Repertoire: Prokofiev’s 5th symphony, 2nd clarinet part

 

19.00 – 20.15 Practice

            19.00-19.20 Double tonguing

            19.20-20.00 Repertoire: Prokofiev 5

            20.00-20.15 Repertoire: Denisov, mvm’t. 2

 

Saturday

 

10.30 – 12.05 Practice

            10.30-10.55 Support exercises and f sharp minor scales

            10.55-11.15 Legato tonguing, C major and f sharp minor

            11.15-11.25 Vade Mecum l.h.

            11.25-12.05 Repertoire: Prokofiev 5

 

13.00 – 13.35 Practice

            Slow Staccato exercise

            Repertoire: Prokofiev 5

After this, I had to run to a concert, and then I had meetings for the rest of the day, so it was not possible to do any more practice

 

Sunday

 

FREE DAY!!!! Spoil yourself!

 

Reflections:

Things that got better throughout the week: double tonguing and the short staccato exercise yielded real and noticeable improvement over the course of the week.

Things that did not really yield much improvement: The clarity of the articulation and the cleanness of the leaps in the middle section of the Denisov Solo Sonata, second movement got a little better, but I am still not devoting enough time to it. I need to just sit down with the music and conduct it and get all the rhythms in my body. Then maybe the fingers will fall quicker into place.

 

I followed a similar schedule last week and I found that my tone and support and ease of playing were better in the beginning of the week. I think that too much practicing throughout the week causes me to build up tension and reduces the suppleness of the embouchure. After taking Sundays off, though, these problems seem to evaporate.