Quarantine Projects

To say that work and life schedules have been disrupted over the past few weeks would be an understatement.

In the spirit of my blog about teaching online, though, I wanted to share some details about how I and others are using this time, and some ideas on how you can too.

HornMatters on Practice Spaces and Routines

Over on Hornmatters.com, John Ericson has posted a couple of very useful articles that may be helpful to those who have had their usual practice routines disrupted.

The first article covers practicing in less-than-ideal spaces. This is especially important for college students that have been forced to go back home, and are missing the practice rooms that they (hopefully) used at school.

There is usually no perfect solution, but he covers the standard options like using a practice mute (he recommends the Silent Brass, and the Bremner Ssshhh! is good on a budget), or the Barry Tuckwell trick of using a straight mute and pillow. He also mentions a pretty ingenious technique that may work if you have a screw bell horn!

John’s second article covers a more general idea: what to practice when concerts/recitals are cancelled. I think this is a really important thing to talk about – with solo recitals and ensemble performances cancelled, I’m sure there are a lot of students that are taking extended breaks from their instruments.

While breaks are sometimes necessary, this “free” time can really open up time on your calendar to expand your skills – either by going wider (learn something new) or deeper (master a specific skill or subject) in your practicing.

John covers a few things that he is working on, and I’ve got a few projects of my own that I’ll cover in a bit.

James Boldin’s New Recording Project

In the spirit of making up your own projects, James Boldin is working on a new recording project.

This time, he’s recording all of the solos in Mason Jones’ First Solos for the Horn Player book.

This is a book that I’ve used a little bit, although I should definitely use it more for younger students. It makes a great companion to the very popular yellow Mason Jones book, and it’s going to be great to have recordings of all these solos for younger students.

Things I’m Working On

Here are some of the things that I’ve either started working on, or are doubling-down on with this (forced) free time:

  • I’m going through some of my favorite technique books. I’m a big fan of a strong warm-up routine, and I’ve been unhappy with my chops the past few months. To that end I’m going through all sorts of books (Singer, Clarke, Standley, Hackleman, Denise Tryon, Caruso), now that I have time.
  • Etudes – lots of etudes. In addition to some of my favorites (Kopprasch, Maxime-Alphonse book 3, Gallay Op 57), I’m also doing some exploring of a book that’s new to me: Etudes for Modern Valve Horn by Felix de Grave.
  • Recording. My brass quintet, Small Batch Brass, have started some virtual recordings of more lighthearted music. Getting together to rehearse is difficult at the moment, but
  • Reading. One aspect of improving my technique that I’ve definitely neglected over the past several years has been body mechanics. To that end I’ve been doing a bunch of reading and self-studying on the Alexander Technique. I’ve known about the benefits of this for a long time (I first heard about it during my undergrad days), but I guess it takes getting old and having some free time before I finally start to take it seriously!
  • Web Development/Programming. I’ve also been trying to work more closely with my current (and past) web clients, as well as do more continuing education with different web technologies and general programming. Doing more raw HTML/CSS work, brushing up on Javascript, and doing some Python projects from scratch.

What sort of projects have you set up for yourself in the coming weeks?

Whether it’s a practice project, reading more, learning a new skill, or even just spending more time taking care of yourself, having one (or a few) projects to work on can help you survive (and thrive) during this weird time.