This month – OK, this week – my focus is endurance. My quintet meets next Thursday to rehearse and perform a full concert, which is something we haven’t done in months. Wind quintet is a special kind of playing – it requires a lot of control of sound and dynamic, and there aren’t a lot of rests, since there are only five people to keep a whole piece going. The playing is not as intensive as a solo recital, of course – but it can be very tiring.
We will have a two and a half hour rehearsal, a short break, and a full performance, in public, for grown-ups. I want to make sure that I am as in shape as I possibly can be, not just so that I can sound good for the audience – but so I can enjoy myself instead of grimly forcing sound out through clenched exhausted muscles.
And so far this month that’s been rough. I don’t have the kind of lazy time that I had back in early September, and I’ve been working hard but at a variety of things besides actual oboe playing – but I need now to focus my work on building endurance in my embouchure muscles and efficiency into my technique. Arguably I should have brought this focus forward sooner, but I’m banking on the fact that I can improve any aspect of my playing that I bring my attention to.
Basically, I only have the time I have to play the instrument during the day. What I can’t do, either physically or practically, is play the oboe continuously for two straight hours. But what I CAN do is focus my time very mindfully. What I can do is play – beautifully, not idly – for 25 minutes straight, and plan that session before I start so I don’t waste time fiddling around with sheet music or thinking about my next step. What I can do is make darn sure my reed works before I start, and then just play on the reed I have without pausing to scrape or clip during the session. What I can do is encourage myself to keep going, even at the end of the time when I am a little fatigued. What I can do is take a measured break, plan my next session, and then go for another 25 minutes. In this way, even though I still take breaks to refresh my brain and chops, I can accustom myself to continuous playing.
What I can do tomorrow is 27 minute sessions. Then 30. We’re going to have a blast next Thursday. Please come – details HERE.