How are those New Year’s Resolutions Going?

New Year's ReoslutionsNow we are over half way through the year, it might well be a good time to check those New Year’s Resolutions and have a quick review of how things are going.  I remember back in January making myself a list of things that I really wanted to achieve.

With these great intentions I was hoping to develop my playing and musicianship and regain some of the technique I used to have.  To see what I considered, just click here to have a look:

New Year’s Resolutions 2013

Well, time to review quickly what I wanted and have a look at how things can be maintained and developed over the remainder of the year.  At some business training I recently attended, it was suggested that keeping this written on paper and having it to hand will help with motivation and keep your focus going.

Assessment of those New Year’s Resolutions

So, here are the Resolutions I made to myself with how I am currently getting on and where I am still hoping to go:

  1. Develop breathing technique so that I can play long sustained phrases. For example, second movement of Vaughan Williams Concerto & Bourgeois Fantasy pieces.

This has generally improved and playing with Banbury Symphony Orchestra has certainly helped.  We have a massive programme on Saturday 13th July containing Shostakovich Symphony 7, Ride of the Valkyries, 633 Squadron, the Dam Busters March and the 1812 Overture.

However, I have noticed that my breathing is not quite as good as it used to be and I googled a masterclass of Patrick Harrild on YouTube discussing how to play a number of orchestral excerpts. He made the valid point that he needs to breathe more often because that is what happens as you get older, but the most important thing is never to sacrifice rhythm and quality of sound.  Extremely valuable advice and definitely worth a watch. The video is just below:

The thing that I am really going to consider working on a little more is breathing technique.  I think it would be useful to aim to incorporate more regular practice both with and without the instrument.

2. Develop my low register so that I can achieve a good quality sound at loud volumes.  For example in the First & third Movements of the Vaughan Williams and Gregson Concerti.

Working on the Ride of the Valkyries and watching the video above has definitely helped develop my low register.  Looking at some of the low register (and in fact high register) exercises that are available on the internet, using the Arban and transposing music down in pitch has been extremely valuable.  I am still trying to develop a bigger sound and I am hoping to continue to work on breathing (as discussed above) with a real focus on sound.  As Patrick Harrild said above “blow the thing and have a good time”.

3. Improve intonation and awareness of tuning when performing as a soloist.  Work on Bach preludes and check tuning via the piano.

This has been something I haven’t necessarily focused on so far this year, but I have started to record myself and worked on duets, trios and quartets through some multitracking.  This has allowed me to build a better awareness of intonation and I have begun to become much more acutely aware of which particular notes are causing an issue.

4. Develop legato playing and awareness of line by listening to Yo-Yo Ma, Alfie Boe, Cecilia Bertolli, John Fletcher and Oystein Baadsvik.

I have started listening to a wider range of music and although I have always enjoyed listening to Baadsvik and Boe, I have found that I have started listening to them in a very different way.  This has been very helpful in how I have been thinking about my own playing and my conducting.  I have bought my copy of the Proms book and  I am looking forward to listening to a concert every day until September!

5. Develop a practice routine of a series of 30-minute sessions that include work on scales, arpeggios, studies and pieces.  Research the ideas of others via Google.

I have completed this and have posted on developing a practice routine.  I have completed some research and have created a balanced routine.  However, I haven’t been able to put this into actual practice on a regular basis and have struggled to fit in a practice routine around life.


New Year's ResolutionsHaving a set of goals in place has certainly been useful and has helped to focus my thinking and efforts around developing my playing.  It is always easier to start with the end in mind and then it seems that things start to fall into place.

Applying an over-arching set of long term goals and then breaking this into smaller more achievable goals has allowed me to find more time for working on developing my own musicianship, musical understanding and awareness.

Have you managed to keep your New Year’s Resolutions going or are they a distant memory?  Why not try and find the resolutions that you made, or possibly make some new ones?  It may be that this could help keep things going over what promises to be a long, hot summer!

In the words of Patrick Harrild – “just blow the thing and have a good time!”

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