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Harrisonburg, Virginia, United States
Professor of Saxophone, James Madison University

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Have a Mantra

In one of my first posts (disorganized practiced . . . ), I wrote about the importance of keeping practice sessions mentally organized by continually asking, "What am I practicing, right now?"  The idea of mantra is at the heart of any good form of practice.  "What am I practicing?" can become a powerful mantra in itself, but it can also be an even more powerful, permanent cue for more specific mantras.  

Most of my students struggle to remember to use good air support.  At the beginning of a practice session, it might be helpful to repeat a phrase over and over again, such as "use my air, use my air, use my air."  Intensely connect the recitation with the feeling of an engaged diaphragm, and say it over and over again.  Then, in the course of regular practice, stop at measured intervals and recite the mantra again.  Try to think the mantra in your head as you are performing.

I have many little mantras that run in my head, almost like computer programs that run in the background.  LOOSE WRISTS LOOSE WRISTS LOOSE WRISTS . . . HEAD UP HEAD UP HEAD UP HEAD UP . . . AIR AIR AIR AIR AIR AIR.  These mantras are so intimately connected with my practice, they have transcended the words and have become pure constructs of thought.  This works much in the way that an unfamiliar object eventually becomes so familiar, we almost don't notice it, even if we use it every day.  (You can look at a chair and not have to think the word "chair," to know that is a chair!)

Like everything else, it only works if you practice, and the harder you practice, the better it works.

I'm taking a few weeks off of the blog, but please keep your comments and suggestions coming!

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