We have just had the British Grand Prix, Wimbledon is in full swing and the summer holiday season is nearly here. Keeping things in shape over the holiday season can sometimes be a little tricky with the extra time spent in the garden, long holidays or simply being just too warm to practise.
Here are 7 top-tips that will help your embouchure (and your ears) stay in the best possible shape.
1) Lip buzzing (without mouthpiece). This can be very useful as free buzzing allows the lips to vibrate freely with no external pressure. However do be certain not to do this for too long as it can do far more harm than good. Try to limit yourself to about a minute and a half to two minutes of gentle buzzing across the range in one go. Always allow plenty of rest time when doing this.
2) Mouthpiece practice. This is great for working across the range and checking if you are applying additional pressure in the high register. If possible it is good to practise this in front of the mirror so you can see exactly what is happening and try to notice if you have picked up any bad habits.
3) Triple and double tonguing practice. This can be a great time to practice this away from the instrument and check the evenness of the tuh and kuh sounds at slower speeds. Go back to working on this slowly and use the second hand on your watch to make sure that everything is in time and even. Remember that on a watch, the second hand gives you 60 bpm (beats per minute).
4) Breathing exercises. It can be a great time to focus on some simple breathing exercises and allow yourself the time to concentrate on improving your technique without the feeling of wanting to just get on and play. (A set of breathing exercises will appear on this blog soon!)
5) Develop finger strength. Here is a simple (but surprisingly tricky) exercise that can help develop finger co-ordination and control. Follow these simple instructions:
- Put your hands on a flat surface, with your fingers slightly curved.
- Keep your arms and wrists low down.
- Lift up and put down fingers 2 and 4 on both hands whilst keeping the other fingers down
- Then lift up and put down fingers 3 and 5 on both hands whilst keeping the other fingers down
- Repeat until this can be achieved easily.
6) Develop your understanding of music theory, chord structures, harmony and key signatures. Take a good music theory book (the AB Guide to Music Theory is probably the easiest to use) or alternatively download your own copy of Un-dreary Theory from www.shaunthemusicteacher.co.uk.
7) Improve your listening skills. With the prospect of lots of time spent waiting or travelling it might be possible to sneak in some time with your iPod or MP3 player. Put on some of the music that you will be working on next term, some pieces that you have enjoyed playing and if possible some music that you may well not have listened to for some time. (Please acquire or download music responsibly & ethically).
With these simple tips it will be possible to have a great holiday and an easier time of that ever-busy Christmas season as you won’t need to feel that you are starting all over again at that first rehearsal back.