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Phone Box In The Snow
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The music hack, of course.

How easy it would be to become one.  Wouldn’t have to practice, play in tune, play all the parts, figure out fingerings, rehearse, look beneath the surface, or care about our playing at all, really.

Contributing to rehearsals would no longer be necessary.  We could either take over the rehearsal and avoid all discussion, or breeze in late.  You know, phone it in.  Miss notes?  Parts?  Entire melodies or bass lines?  That’s OK.  Just phone it in.  Life is so much easier that way.

No expectations, no standards, and no conscience, either.

I’ve seen it happen, and know you have, too.  Someone spends a very significant amount of time and money going to school, taking lessons, coaching, even practicing.  Then s/he graduates, goes into the business, and perhaps becomes quite busy.

Next it’s “Oh, I didn’t have time to warm up.”  Then, “I didn’t have time to practice.”  Shortly after that, “We really lucked out on that one, didn’t we?  No one would ever guess that we didn’t rehearse.”  And then, “I’ll just cut this one passage.  No one will notice.”  Or, “Those 2 tempo markings are almost the same (for 2 contrasting sections), so I’m just going to play them the same.”

What’s the rationale here?  I played well in school, so no maintenance required?

In rehearsals, do you end in the wrong key because you never, ever looked at the music?  No problem.  Just play a couple of chords in the key of the composition.  That way, everyone knows you really know.  (Never mind the waste of everyone’s time, or that no one can get their pitch for the next number.  That’s not important.)

What’s that about?  Accompanying = sightreading?  Nooooooo!  First of all, if you can’t sightread better than that, you have no business being in a rehearsal!

What bothers me most is that once the descent into being a hack starts, sometimes there is a refusal to recognize that there is a problem.  So the descent continues.  A reversal, and thus improvement, never happens.

We can keep this from being our story.

What is required to play well every time?

  • always warm up, even if it’s in the car
  • always practice, even if it’s only 1/2 hr. once in a while
  • always be curious
  • always look below the surface
  • always arrive early so you can get your bearings.  If you feel like you have your act together, there’s much less chance that you’ll lose it.  Mistakes happen, but they don’t have to destroy your confidence or affect the rehearsal in general.
  • always learn the entire score!  Orchestration, all chorus parts, inner lines, words, phrasing, translation (musical terms and texts of songs/opera), preludes, postludes, interludes, recitatives, cadenzas, 1st and 2nd endings, repeats, codas
  • when you’re not 100%, find a way to deal with that.  Most times, you can still practice and accomplish something.  Practicing under tempo is a good idea!  You can reinforce fingerings, dynamics, tempo changes, learn the words better, and become accustomed to transitions between pieces, all without the pressure of performance tempo.

Taking care of your performance/rehearsal level is important.  Always looking for improvement is a big part of that.  It’s not that hard, but does require

  • dedication
  • determination
  • dealing with distractions


  • the will to stay at the top of your game.

It’s when we begin accepting things as they are that the downward slide starts to happen.

Take care of your talent!

What steps do you take to keep your edge?

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