This summer I've been working on a rather difficult accompaniment, Paul Creston's Sonata for E-flat Alto Saxophone and Piano. Early on, I began the piece very methodically and thoroughly, but somewhere along the way, I got off track. My progress slowed, and I wasn't learning the music as well as I needed to.
So, in the same vein as the "baby steps" method mentioned in my last post, I'm doing this "Creston Chunks" project. I'm giving myself the deadline of September 1 to learn every measure of the piece. But I'll only add a few measures each day, learning the music in chunks.
Chunking is a great way to bring focus to your practice routine. Instead of merely playing through pieces over and over (the same way every time), chunking helps you identify problematic areas and isolate them. I'm going to use this method, but apply it to the entire piece.
The reason I'm going with a chunk method for the entire piece is that there isn't a lot of recurring material throughout the whole thing. While there are recurring motifs and melodic ideas, it modulates so often that you never really play the same exact thing twice. For those reasons plus the fact that this project will give me some structure and accountability in my preparation of this piece, I shall chunk the whole thing.
The piece is 123 measures long, and from today to September 1, I have 37 days. According to the operation of division, that means I need to learn 3.32 measures a day. I'll round that up or down, depending on the difficulty of each chunk.
The goal here is to learn the piece thoroughly. So for each chunk—in particular the tougher chunks—I will analyze them and study them as closely as possible. Since the piece moves along briskly and since I'll be accompanying another musician, it's important that I know the music inside and out.
I'll give an update of my progress every once in a while, and I might even occasionally post about my explication of a particular chunk. Stay tuned for updates on my Creston Chunks project!
What do you think about chunking? How do you use chunking in your own practice sessions?