Posted in Health and Fitness, Practicing

Run (or maybe any cardio), then Practice. Immediately.

This post is really a supplement to two previous posts, and I’m excited to share some more discoveries!

I tried my experiment, again, of running then practicing to give myself another go at learning from it. I ran 1.5 miles (2.4km) — not a lot, but enough — then picked my flute up. I didn’t get quite the massive sound that I remember from the first time (or maybe it has grown in my imagination!), but I learned something a little new: while the intake of air did improve from my everyday practice, it was the out-breath that was affected the most by the running. It was fluid, uninhibited, uninterrupted, everything that an out-breath should be. You get your lungs working hard, yet efficiently with running, then blowing through a flute is much easier work because your lungs are really working for you. They take in more air deeply and fluidly as your body is desperate for the oxygen, they then release that air in the same manner. Perfect. Obviously, we probably can’t do this exercise every single time we practice, but even just learning from the experience once or twice can have huge implications for how we proceed with our practicing thereafter.

Happy jogging, readers!

Posted in Keeping your sanity, Practicing

Cutting Out that Awful Noise in My Head

So, I just finished practicing a little over 3 hours (with a break for snacks for my youngest and me in between). I feel like I accomplished a lot: new phrases memorized, a few more technical “acrobatics” ironed out, and some nice, new phrasing discovered. However, I also spent the majority of that time with panicked, negative commentary running nearly constantly through my head. Normally, I’m a very optimistic person, and when I goof or some aspect of a piece just stubbornly won’t get “fixed” I just shrug my shoulders and tell myself, “next time.” Not today. No, today was, “Is this ever going to go right?”, “Oh no, this could really crash and burn”, “Yikes! How did that happen??”, “What’s wrong with my sound? Oh, yeah, I need to relax and raise my head.” “Stop slouching.” “You’re too tired.” “I wonder if I can do this.” The list goes on. I finished my allotted time by doing some long tones, triple piano, in the highest register — this helps build muscle quickly. When I finished that I decided I should blow some loud low register notes to loosen my lips a little and to keep from getting too tight later on today. Well, I discovered a few things: my sound is always so much better when I’m relaxing and consciously trying to relax (as opposed to trying to play that wickedly hard run just one more time); the noise, the negative commentary, disappeared completely because I knew I was almost finished and could now eat lunch; I enjoyed myself suddenly and was enjoying the nice “buzz” (resonance) coming from my flute with my freshly relaxed embrochure and mindset.

Tomorrow, or maybe even later today just before my student comes, I’m going to experiment with playing with that final relaxation and gentle mindset that I finished playing with this morning. Perhaps, those challenging runs and phrases will feel a lot more easy if I go into them with ease and confidence instead of with a bunch of noise in my head. I think it’s a good exercise for everyone, not just musicians, to approach life with a relaxed mindset than with anxiety and trepidation. I’m not going to allow myself to fall into that downward spiral of negativity while I’m playing again. It’s just a way to set myself up for failure, when I could otherwise set myself up for success. I can do this!

Posted in Health and Fitness, Practicing

A Little Experiment

I love to run. I try to run 2-3 miles at least 2-4 times per week. It helps me maintain my energy level, my optimism, my weight, and it even keeps my body’s chemistry in balance. Musically speaking, running improves my stamina, my phrase lengths, and my confidence. Running makes me a better person and a better flutist. I love it!

A few weeks ago, I took a break from practicing, tied up my running shoes, and told my husband I’ll be back in 25 minutes. I had a fantastic run! The air was just right. The temperature was just right. The birds were singing. And when I returned home, my “runner’s high” (endorphins, etc.) was about as high as it could get. After some nice stretches and a glass of water, a thought occurred to me: let’s try to practice right away. So, I ran upstairs, picked my flute back up and, BAM!, biggest sound of my life, amazing full-of-life phrases, and an almost aggressive (but still beautiful) style. I was on top of the world.

After only about a half hour, when I thought I was going to pass out, I put my flute away and starting thinking about what just happened. Well, for starters, I had all of that positive energy still surging through me from my “runner’s high” (it’s a real thing). Second, my heart was still working a little harder than normal, but my lungs were still feeling uninhibited and huge, and sucking in every last bit of air in the room with every breath. Lastly, after pounding pavement for nearly 30 minutes, I was still feeling quite athletic and applied (transferred?) that bit of power and motivation toward my flute. So, combine those three elements, and you become a pretty amazing, powerful flutist.

My goal is to remember how all of this felt and put it to work every time I put my flute to my mouth. I mean, what a sound!!! I want to play like that all the time (musically appropriate, of course). I will probably run this experiment a few more times to help remind myself. Not only did it give me unlimited confidence and a huge golden tone, but it was thrilling for me. I loved what I was doing beyond all measure. I want that every time I play!

Posted in Keeping your sanity, Parenting, Practicing, Working Parent

Why this blog?

Many of my friends, family, and even my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher, ask me, “how do you balance flute with children?” Of course, I give them my honest interpretation of how I am “handling” (more like juggling) it, and, in most cases, advice on how they can succeed at it as well. After answering this many times, I got the idea to create a blog about being a professional musician, a mother of three (in fewer than 4 years!), and how I’ve learned to create some pretty awesome meals on my less-than-professional stove. I want to help musician mothers succeed and live to their full potential. Yes, it’s significantly more difficult to practice and concentrate and, well, work while wiping tushies and being sleep deprived, but I’m here to say that it is possible. As Marcel Moyse and Trevor Wye would say, with time, patience, and intelligent work, you can make it happen.