Brick, meet Head. Head, meet brick. Be friends.

I read an article a few weeks ago – well, really a blog post but that’s trivial – and it was a rather intriguing article about a fellow clarinetist discovering the importance of “off the clarinet practicing.”

And no, I wasn’t just reading one of my older posts – although, I wouldn’t put that past me.

I can be rather dense sometimes.

It’s such a great discipline, practicing without playing. There were a few points that I think he missed, but over all I agreed with his post.

We’ll dub this method non-practice. I can’t imagine how this practice would be counter productive – and why not do it?! These are some things that I wrote down in one of my practice journals about non-practice.

Learning Music – learning music becomes exponentially easier. With non-practice, you learn rhythmical and technical passages with out the burden of other worries – i.e. air speed, voicing, jaw, embouchure, articulation, etc. Not to mention my biggest hurdle, face fatigue – kills me every time.

There is something to say about learning the rhythms on the instrument too – via playing. It sort of runs the line of being an audio/visual versus the aural learner. But learning something in a contrasting way does nothing but, oh, you know – help you retain the material more consistently.

Technical Superiority – this is going to sound odd but after doing this for a while, I’ve noticed some very nice legato and technical facility in my playing. When I’m at home, I just go through scales – particularly in thirds – and listen to the sounds my fingers make while engaging the mechanisms of the clarinet. BUT, I’m not slamming or jarring the instrument in order to make the sounds more audible – no – I actually put my ear to the barrel and then work through my scales.

Yeah, SURE, I get a neck cramp after about 15 minutes – but the things you hear are rather fascinating.

Secondly, when you’re not playing and only working through passages – your sense of touch becomes elevated – and you begin to realize and FEEL all the anomalies in your technique.

And how badly you need to get those springs replaced.

I think non-practice is an essential tool for those learning SO much music and playing all the time. The only difficulty, for me at times, is merely convincing myself that this is more beneficial than actually playing. We all know how much damage we do when we over-practice – especially the next day.

I call this brick wall syndrome, it’s much like tunnel vision – its when all you do is play the same passage over and over again – it’s like – banging your head on a brick wall. You’re not getting anywhere – maybe causing some serious mental problems – and at the end of your practice session – you leave with a headache versus with the glorious feeling of mastering some technically challenging passage.

Try practicing next to a trombone player.

End Story. Time to…practice!

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