Tonight I was practicing a passage in the Saint-Saens Sonata that I was having trouble with; I thought I had worked it out a few weeks ago, but somehow the sloppiness had crept back in. I was frustrated with how I was practicing it-- a few boring rhythms, inching the metronome up by a number of clicks that always either seemed so slow as to be agonizing or too fast to be doing much good-- had had been thinking recently (prompted by overdosing on The Bulletproof Musician and Study Hacks blogs) about how to improve my use of my time in my practice.
After reading a few trumpet player's obituaries and remembrances of great CSO trumpeter Bud Herseth, I had been reading over recently a page called "Bud Herseth Lesson Notes", and noticed that he emphasized playing only on the mouthpiece quite a bit. I began to wonder what the woodwind equivalent would be. I know that I can't play the Saent-Saens sonata only on my reed, but-- doh-- I can play it only on my mouth! Singing your part is something that everyone, including me, knows you should do, but I rarely hear people singing their music in the practice rooms at school-- sometimes brass players, but never woodwinds, and I had certainly never done it. Sure enough, when I tried to sing the line, it came out a jumbled mess. So I practiced singing it slowly, while watching the music and playing the notes with my fingers. I discovered I could even sing wrong notes when watching the music-- many of the middle Gs often came out as an A! Once I had corrected this, and gotten my singing up to a reasonable tempo (not quite the final tempo, which is a little past the limits of my vocal technique...) I found I was able to put the run together on bassoon with much more ease.
I wonder how much easier the movement would be if I had learned to sing the whole thing before ever putting it on the bassoon... I guess the moral of the story is, those things that everyone knows you should do? I should do them.