In my experience, this is by far the most frequent practice advice given. In their exceedingly popular music blogs, Noa Kageyama asks "Is Slow Practice Really Necessary?", Gerald Klickstein explores "A Different Kind of Slow Practice", and Daniel Coyle shows us all how "Slow is Beautiful."
Okay, I get it.
How slow is slow enough?
THE LONG(ER) ANSWER:
I turned to the idea of mindfulness. Most basically, mindful practicing meant being aware of everything, all the time. When I did that, I practiced slowly and deliberately enough to see relaxed, lasting change.
Without going too far into the psychology and meditation side of the movement, I found an ideal practice tempo by tapping into multiple senses. Specific questions helped:
- Sight: What do successful fingers and embouchure look like?
- Sound: Does dynamic (or pitch, timbre, or energy) change from note to note? During attacks? During tapers?
- Touch: Can I feel the tone holes and keys under my fingertips as I move? How does my tongue feel against the reed? Where do my legs and back touch the chair?
Focusing on real-time sensations rather than long term goals slowed me down. I practiced less angrily. Repetitions felt like experiences, not like plateaus. The absolute best part about it, though, was that everything sounded like I wanted it to sound. I was like a kid in the nerdiest candy shop ever.
No: Practice so you can do everything right.
Yes: Practice so you can do nothing wrong.