The Covid-19 Panademic has brought with it a worldwide cancellation of concerts for months to come. The shock of suddenly having empty calendars and zero concerts to prepare for is overwhelming. But if there are no deadlines to meet, no auditions to practice for, no new repertoire to memorise and no gigs to stay fit for, we might as well open our chakras and practice differently, as if there is no tomorrow. Here are 5 ways to practice when you have too much time on your hands and nobody who’s listening; no judgement, no strings attached.
There are so many techniques to get you going, and plenty of information available online. You could try improvising to a piece you love while listening to a good recording. You could pre-record or loop a sequence of cords (or ask a friend to do so) while you work on finding lines that fit. Or take a different direction all together: Use something that tickles your imagination, for example a passage from a text, a painting, photos from your phone, or you could even record noises on the street. Use these materials as inspiration to dive into the unknown.
2. Play along recordings
Here is your moment to go through all of Haydn’s Quartets, Bruckner’s Symphonies, or any other yet to be discovered masterpieces. Find your part at the local music library or on IMSLP, choose a fabulous recording (or even use this practice to compare different recordings) and play along! This will train your sight-reading skills and introduce you to some of the most beautiful and important works in the literature. Bonus: you finally get to play with your idols!
While you can do it with any style of music, we recommend practicing transcribing with anything else then classical music. Pick up your favourite jazz, pop or rock albums, and transcribe different parts. Find the chords, find the melodies, try playing those on your instrument or on any instrument lying around. Besides the obvious benefits to your ears playing a different styles on your instrument will push you to extend your technics, plus we know you always wanted to be Jamiroquai’s backup band!
Find a recording of someone speaking. A Ted Talk, a speech you love, a poem recitation, a lecture. Choose a section of the recording and listen to it again and again. Take you instrument and try to mimic different aspects of the speech. Work with the melody of the spoken words, with their intonation, with the rhythm, the dynamics and phrasings.
5. Hold long tones and meditate
Play long and sustained notes in a steady dynamic. Listen carefully. Immerse yourself in the sonic sensation of your tone. Focus only on the sound. If your mind strolls away to other thoughts try to bring it back gently into the centre of the sound. Meditate.