Abe Weiss on practicing

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I mentioned in a post yesterday how impressed I was by Abe Weiss‘s presentation at the IDRS conference. Mr. Weiss is principal bassoonist of the Rochester Philharmonic.

Here are a few points from his talk that stood out to me.

  • “Academic understanding is not the same as performance ability. … Practice is converting academic understanding into performance ability.”
  • Mr. Weiss made an convincing case for using the Oubradous Scales & Exercises, something I have in my collection but hadn’t really used much because it seemed so elementary. Mr. Weiss recommends using it, and using it thoroughly—taking the time to thoughtfully play the whole-note scales, playing all the articulation variations, etc. He pointed out how quickly students learn their Milde scale studies once they’ve conscientiously practiced Oubradous.
  • Practice passages in very short segments. Repetition is most effective when the previous repetition is still in short-term memory.
  • If you’re been practicing something for 5-10 minutes without measurable improvement, it’s time to review your practice methodology.
  • It’s easy to focus on tone alone when you think you’re evaluating your overall technique, but it’s possible to get a good sound with poor technique. This comes at the expense of endurance, response, dynamic range, etc. Make sure you are aware of these factors, too, for a bigger picture of your technique.
  • If you’re making bad reeds consistently—all turning out with identical problems—check your embouchure. Don’t alter your embouchure to make a new reed play. Use your best embouchure and alter the reed to suit it. “Make the reed come to you.”
  • Someone asked Mr. Weiss if he does a “cool-down” at the end of his practice session. He said he didn’t but thought that it couldn’t hurt anything. At that point, Mr. Weiss’s brother, oboist David Weiss, jumped in and suggested the opposite: using the end of your practice session for a “burn,” working long tones and other chop-busters for endurance.

1 thought on “Abe Weiss on practicing”

  1. Abe-

    I find that an excellent method of practicing that incorporates musicianship, endurance and technical challenge is working enthusiastically with the Bach Uaccompanied Cello Suites and I find that Arthur Weisberg’s edition is marvelous in that he was able bridge and adapt the original version to the bassoon. It’s an amazing resource in fact for the bassoonist structurally and intellectually. You can’t get much better than J.S. BACH!


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