Practicing With Your Eyes Closed

With a title like “Practicing With Your Eyes Closed,” you may think this post is about memorization. Well it is, in a way. It’s not about memorizing pieces, it is about memorizing what you need to do to to make every note in a piece sound great.

When I’m learning a piece, rather than playing large sections over and over, I play phrase by phrase. (Often I work in even smaller chunks and work my way up to phrases.) I look at the music to see what the notes in a chunk are, then close my eyes and play it. Of course I’m working on getting the notes right, but the reason for working this way is so I will really listen to what I am playing and observe what I am doing to create the sounds.

With my eyes closed, I can focus on catching the tiniest inconsistencies in articulation, tone production and intonation. I can concentrate on where in my body the air is being supported, how the air moves through me out to the flute, what may be getting in the way of the air or redirecting it improperly. I can isolate any glitches in finger movements and sort out which notes and movements need correcting in challenging passages. I also work on hearing how the notes follow each other melodically and harmonically, not just the notes themselves, but their relationships to each other.

Learning a piece this way, gesture by gesture, almost note by note, interval by interval, I learn the music faster. Technical problems are solved more quickly and I can move on to finding the nuances that make a piece sing much earlier than when I just play the piece over and over, reading it as I go. I’m not a great memorizer, so I’m not saying that you need to be one either. But it is amazing what results when you are able to really listen to the sounds you are creating.

So try closing your eyes and see how much your ears can open up!