Performance Preparation (concluded)
by Patricia George
Musicians who read one line of notes see the notes in one inch chunks (about the size of a quarter or 25 cent piece). The eye takes in these notes in about ¼ second, storing them in the short term memory for about six hours. The eye then moves on to the next one inch chunk of notes. Practicing scales in chunks followed by a rest will help the student coordinate his eye movement with musical performance. It will teach the student to read in real time rather than reading ahead, memorizing and regurgitating the notes, while trying to read ahead. Since most publishers know about reading in one-inch chunks and select their publication font based on this information, take a section of a piece and have the students play beat 1 followed by a rest, then beat 2 followed by a rest, then beat 3 followed etc. Not only will this exercise help the student coordinate his eye movement with performance, but many students will improve their counting and sight-reading skills since they will have to think “what comes on 1, what comes on 2, etc.”
Grab and Go (Learning to Scan)
Take a passage of four sixteenths. You may wish to write out two-octave scales in sixteenths (beamed by fours) for your band for this exercise. Part 1: Have the students play the first sixteenth of each beat resting where the three other sixteenths are. Repeat, only playing the first and second sixteenths of each grouping and resting on three and four. Then rest on the first two sixteenths and play the third and fourth sixteenths. Then play only the second and third sixteenths, followed by the first and fourth sixteenths each with appropriate rests. Part 2: Play every other note. Do not let the students finger the missing note. Then play one note, resting through the next two notes. Continue on so the student has to count the missing notes. This exercise will help students learn to play on the beat rather than before. As you know waiting to play is difficult for many young musicians.
Once the students learn these drills, then the actual time to practice them will be less than ten minutes, but the pay-off for the individual player will be as if he has practiced for many hours. This directed practice will ensure that the student has practiced breathing and tone production, articulation, technical development, and reading skills. What is not to like about this?