Practicing. It matters.
I have been on a break for several weeks now. Not a total non-playing break, but a not-really-into-it break. Partly I needed a mental respite from the intensity of my focus leading up to the Chroma performances at the end of March. I rode on the momentum of that project for a week or so after it ended, and then gradually began to peter out. Partly the weather has been so miserable here – cold and rainy almost every day – that I haven’t been in the mood for anything but sleep and food, and on the few days that it did get beautiful all I wanted to do was play outside with Zoe. So, minimal practicing, only the reed work I had to do, and almost no writing.
And although I have applied myself to the oboe most days, and I am still moving forward on my goals and projects, I have unabashedly scrapped my normal deeply helpful warmups. At most I’ll do my scalework, because scales are fun, but generally I’ve just been picking up the oboe and diving into the repertoire. And the dangerous thing is, it feels fine.
It’s no problem – I don’t need the warmup to play well on a given day. But leaving it off regularly is a slippery slope to becoming a lesser player.
This weekend’s concert in South Bend is lovely, and not particularly challenging. Mozart’s Don Giovanni overture, his Piano Concerto no. 23 (no oboe!) and Tchaikovsky’s Mozartiana Suite. No big solos, nothing too delicate. But in rehearsal this morning I found myself missing easy attacks and struggling with the color of the oboe in its lower register. And I can blame this directly on the missing warmups.
In my practicing I am working on fast double-tonguing and high glissandos. I am preparing to start a memorization push. I am thinking about English horn excerpts. I am not actively focusing on quiet low G or F entrances which are audible but not soloistic. And this is exactly the skill my warmup takes care of. The basic excellence of normal, easy oboe playing.
It’s startling to suddenly recognize a hole in my playing – something that I should be able to count on but which is not quite where I expect it. I’ll be returning to my trusty Moyse book on Monday. The discipline of my normal regimen actually sounds like wonderful fun to me. This break has lasted long enough.