Here’s a workout I love – Treadmill Excerpt Fartleks.
I come armed with a complete playlist of all the excerpts for my next audition, and start with the treadmill at a comfortable jogging pace. I set my iPod to shuffle, and start with a nice slow piece for a warmup. As soon as the oboe solo is over I click ahead to the next track and notch my treadmill 0.3 MPH faster. Because I’m shuffling the playlist I have no idea how long the next track will be, but I let it play out until I’ve heard my solo. Might be 30 seconds, might be 7 minutes. I click ahead and take my speed back down 0.2 MPH. Another excerpt, another .3 faster, another excerpt, .2 down.
This workout is a multi-tasker’s dream. At the end of 30 minutes I am running nearly a 10K pace (results vary based on how close to the front of the track the excerpts sit) and because it wasn’t continuous fast running but intervals of easier and harder work, I still have the energy to face the rest of the day. In fact, I’m glowing with the endorphins.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I find intentional listening an onerous task – sure, I can put some music on as I putter around and make reeds, but actually listening in order to intentionally contemplate the phrasing, absorb the harmonic underpinnings, and study the texture and orchestration of a solo feels like a chore. I don’t want to stop what I’m doing and pay attention to my stereo when there are reeds to make, laundry to do, and a two-year-old to wrangle.
But on the treadmill I am being productive, and I have nothing more important to do than listen. And listening through headphones is such a fantastically intimate experience. My car stereo is fine, but you don’t get a lot of nuance over the engine noise of a 12-year-old Beetle. In headphones you can hear every breath, every attack, every grunt from the conductor. It’s focused listening, and after a few rounds I have an understanding of the style of music I’m working in, I’ve heard two or three different legitimate tempos, I know where the underlying material is interesting or surprising, and what kind of mood I want to cast as I play the line alone. I know whether my solo is really a solo or sits under a singer (I’m in opera excerpt land right now) and thus how soloistic I should be in presenting it.
Also, and not irrelevantly, I feel strong, fast, and powerful, and my wind is all the better for having run. It is a huge win-win.