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Miles Maner’s Advice and Practice Tips

Abstract:

Don’t miss these practice tips from Miles Maner (bassoon and contrabassoon of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra).

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ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music

What technical exercises and practice routines do you use? Do you have any warm-up exercises you recommend?

For technical exercises, I would say the Herzberg scales and long tones are the essential technical exercises I use. They cover the full range of the instrument, and the long tones cover the full dynamic range of the instrument. Dynamic range is probably one of the bassoon’s most challenging areas in need of improvement. The long tones push your boundaries on both ends.

I don’t have any specific warm-up exercises. I don’t just jump right into it; I just make sure that I start with something comfortable on the instrument for my hands, mouth, and face. And then it’s just like going for a walk before you go for a run. I never just get off the couch and immediately start “sprinting.” I don’t have specific moves that I do every time. I generally try to play scales in all of the keys slowly or in different registers. If there’s a particular register with which I’m having trouble, I’ll hit that earlier so that it becomes sort of second nature or a little routine before I go back practising whatever is on my music stand.

Do you have any advice for aspiring bassoonists?

I would say look anywhere and everywhere for inspiration. There is an aspect to playing an instrument that is repetitive and requires you to go back to it every day. The problems you’re trying to solve on your instrument are rarely solved in one day, so you’re going to have to revisit them often. For me, that requires inspiration to put myself through that process.

Also, look outside of your instrument and outside of classical music or outside of music altogether. For example, my favourite movie, Free Solo, has many aspects applicable to performing on stage. It was very inspiring and positively affected my practice sessions. Same with the book The Martian; his problem-solving in that book is very inspiring. He’s able to engineer solutions that, of course, I never would have thought of — I’m not a scientist. Sometimes you have to think of multiple ways of solving a problem on your instrument. Sometimes your inspiration can be yourself if you see progress; that in itself can be motivating. If you stick with a new thing for a few days and see it grow, that helps you keep going. It shows me that I need to keep plugging away at whatever I’m working on because it’s getting better and becoming music. It’s exciting to see that.

Full Interview: “Look Anywhere and Everywhere for Inspiration”

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