How to practice effectively

News about effective practicing based on research by Annie Bosler & Don Greene.

The link is to a TED ED video that is very compelling. I think the explanation of the biology of how the brain and the nervous system work is well worth the five minutes it takes to watch the video. Since it goes by fast, I’ve taken some notes:

Quality effective practice is consistent, intensely focused, targets content or weaknesses that lie at the edge of our capability. To practice effectively we need to focus on the task at hand, eliminate distractions (Facebook is mentioned, but there are many distractions vying for attention). Then, start out slowly, or in slow motion. We all know that slow practice is the “go to” technique for elite performers. Interesting to learn that coordination is built with repetitions, whether correct or incorrect. If we gradually increase the speed of the quality repetitions, we have a better chance of doing them correctly. (I want to read more about this.)

Frequent repetitions with allotted breaks are common practice habits of elite performers. In fact, the most successful performers devote 50-60 hrs. per week on activities related to the craft. But, multiple daily practice sessions of limited duration are most effective. Research has shown that “practice in the brain” actually is as worthwhile as physical practice once we have established and know in vivid detail what we need to do. I would caution that “brain practice” really isn’t a substitute for physical practice, rather, it is worthwhile in addition to physical practice. Physical motion established can be reinforced just by imagining it.


Medir bassoon cane

Several years ago I bought six dulcian reeds direct from Medir in Catalonia (Spain). The reeds were so good that since then I’ve been meaning to try some of the modern bassoon cane.

Finally took the plunge!

I’m play testing the first three reeds from a batch of gouged/shaped/profiled cane (Rieger 1A shape) and I’m very pleased. I notice that the cane is a bit hard but the sound is even and full up and down the range. Maybe the profile is thicker than usual for me–with medium density cane–but, I could always try re-profiling.

With any new cane, shape, etc., there is a learning curve. I cut the reeds to 57 mm overall length, that’s 30 mm from the front of the first wire to the tip, and finished the tips with my Rieger tip profiler (factory taper). On one of the three reeds I’ve worked on the back of the blades and sanded a little overall to get the pitch and response where it should be. All three new reeds respond very nicely with breath attacks at the top of the staff (a, b-flat, b, c). The forked e-flat is in tune without the help of the right hand. I think I’m not in a hurry to coax rich and noisy vibration out of these reeds yet, but with more sanding I’m sure I could get there. For now, it’s probably best to let the reeds settle down before further adjustments. Expect updates on the Medir cane story in the coming weeks.

Glickman-Popkin Bassoon Camp 2017

10 Days at Wildacres Retreat, Little Switzerland, North Carolina
Monday, May 29 to Thursday, June 8, 2017

Register here:

               fei-xie           michael-sweeney                  ludwig

This year’s daily masterclasses will be given by our Camp founding father Loren Glickman, assisted by the legendary Leonard Hindell. We are also very pleased to welcome magnificent guest artists Xie Fei, principal bassoonist with the Baltimore Symphony, Michael Sweeney, principal bassoonist with the Toronto Symphony, and William Ludwig, professor of bassoon at Indiana University. Our program also features bassoon repairs for all full-session Campers by Paul Nordby, of world-renowned Paul Nordby Bassoon Repair. Our daily classes in Reed Making will continue this year, given by reed guru Jim Poe. Fox Bassoons will return to present their latest bassoon designs and innovations.

The lineup looks just terrific! Highly recommended!