Have you ever been playing the flute, reading music, and can’t catch up to the metronome, the piano accompaniment, or to who we may be “dueting” with at the time without mistakes? Then, you think to yourself, “I know I can play better than this!” or “Why can’t I play this faster?” Sometimes, our brains need to think smarter – not just by playing the notes in front of our eyes…
Learning to read ahead a couple notes while playing is key. Sometimes it can be tricky- having your brain see one thing and your fingers playing another. But here’s the thing: our thinking is much faster than our motor skills and therefore, our fingers are naturally slower. The signal has to be processed and sent out to our arms, hands, and then fingers. Whereas our eyes are right next to our brains and can be processed so that it can be sent out to our fingers and mouths.
You’ve already done it and you know what’s going to happen.
Once you’ve got the “looking ahead” part under control, there are things called rests that we need to zone into. Rests are not actual times where you stop playing or focusing on the piece… they are actually quite awesome for preparing for what’s going to come up (i.e. a run or a hard spot). During the rest (however long or short it may be), you can be thinking to yourself what you need to do to make the next “spot” as perfect as it can possibly be. For example. You may have a really long high soft note you need to prepare for. Getting your mouth and lungs ready and full of air so you have the sufficient pressure is ideal during a rest. Practicing the rests in your personal practice time is good because you’re practicing giving your brain the time it needs to tell your body what to do and to do it. When you go to perform, you’ve already done it and you know what’s going to happen!
Please don’t get down on yourself when it still isn’t up to what you believe “par” is. Looking ahead and learning how to read music faster takes time and patience to learn, and you will learn it. I have many students that have “rough days” when it comes to lesson time. One of the first things I always say is “Are you looking ahead?” The next time they play, the passage is usually ten times better! Is it a miracle? Sometimes yes, sometimes no (depending on their practicing). It’s just learning how to think smarter so you can read flute music faster.