When starting something new it's hard to ensure that we are doing everything 'right' and often we pick up some bad habits. This article will go through some common practice errors that I see students make!
The first thing to remember is to be aware of what you are doing, even the smallest thing can make a huge difference to your practice!
How many of you have been relegated to a small room with a closed door, at the furthest end of the house whilst practicing? Well there is an issue with this. When we play in small rooms, we often play softer because it doesn't take much to fill the room with sound! We then start developing the bad habit of using minimal air and therefore don't utilise the full potential of the flute! So go outside, in a large open room and even experiment with rooms with soft furnishings and carpet compared to hard surfaces like tiles. You'll be amazed at the difference in your sound and volume! All because of the acoustics of the room!
MUSIC STAND & POSTURE
How many of us have practiced without a music stand, haphazardly balancing a piece of music against something (e.g. a pillow on your bed?). Without a music stand you are destined for bad posture which can affect your breathing, sound and become very uncomfortable! If you're bending forward and not sitting up straight you aren't able to use your lungs properly and therefore won't be able to create the best possible sound. Plus, by leaning forward, your back and neck can get painful! My tip? Make sure you have a music stand and set yourself up with good posture, sitting at the front of a chair, back straight or standing!
When we get nervous or stressed about playing something, the first thing we do is tense. Lifting the shoulders, tension in the neck, closing off the mouth and really tightening a lot of muscles. The issue with this is that by tightening all these muscles, the air can't get out and we squish the sound or tone. A lot of people aren't even conscious of the fact that they're tense! My solution; start your practice with long notes. It's a good way to relax and really focus on your sound and what you're doing with your body and then do a bit of an audit of your body to determine where you are holding tension and mindfully relax your body.
BENEFITS OF ENSEMBLE PLAYING
How many of you only ever play on your own, all by yourself with nothing but you, your instrument and your music? This can be productive but it can also hold you back. Playing with others in a band or ensemble or even with a backing track can help your playing immensely. You learn so much like intonation, listening, ensemble, balance etc.
**Additional tip - If you are using a backing track, make sure it is LOUD. There is no point playing a backing track through your phone or laptop if you're playing is louder than it! Get a portable speaker and blast that music! You need to hear the music and it will also teach you how to play at loud volumes.
Listen to yourself and the piece/s you're learning. Something a lot of students (myself included) hate doing is recording themselves playing. However, this is a really beneficial thing to do because you suddenly get to see your playing from another perspective. It can be shocking and eye opening, but also a confidence booster if you do it over a couple of weeks and watch the improvement! Another aspect of listening is listening to other people's interpretations and performances of the piece you're learning. This can really inform your performance of a piece and gives you a more wholistic understanding of it.
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