Timer Tricks

I’m auditioning for a multiples program in February and have been attempting to find enough hours in the day to prepare a bajillion (yep) things on all my instruments.

I’ve begun lessons with Jan Crisanti, former principal of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, who suggested a tip for me that she uses herself when feeling unmotivated–or in my case, overwhelmed.

Use a timer.

I was skeptical–I mean, why would timing myself help? But the truth is, when I timed myself I had to pre-plan each session and make sure I’d been getting all the things in I needed to practice. So let’s say, for example, that I have long tones, harmonics, double tonguing exercise, three HS region pieces, the Quantz, and two etudes. And that’s just one instrument. I have an audition coming up on clarinet to prepare for and a recital in September. It’s a lot of stuff. And sometimes I would find myself wondering at the end of an hour how I’ve only worked on 12 measures of 32nd note runs–hey, they’re faster now, but I literally hit nothing else. Not very efficient.

So now I plan everything in a spiral notebook. I write out exactly what needs to be worked on and give each piece or fundamental its own line. Mathematically, it turns out that most of the time I can only do about 7-8 minutes on each item. My sessions are more focused, more intense, and at the end of the timer, I’m DONE. Next item. 7-8 minutes of thing two, done. Et cetera. At the end of 60 minutes I hit way more goals and even if I don’t perfect something, I keep more things under my fingers daily instead of hyper-focusing on one section of one or two pieces and neglecting everything else.

The cool thing (or scary, depending) is that you can see exactly what you’ve been working on the most. If you leave out a certain thing for multiple days, those big blank spaces make it pretty obvious! I realized after looking at my journal that I hadn’t played movement two of one of my pieces in two weeks. Woops!

While I haven’t used the timer 100% of the time (it is summer, and I do have all day to practice now), I know that when school begins again I’ll be happy to have another tool to help me keep up with the load of practicing.

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