Episode 51: How to warm up with your own repertoire

This is Maria and this is Hester.
Together we are the CONSORT COUNSELLORS! We recently received a question from Mika Kumagaya (Japan), asking us what are good ways to warm up
before your rehearsal starts. In some of our previous episodes we presented
warm-up exercises focusing on technical skills, on contemporary improvisation and sounds, but today we would like to give you warm-up exercises
based on the piece you are going to practice. This will add some variety to your practice
and, on the other hand, it will help you to perform that particular piece
faster and better, and to know it better as well. You can try a couple of these exercises
to get into the mood of the piece and then continue practicing the whole piece
as you are used to. In this exercise, everyone gets the chance to start
the piece and to “start the ensemble” in any way they like. You can also try with different tempi! Make sure that you leave enough time
between one member of the ensemble and the next, so that the old tempo “disappears” from our mind
and we can focus on the new one Why is this exercise important? Because, even when you play the piece alone,
it’s not always easy to imagine the right tempo. And then imagine you have to cue the whole ensemble! Then it’s even more important
to feel the right tempo beforehand, and stick to it. But this is one of the great questions: How do you know if the tempo is right,
if you have made a good choice? We’re going to give you
four possible criteria that can help: 1. Look at the fastest note values that you have to play.
They should feel comfortable and realistic. 2. If the piece we are playing is a dance form,
we should allow the dancers to do the right movements. Tempo is very important for this. 3. You should find the tempo in which you can express
the emotions belonging to the piece. 4. Finally, and this is especially useful in baroque music, you will notice that sometimes the harmony is static
– it doesn’t change very often – while sometimes there are a lot of quick changes,
many different chords in a short period of time. Usually this is a good indication for tempo. For example, if the harmony changes a lot very quickly,
you probably need more time to understand those changes. In previous episodes we gave tips on
how to work on final chords. You can also use these as warm-up exercises. Here is another idea to get into the sound world
of the piece you are going to play: We take the final chord of the piece and, all together,
we are going to play this chord for two minutes. Whoa! The goal of doing this is to get so comfortable
and make it sound so beautiful that we actually want to go on even longer. To achieve this, choose one player to be the pitch
and sound reference for the whole ensemble. This player, in this case María,
starts playing her note first. One by one, all the other players join. They find a beautiful tuning,
mix in good balance with this reference… Take breath whenever you need to,
and take your time for this! The goal is that it’s hardly noticeable
when you flow in and out of the chord. Once you have enjoyed the final chord for 2 whole minutes and repeated it a couple of times,
you can also add an aspect of improvisation to it Once the chord gets going and sounds very beautiful, one by one, each player takes 20 to 30 seconds
to improvise with motives taken from the piece itself. You just play maybe one phrase
or half a phrase, very freely, and hear how your pitches and your sounds
relate to the rest of the final chord. For this exercise we need the metronome. We set it to the right tempo
in which we finally want to perform the piece. We’re going to play two bars
of complete nonsense and chaos. Then, right away, we play the final chord,
with the right length, as it should be. Why is this exercise so good? Because, by inserting a temporary distraction, we are forced to really concentrate on our memory: our physical memory and our auditive memory
of that perfect final chord, so we can catch it right away. We can, of course, do the same thing
with the beginning of a piece. Let’s pick the most difficult bar of the piece
and do the same thing! This is a warm-up exercise in which difficult passages
mysteriously appear from nothing! We advise you to practice them in different tempi. First very slow, then in the actual tempo,
and then even faster than you intend to play the piece. Choose a couple of bars where it is difficult to be very well together. For example, the bars in which you have the hardest fingerings. Turn on the metronome and start practicing mentally, all together at the same time. We practice this bars again. Now we are going to add the fingers,
but we are not going to add the sound yet. So, just tapping with your fingers on the finger holes. Then, play pizzicato: very short and very soft
and with absolutely no effort. The nice thing about this exercise is
that if you are not together, it is very, very clear. This exercise is for tonal pieces. We are going to play a scale all together
in the tonality of the piece, in this case B♭Major. Pick the lowest tonic in your instrument. It doesn’t matter if there’s octave or two
in between the different instruments of the ensemble. It is all about paying special attention
to the character of each of the pitches in the scale. Why do we do this? To give you an idea of
how to give shape to your melody in the piece. Now Hester is going to play the B♭Major scale,
from the low B♭up to the high B♭. In each tone, she is going to show you
how she feels that the scale proceeds. What is the character of each of the tones? If you want, listen first without looking at the video.
See if you can hear it! And now, the same
with the minor relative of B♭Major: G minor. As usual with scales, please go all the way
inventing variations for this exercise. Play the scales ascending and descending, alone and with the group, divide them, play them in canon… Anything you want, but concentrating on the character
is a nice idea for this warm up. Very often, recorder ensembles play complicated music
from separate parts and not from the score. When not all voices start together it is very important
to realise when other parts are joining. Imagine that you have decided that you’ll play
the famous “La Lusignuola” by Tarquinio Merula. As you know, La Lusignuola is a piece for four parts. If you are one of the four, then, on your part,
you can see when you are entering… The exercise for listening is: Where, in which moment, in which bars
are the other three voices starting? Let’s see if you can catch them! You may think: why not just look up on the score
when the other parts are entering? This exercise is so good to sharpen your ears
and to be prepared when other voices are entering. Moreover, it’s important to get rid of the written score,
because music is all about sound! Once you know when the others are coming in,
put this information on your part. This will help you to enter correctly
if the others are entering before you, but also inviting the next voice
that’s entering after you in a musical way. Then, again, listen to a recording and look at your part. Try to realise when other voices
share note values with you. Put it on your part, because by knowing that this is together
you will already play it much better. Our 30-seconds tip of today is a new method
that was just released in December 2018. It is a Finnish method by Sini Vahervuo. We are very honoured that the Consort Counsellors
are also mentioned in this book! Yes indeed! What is nice about this book
is that it’s everything in one! It’s a method from which you can learn
the basic techniques and your first songs, but it also has a lot of information
about the history of the recorder, and particularly of history of the recorder in Finland,
so you can get to know national performers and people who are making nice music at the moment! We are curious to know if also in your country
there’s specific recorder literature that’s interesting and that we may like to know about, even if we cannot read it directly
on the original language. Please, leave us your comments! If you like our stuff, please subscribe to our channel so that you don’t miss
any future episode of the CONSORT COUNSELLORS. See you next week, bye!

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