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The Stages of Practice: the Taper

The Sensible Flutist: The Stages of Practice: the Taper

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Stages of Practice: the Taper

Remember my Practice like you Train post last summer?

With my Philly gig coming up in a couple of weeks, I'm quickly approaching my taper which is something I didn't mention in my previous post. In addition to varying your weekly practice into different types of "runs," consider the training stages as well.

In the winter, a lot of runners take time off from training and either build their base mileage (their foundational weekly mileage level) or run their current base mileage at a slower pace. Now that we're less than a week away from spring, a lot of runners I know are in training for their spring races. Training usually consists of easy runs, speedwork and long runs. At the end of training, runners go into a taper. They back off on their mileage and rest in between easy miles.

What does this mean to us as musicians, especially when learning a new recital program?

First off, I haven't prepared a full recital program since my college days. I've caught myself gravitating towards the way I used to prepare in college. It was focused and one-dimensional and I had successful recitals, but I'm curious to see how much more efficient I can make my practicing while incorporating all the other stuff I've learned since then with a full program.

I have found that the more into the "zone" (super focused, worried about technical aspects of the instrument, less self-aware) I get, the more self-doubt creeps in. I don't like this because it leaves me feeling tense and anxious.

Instead, I'm working for a few more days on the music on specific spots and then it will be a process of looking at the whole and really feeling the music flow. What do I want to communicate when I get on the stage on March 31? What is it that I have to say with the music I've chosen?

I'm finding myself doing a lot of listening and assimilating and not so much playing right now. Mental practicing has been especially useful and effective, too.

It feels good to reach this point of preparation and feel secure in the work that I've done. I'm increasingly excited to finally share myself with the world in my own self-produced show.

Listening to your body and mind during the stages of preparation for any performance is crucial for success. Trust that you can move to the next stage of your practice and have the faith to let go in order to freely give your music to the world.

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At March 15, 2012 at 3:41 PM , Blogger Olya said...

Hi Alexis. I've been reading your blog for some time and am finding it very useful. I am new to playing the flute (about 14 months now) but I played piano as a child (went to music school in Ukraine where I grew up) and never had a problem playing longer pieces. Well, it is very different with the flute. I working on Overture from Telemann's Suit in A minor, and it's only 3 pages, which is really not that long, but about half way through I start loosing tone quality and my fingers stumble over notes and it's hard to keep up the tempo (I am at about 186 metronome right now) not because of technical difficulties, but because I am so tired. It seems like even keeping the air going is hard. So, my question is, do you know if there are any workout routines that would help build up endurance? Or is playing the only way to get it?

At March 15, 2012 at 5:22 PM , Blogger The Sensible Flutist said...

Hi Olya,

Thanks for reading! As a new flutist, it takes times to get physically acclimated with the flute especially if you are using a lot of air when you play.

Any sort of aerobic exercise will help develop your endurance; however, learning breath control will help you focus your sound and keep you tension free.

As part of my Skype lessons, I offer a free 30 minute trial lesson with no obligation. I would be happy to offer you a few tips that way. E-mail me at adelpalazzo(at) if you're interested.

At March 16, 2012 at 5:34 PM , Blogger Jamey said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm not sure I get the finger breath. I'll listen again when I have time. Until then, any other words of wisdom to help my understanding? Thanks!


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