Monday, October 5, 2009

Practice Preparation

How many of us, such as someone like me, when we have some stick-up hook or something that we've purchased to improve our life in some way, read the packing instructions and see that it says to prepare the surface by making it clean and dry before we stick the little hook on the wall? How many of us, like me, for example, are in so much of a hurry that we skip this step, thinking it will be all right? And how many of us, namely me, have been disappointed when the thing that improved our life so much fell off the wall a couple of weeks later?

There are steps we need to take in order to prepare surfaces and situations so that the results will be much more wonderful than if we skip these steps. Sometimes the preparation steps are tedious and boring, but with a little experience, we realize that if we want good results, we won't skip the steps. We will lay the groundwork first.

Painters use Spackle to fill the holes in the wall, and then prime with a "skim coat" before applying the actual paint. Bakers use a plain white icing over their layers before they apply the decorative icing. Seamstresses make a mock up of the garment they are working on in muslin fabric before using the actual real materials.

Today, as I drove home from dropping my daughter off at school, I began to plan how I would spend my singing practice time. "Hmmm...Let me think, I have a lesson tomorrow, so I don't want to have a strenuous practice today because I wanted to come in with a fresh set of muscles and vocal cords, all rested and ready, when I meet with my teacher, and if I push myself too much they might not be recovered by lesson time." So, I decided that it would be a good day to work on the language for the Per Pieta. Trying to get a head start, I started working on it in the car while still driving. I do not speak Italian, but I want to be able to speak this song as if I did. This is the preparation work for being able to sing the words, being able to speak them fluently. (Note to self: use free time to learn Italian instead of spending time on Facebook.) I found I knew the first few lines, but got stuck in the middle, so made a mental note that I would have to make sure I had that memorized.

By the time I was parking the car in the driveway and coming into the house, I was thinking that I would like to work the Per Pieta up to speed, but since I didn't want to stress my cords too much, I will run it through in a lower key. I quickly checked the living room by the piano to look at my Bellini book and see which key the lower one was in.

Later, as I was ironing and listening to talk radio, I reflected on the meaning and purpose of the practice I've planned for later.

Do you think a tight-rope walker, or an aerial artist in the circus would learn their routine up there in the air? I don't think so. I think they would want to know their routine inside and out before trying it up on the high wire.

Same for a figure skater. Before trying a routine out on the ice, it seems like she would practice it without skates many times, so she would know where she was going and what was supposed to happen next. (I don't know if that's exactly how these artists work, but that's how I'd want to do it.)

Why become familiar with the routine before going up on the high wire, trapeze, or out on the ice? Because there are hazards there, and the consequences of messing up can cause injury and harm.

Well, the same thing for singing, especially for me, in a higher tessitura. It would be good for me to work out the little glitches and problems singing in the lower key before subjecting the piece to the stress that the vocal apparatus will be under when the cricothyroids are pulling more tautly.

Why, in these 25 years, I have not thought of this sooner, I don't know. I have so often just worked these things out while singing "up there." I suppose this is what those opera singers are doing when they are "marking" during rehearsals. I have read about marking, and heard it described, but only until just now do I understand why marking is useful.

So, that's my plan for my practice session later this afternoon: Working toward language fluidity, memorizing the language, understanding what I'm saying in Italian. Then running through in the lower key. And trying to bring the piece up to speed. I'll post the work in my virtual vocal studio on posterous later on.


Later: Okay, here it is. The practice plan enacted: Per Pieta 3 Ways

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