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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 1:11 pm 
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I came across professional, orchestral Böhm flutist Jennifer Cluff's advice on practicing at the following link and have been in deep depression ever since ...

I thought I was doing well with an average daily practice of over 30 minutes until I read this and saw how seriously Böehm flutists take their fluting. Strewth ... :

http://jennifercluff.blogspot.com/2018/ ... weeks.html

Jen's chatty enthusiastic blog is a cornucopia of fluting goodies by the way, some of which apply to us keyless fluters ...

Best wishes,

Keith.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 1:42 pm 
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I know some great musicians who never ever practice. And I know a few who practice 2-3 hours per day.

When you're a traditional musician, what is "practice?" A lot of people practice by going to sessions and playing tunes. I like going to sessions in part because it makes me remember tunes I've forgotten, and helps me learn new tunes. And it's an opportunity to play. I know a very accomplished fiddler who never plays at home; he only plays in sessions. Almost never picks up his fiddle outside of a session. Does that mean he doesn't practice? No, I think he's getting plenty of practice, and he learns new tunes in sessions.

Me, I can't do it that way; I like to play on my own, spend a long time exploring a tune, working out variations, etc., but even so I don't really view it as practice. I play tunes on the flute, I try to get better every time I play, I work on the things I hate about my playing because if I don't like what i hear I don't want to play.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 2:29 pm 
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If you play more than two or three hours a day, you risk getting injured.
At least I do. I practice scales and arpeggios, and play tunes. When I come
upon a difficult passage I slow it down and play it
very slowly, forwards, starting at a middle note, backwards, etc.
I think a fair amount of deliberate practice is a good idea.

Also I keep discovering that I don't really know a number of tunes I like to
play, and so I take them apart, note by note and try to get them right.
I feel a lot of particular tunes have something to teach me, but I have to get
into them pretty deep. And there's all this interesting stuff about phrasing, and
adding ornamentation, and figuring out when to breathe.

It helps to attack one's weaknesses but also to be very patient.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 3:01 pm 
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jim stone wrote:
If you play more than two or three hours a day, you risk getting injured.


Barring a medical condition, this is not true so long as you have good technique. Many classical players play much more than a few hours a day, especially when training in a conservatory. Many traditional Irish players play many hours in sessions every night. If something is seriously hurting, that's either an issue with technique or it's an underlying medical condition that should be remedied.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 3:04 pm 
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keithsandra wrote:
I thought I was doing well with an average daily practice of over 30 minutes until I read this and saw how seriously Böehm flutists take their fluting. Strewth ...

I think it's a mistake to think that the number of hours invested, either per day or in total, will be any sort of touchstone. For one thing, what are your goals? If you spend the popularly vaunted but fallacious "10,000 hours" (at 90 minutes a day, that will take around 20 years) making the same mistake, what was the value of your time? If your goal is bragging rights for time spent, that's easy enough, but mere time spent doesn't guarantee improvement. Quality of time is, IMO, of greater importance. IOW, let's say you set aside half an hour to work on a problem that's been dogging your playing (tone on a particular note, say, or a hitch in a particular roll); even if devoted to only a minute detail, that half hour is time better spent than three hours of performative playing where you still make the same mistake without correcting it. What you are doing in the latter case is simply reinforcing the error and thereby making it all the harder to effect the change you want. It will not change itself, no matter how long you play tunes. Once you've focused on and corrected the issue, then time spent in performative practice counts, because by it you're making the correction into a habit. That's why these concert flutists spend so much time at it; as professionals in their field they must meet professional standards, and with luck and diligence, even exceed them - and that is met, for better or worse, by reinforcing habit.

The saying "Practice makes perfect" is often met with the retort, "Perfect practice makes perfect". While the spirit is right, I don't like the wording, because the implication is that you have to be perfect from the beginning, and that is an impossibility. Goal-oriented practice (other than the goal of logging hours for their own sake) is certainly within reach, though, and always the best investment of what time you have.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 4:07 pm 
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I play tunes to practice getting better at playing tunes. :)

I don't commit specific times, or how long to practice, I take it as it comes, I may have a good day & play for maybe an hour, another time,it may not come together very well, so I'll leave it, & come back another day - it's called being retired. ;)

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 4:17 pm 
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Now I think about it, I don't practice. I just play the flute with favourite tunes until I get them as I like them, pausing to spend more time on what doesn't sound right every time I play until I feel satisfied. The way I play tunes they change over the years as I get more experience. I don't spend playing time soley on etudes, arpeggios etc. I learn what's needed from the tunes I play. I play in the moment. If its not in the tune it doesn't exist.
And I play as long as circumstances permit.

Best, Keith.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 4:55 pm 
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bigsciota wrote:
jim stone wrote:
If you play more than two or three hours a day, you risk getting injured.


Barring a medical condition, this is not true so long as you have good technique. Many classical players play much more than a few hours a day, especially when training in a conservatory. Many traditional Irish players play many hours in sessions every night. If something is seriously hurting, that's either an issue with technique or it's an underlying medical condition that should be remedied.


Disagree. I was speaking for myself, as the next sentence made clear. My technique, after sixteen years of study with people like Mike Rafferty, Katherine McEvoy, etc. is pretty good. Doubtless there are people who can play forever (I said 'risk', not certainty), but after a certain level of repetitive motion, good form and no underlying medical condition won't necessarily prevent tendinitis in one's fingers or cubital tunnel syndrome in one's elbows, etc. Also back pains. I've checked this out at length with orthopedic specialists. Young people in conservatories, which tend to select for those who don't get injured, may play all day, but as one ages I think four hours a day, day in, day out, has its risks. Obviously good form is a very good idea. Warming one's hands with hot water and icing them down afterwards can be helpful.

I do think systematic exercises, arpeggios, scales, especially at the beginning of play as a warm up, can seriously improve one's playing (of course not everyone will care about this). This is standard for many instruments. Again the claim is not that it will be so for everybody, but generally it helps. A good book, if you can still find it, is Better, Stronger, Faster, for fife.


Last edited by jim stone on Wed Sep 19, 2018 5:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 5:06 pm 
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keithsandra wrote:
I just play the flute with favourite tunes until I get them as I like them, pausing to spend more time on what doesn't sound right every time I play until I feel satisfied.

And in the Trad world, I daresay that's true of most of us. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 5:11 pm 
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https://www.amazon.com/Better-Stronger- ... B005RQXKZ4


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 6:15 pm 
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jim stone wrote:
Disagree. I was speaking for myself, as the next sentence made clear.


Fair enough, but the way it reads, it seem very much like you're giving general advice from your own experience rather than just relating something that is true for you, but not necessarily for others.

jim stone wrote:
My technique, after sixteen years of study with people like Mike Rafferty, Katherine McEvoy, etc. is pretty good.


Catherine McEvoy is a great example of the differences in technique in trad vs the possible "ideal." She would be the first to tell you to "do as I say, not as I do," because her method of resting the flute on her shoulder is a great way of getting a neck problem. As I remember, she teaches her students not to do it, despite the fact that many, many traditional flute players do. Honestly, I'd say that the majority of flute players that I've seen at sessions (and I include myself in this) have problems with technique that could lead to repetitive strain injury if done enough.

jim stone wrote:
Doubtless there are people who can play forever (I said 'risk', not certainty), but after a certain level of repetitive motion, good form and no underlying medical condition won't necessarily prevent tendinitis in one's fingers or cubital tunnel syndrome in one's elbows, etc. Also back pains. I've checked this out at length with orthopedic specialists.


I guess it might depend on your definition of "risk." I would almost certainly injure myself if I tried to run a marathon, but Alex O'Shea just ran 32 in 16 days. Given that it is quite normal for a professional orchestral rehearsal to be about 2 1/2 hours, never mind practice time, other gigs, and other playing, 2-3 hours is by no means an unreasonable amount of time. Whether it's necessary to practice for that long is a different story, but with proper technique and no underlying medical issues, it should not be seen as greatly increasing risk of injury.

I don't want to sound too harsh, and I absolutely believe that for many/most, 2-3 hours a day is overkill and could lead to problems. But I think it's also important to stress that it is not the time spent practicing in and of itself that confers risks or benefits, it's what you're doing during that time.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 6:20 pm 
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This is Jen's comment on my horror at the practicing disciplines she and her professional colleagues go through:

"It's often misunderstood how much effort the Boehm flute actually takes. Have you every played through the flute parts of a Tchaikovsky Ballet, like Swan Lake? Or his children's music, like Nutcracker Suite?

(Yes, but only the beautiful opening in SL's Act 11).

"It's HELL in there. :>)

"So yes, we train like Olympic athletes train.
The fun is in the challenge. Tchaikovsky wrote parts for flute that NO flutist can ever actually play. He was nuts that way; but orchestras don't play them for the ease of the flute player.
So we're stuck with the heavy hours of woodshedding by necessity.

"Best, Jen"


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 8:20 pm 
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Practice too much and the whole music thing feels like work instead of fun.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:53 pm 
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awildman wrote:
Practice too much and the whole music thing feels like work instead of fun.

+1, assuming we're amateurs playing for fun and not a career.

As it is, I tend to divide my near-daily practice about 50/50 into time spent practicing and learning tunes played at local sessions -- some of which I don't especially enjoy but I want to participate -- and "home tunes" I enjoy that aren't good candidates for introducing to the local sessions. The former can seem like "work" sometimes, so I try not to let that dominate my practice time. On the other hand, I don't want to fall completely down the rabbit hole of tunes I love that nobody else around here has ever heard, or wants to learn.

In addition, as a sort of secondary layer, I try to spend some time on whatever technique I need to be working on. Right now that's breath control, probably my weakest area. And I can do that when practicing both the "session work" tunes and the favorite personal tunes.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 10:10 pm 
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I figure 'work' is 'activity meant to be productive and which one has a reason
to do even when it isn't enjoyable.' For me, flute playing is work, since I mean it
to produce expertise and mastery and this gives me reason to practice even
when it isn't fun. I'm working on mastering the Irish flute.
I find flooting very satisfying but I have no possibility of a career at it, but I'm not
playing for fun, either. I'm playing to become the best musician I can be. I don't expect that to be anything special. But when I die and go to heaven, God won't ask me 'Why didn't you
sound like Matt Molloy?' but 'Why didn't you sound like Jim Stone?'


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