David Allen Moore will be leading our Daily Group Technique classes every morning during ISB2017. He is a member of the bass section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and on the faculty of the University of Southern California and Domaine Forget in Quebec, Canada. You can read more about him here.
The concept of planning a morning technique class should be to provide players with a template as to how to structure their own practice. It is at its core a regimen of musical hygiene akin to bathing or brushing your teeth in as much as it is a daily ritual cleansing and refinement of multiple central technical, physical, and musical fundamentals.
Foundational to this entire practice is the Zen concept of “beginner’s mind” which simply means approaching your daily practice with openness, enthusiasm, and a lack of preconceptions especially when studying at an advanced level where years of “experience” (good and otherwise) may have calcified certain aspects of your approach that can be a subconscious limiting factor to achieving your true potential as a bass player, a musician, and ultimately an artist.
Each practice session should begin with light physical activity (e.g. ballistic stretches/movements, yoga, etc.) to prepare the body for the work to come. The purpose is obviously a physical pre-warmup, but it is also an opportunity to engage the mind and take inventory of your current physical state. The key concept in this process is one of basic awareness. Ask yourself: what do I notice about my body today as I prepare to begin practicing? Are there particular areas of excess tension or discomfort that I am aware of? How am I moving today? This focus of non-judgmental awareness will lay the foundation for the mindset required to make maximum gains in the practice room.
As you first begin to play it can be helpful to consciously scan various modalities of perception. Everyone comes pre-programmed with their own bias in this area. Some are visual learners, others aural, while still others may be more kinesthetic and movement based learners focused on feel. Open string practice seems a natural place to start. Whatever your bias may be make an effort to experience and check in with the other modalities. Visual: Are your shoulders relaxed and neutral? Is your bow hold elegant and undistorted? Is your bow straight? Are you maintaining a consistent point of contact from frog to tip and back? Aural: Is the sound open, beautiful, and resonant? Is the sound even throughout the bow stroke? Feeling: Can you feel the bow vibrating in your hand? Is your movement grounded (either standing or sitting)? Can you feel the transfer of weight and momentum from your core to your arm to your hand to the bow? It is vital to exercise and refine this awareness from the beginning as the introduction of other complexity (e.g. string crossing) can easily distract from this focus if it is not consciously nurtured as the foundation of all practice.