Fighting to structure your bassoon practice
It’s not good enough to just practice for a longer period. You will need to practice much better. More effectively. And included in our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning The Bassoon’, we are going to provide you with all the knowledge you need to practice the Bassoon much better.
Why Is Bassoon Practice So Difficult?
Practice. If you do it regularly enough, you will be excellent. You know this. So just why is practice so difficult?
Motivation is essential. Without motivation, you will not force yourself to return to the instrument day after day. How can you get motivated?
By winning. Yes, that is what I said. Winning. You’re in constant competition with yourself, and whenever things go nicely, you feel like you are winning. When you’re in this particular frame of mind, it is simple to practice. It’s the circle of life – winning much more will give you even more motivation, and that means you practice a lot more. Practising, even more, means you win more, thus it provides you with much more motivation. And that continues exponentially.
So if it’s that straightforward, why is a practice still so difficult?
And the answer? Because it’s not really that easy! Just practising isn’t good enough. You might practice for twelve hours per day and never improve.
Therefore if it’s not the quantity of practice that sets you on the circle of life, precisely what does?
One thing, and one thing alone – quality.
Practising for fifteen minutes every day, concentrated, useful top-quality practice is considerably more valuable than 10 hours of unfocused, ‘auto-pilot’ practice.
So all you need is high-quality practice for you to leap aboard the circle of life train?
Nope! There is nothing that easy. Merge quantity and quality, and you’ll finally become a first-class passenger.
Read on to learn how to get your first-class ticket, and how to remain on the train so long as you want…
Structure Your Bassoon Practice
Just what is the recommended duration of practice?
15 to 20 mins is a fantastic starting place, and in all likelihood no longer than 45 minutes or so at a time. After that time period, we human beings have a tendency to zone out – and then the practising will become less efficient. As a rule of thumb, whenever you really feel your attentiveness waning, stop. Become proud that you simply showed up to your practice session, and don’t fret over how long you practice for.
How frequently must i practice the Bassoon?
This is an easy answer – practice each day. This way, you’ll change your bassoon practice into a habit. A concise targeted regular practice is a lot more useful than twice each week for one hour at the same time. And keep in mind, if you’re wondering “but how will I spare the time to carry out twenty minutes every day? !? – just steal some of your time from social media over to the bassoon. We do, after all, spend on average 142 minutes on social media a day!
What times should you be practising the bassoon?
It makes no difference whenever you practice, simply just so long as you do practice. Test out setting up a predetermined schedule for yourself versus being ad-hok. Discover which solutions work most effectively, and stay with it.
Bassoon Practice Top Tips
1. Remove Potential Interruptions
Think of your practice time as ‘you time’. You will be hopefully playing the bassoon because it’s an enjoyable hobby for you; so turn off your mobile phone, tablet pc, laptop, watch, and any other gadget that’ll distract you!
2. Ensure That You're Comfy
As you’ll be playing for hours and many years to come, it’s really crucial that you are comfy. The more relaxed you are, the better you’ll perform. The pressure is always our opponent, so ensure that stays away from your practice area.
3. Establish Goals
4. Discover Your Undesirable Habits
All of us get it drastically wrong, right before we get it right. It’s referred to as training! The most obvious key is to get rid of the wrong things as soon as possible. If we don’t make this happen, we start to build undesirable habits.
And whenever you find a horrible habit – say hello to it. Admit it’s there, and smash the tiny blighter before it’s too late…
The only way this will work though is if you’re constant. Don’t ever let undesirable habits creep in. You’ll regret it!
5. Make It Enjoyable
You might have driven to a location, then when you arrived, you had absolutely no recollection or recall in regards to the trip. You drove completely on ‘brain auto-pilot’. The exact same thing can occur when practising the bassoon.
If you play the very same thing, time and again, you will not progress. You will lose interest. Your drive will disappear altogether. But exactly what is the solution? Alternating your practice techniques!
This can be as easy as having fun with your eyes shut. Performing one hand only. Missing out every other note. Bypassing every note that your thumb plays. Performing every little thing really gently, or maybe extremely loud. The list is never-ending. Get inventive. Plus whatever you decide and do – don’t ‘just’ perform exactly the same thing again, and again, and again…
6. Become Your Very Own Mentor
We all learn best once we have someone over our shoulders, giving us their feedback. Sadly, unless you own Amazon, you’re unlikely to be able to afford to pay for your own bassoon instructor 365 days per year. But Mr Bezos can keep his squillions because we don’t need them. We have our very own personal teacher inside us.
In the first place, learn how to listen. Many people fail to remember to actively listen, but it’s the easiest method to transform your playing.
Subsequent, along with the wonders of modern technology, it’s now increasingly simple to record your playing. So get your smartphone out, record, and critique yourself.
And even when the world’s richest people wanted to seek the services of my personal tutor, they couldn’t find the money for it!
7. Starting Right From The Start
You read a book, you locate page one. It’s totally normal. You perform a sheet of music, you begin at the beginning. Once more, entirely normal. But for the purpose of practising, it’s not a good idea. You’ll become phenomenally great at the first few notes, and pretty dreadful at the rest. So change it up. Start off at the end, or possibly halfway through. Then tomorrow, opt for another random place to begin your practice. But whatever you do, don’t always begin in the beginning!
8. Don't Even Think About Performing The Easy Parts
It can feel great to play parts we know well. However, if that’s all that you ever play, you’ll have half the piece to a wonderful standard, but the tougher half will be a failure. And yes, you’ll naturally end up being interested in the easy bits, which often leaves the problematic bit out in the cold. All alone. Shivering for some warmth and love.
Think logically now; which sections do you need to learn first? Yes, that’s correct. The tricky areas. The easy parts will sort themselves out.
Go on then! Find those tricky pieces…
9. Test Out Your Skills
Sight-reading is a superb exercise to round off your practice with. There’s no pressure to perfect the piece, and it can be a great deal of fun too! This also allows you to test your bassoon playing skills out on an entirely different piece – or even a different genre.
10. Use And Abuse Your Metronome
The metronome is there as your close friend, not foe. So make sure you use it and get to like it.
For parts that happen to be really fast and difficult, the metronome can be a fantastic resource. Set it up with a nice and simple tempo, which you can play the section perfectly. Then each day, notch up the tempo by a little. Eventually, you’ll end up being at performance tempo, and it should feel as comfortable as whenever you started at a slower tempo.
And here is a bonus tip – always attempt to overshoot by ten percent. In order to be at 150bpm, ensure that you can play it at 165BPM – that way 150bpm will seem easily achievable!
11. Set Incentives
Recall in number 3, I talked about some treats? I figured this is crucial enough to mention it twice!
Exercises are time-consuming. We have to do them in sports to warm-up, and playing the bassoon is absolutely a sport for your fingers (and mind). There are a lot of different exercises that strengthen your fingers, but the main ones are:
Scales et al
You may hear some people saying “scales are boring”. They are only boring if you make them boring. They are important…. So yes, you do need to do them!
Absolute cornerstones of the repertoire. These Bassoon Studies in two volumes are used across the board by students and professionals and cover pretty much all aspects of bassoon playing.
Two volumes of Concert Studies and one of Studies in Scales and Chords are also standard for students.
Steal from others…
Other studies, based on orchestral excerpts etc are worthwhile, for example, those by Heintz. However, to mix it up, think outside the box and have a go at music written for other instruments. Playing such music means that you can’t let traditionally difficult technical aspects of bassoon playing get in the way – you need to make it sound like it was written for the bassoon – and this makes you work harder. The go-to repertoire of this type is the complete Bach Cello Suites. They work well on bassoon and don’t make allowances for things like breathing, so you have to find ways around it. Other favourites are the technically challenging Taffanel and Gaubert 17 Daily Exercise for flute, and The Complete Daily Exercises by Trevor Wye also for flute.
Bassoon Practice Bonus Tips
1. Become Consistent
Whenever you choose to do something new, your brain learns something about it and produces a neuron. This neuron is like a branch of a tree, and the more times you perform repeatedly the neuron action, you enhance it. In other words, the branch of the tree gets stronger and much stronger. This only happens though should you do exactly the same thing, time and time again.
Additionally, when you play things differently each and every time, you are generating alternative neurons, different tree branches. When you play it differently each time, five times, then you’ll end up having 5 neurons. Five tree branches.
So what is the issue with that? A branch functions like a path that your brain strolls down. It has to pick one of the selections you’ve built. The issue is that rather than one solid selection, you have many weak selections. This just confuses your wobbly gel of a head and slows the processing time right down. The outcome is usually a slip-up.
So don’t leave things to chance. Remain consistent. Understand things slowly and effectively. And always perform things properly time and again.
2. Recommended Reading
Here are some great books that really helped me when I was starting out and I regularly recommend them to students to this day.
Music Practice: The Musician’s Guide to Practicing and Mastering your Instrument like a professional
I also highly recommend you include How to Read Music in 30 Days in your must-read list. If haven’t already read our guide on How To Read Bassoon Sheet Music, then do check that out as well.
Bassoon Practice - Summary
If you’ve learnt one thing from all the above, it has to be the following:
Don’t leave practice to chance. Structure it. Be conscious and never go on ‘auto-pilot’. Shorter is absolutely sweeter. Print off the list and read it at the start of every week. And above all, get that corkscrew ready…
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