The Practice Notebook

flutist Zara Lawler shares tips on learning music

The Whine Rack


Let’s face it, sometimes you have to practice when you really don’t want to.  Like during the summer, when everyone else seems to be out romping on the beach, but you have to get ready for an audition when school starts back up again.

As many professional and young musicians know, it can be easier on your psyche if you allow yourself to whine about it, just a little.  Try it right now; say “I have to practice,” in a nasally whiney voice.

Everybody has to do it from time to time, so to that end, I am instituting The Whine Rack, videos of musicians whining about having to practice.  I hope to accumulate a nice collection of them, from friends and readers, famous and obscure, young, old, and in-between.

Please send yours. No need to get fancy, just you, saying “I have to practice,” in the best whine you can muster.  You can post them to my YouTube channel.

To get you started, the above video is a little montage of me and some of my colleagues from the New York Summer Mahler Project.  And if whining doesn’t work for you, at least you’ll realize that you are not alone.  Please check out the websites for the featured musicians:

Eric Lamb:

Andrew Roitstein:

Roberta Michel:


(And please send your whining video, too!)

posted under The Whine Rack
7 Comments to

“The Whine Rack”

  1. On October 16th, 2010 at 7:15 am Helen Bledsoe Says:

    Hey Zara, as a true stainless steel professional, I NEVER whine :-p
    Perish the thought. (JOKING)
    There’s not only practicing though, there is playing concerts with sprained thumbs, food poisoning, bleeding digits, fever, you name it and somebody’s had to go through it. What a life, eh?

  2. On October 17th, 2010 at 12:47 pm admin Says:

    Do you have a story about playing a concert with sprained thumbs, food poisoning, bleeding digits and/or fever? If so, inquiring minds want to know…

  3. On October 31st, 2010 at 3:57 pm Helen Bledsoe Says:

    OK, there was the quintet gig from hell. I was one month pregnant so already feeling crappy. My industrious colleagues insisted on showing up one hour before the dress rehearsal. I got there and they all showed up a half hour late. After the rehearsal we opened the windows to ventilate and I sliced off the fleshy end of my right hand little finger trying to pry one of the windows open. Nothing serious but it was difficult to staunch the blood. Then I went to eat before the concert, came back to the hall and had to spend about 10 minutes in the bathroom, but fortunately managed to not make a mess during the concert. And I managed not to get too much blood on my footjoint. Somehow I am allergic to woodwind quintets after this experience.

  4. On October 31st, 2010 at 6:43 pm admin Says:

    Wow, that story is terrible and hilarious at the same time. Thanks for posting it!

  5. On November 10th, 2010 at 8:21 pm Julia Wilson Says:

    I have a story to share with you all. I promise you it is true, and if you don’t believe me, just ask Zadie. She was there!!
    I held the position of Principal Oboe in the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra from 1992-1998. Every few weeks we used to go out to the New Territories to perform – a Friday night in one town and then Saturday in another. One Friday night, between rehearsal and concert, I went for dinner with a friend and ate seafood. Oysters. Went back to the concert hall and played the concert. No problem. I don’t remember what was the 1st half, but it was Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story in the 2nd half.
    The following day I phoned the friend I had dined with to make arrangements to meet up with her that evening before catching the orchestra bus to the 2 nd New Territory venue. She said she had terrible backache, felt weak and wouldn’t be seeing me because she was going to have to go sick.
    When the orchestra bus arrived at the venue I was just starting to feel a little odd. Indigestion I thought. So, before warming up, I decided to rush into town and buy some indigestion tablets. That would sort me out. But having bought them, I started to feel even more strange and thought that, although I didn’t feel sick, perhaps if I was sick I would feel better. So, I tried to think of something that sometimes makes me feel sick.
    A MacDonalds Egg McMuffin……………especially if you are unlucky enough to get some egg shell in it!
    So I bought one, ate a few bites……………but it didn’t do the trick.
    Despite feeling pretty awful, I went and played the 1st half of the concert.
    I spent most of the interval on my knees in the bathroom before going to the orchestral manager and saying, “I’m so sorry, but I really don’t feel like I can go on for the 2nd half.”
    Her response was that I had to. It was my job and I had to do it.
    By this stage I think I was feeling as poorly as I have ever done in my life, and I certainly didn’t have the strength to fight her. So, on I went.
    I believe the conductor, Wing Sie Yip, had been told, “Don’t expect too much from 1st oboe tonight!”
    She later told me that, because I seemed to be playing everything, she assumed I was feeling better!
    I don’t remember too much about the performance……………I think I was just trying to stay on my seat. Towards the end of the piece, there is a beautiful oboe solo, I think probably just after “Tony” has died. It meanders around for a bit………….ending up on a top F! I do remember hitting the top F, but I think that was the final straw!
    The whole piece ends with some “pp” wind chords. Wow…………I was drifting off here…………..but still playing. I remember them all. I could hear some rustling behind me. Later, I was told it was the principal clarinet. He’d seen that I was about to go……………and he had a plastic bag under his seat and was trying to pass it to me. I played all the chords…………….apart from the final one. The rest of the band had just hit the chord …………as I stretched my oboe out towards the Principal Flute………………………..and puked very, very, very noisily on the floor!.

    Live Radio Broadcast!

    Unbelievably, the orchestra management, after the concert, piled me back onto the orchestra bus to go home!! When we got back to HK, someone phoned my husband to get him to pick me up. To be fair, it was the days before mobile phones. My husband, however, was sitting waiting for the call. He’d been called by the hospital earlier in the evening to say that the friend I had eaten with the night before, and had taken the night off work, had been admitted to hospital with serious food poisoning. They suspected it was down to the food she’d eaten the night before, and wanted to contact me because they had a bed ready for me next to her in the hospital because they suspected I needed urgent medical attention.

    We both spent a miserable week in hospital before I got a phone call demanding I went back to work!

    West Side Story, 17 years on, remains a tricky bit of rep for me get through!

  6. On November 10th, 2010 at 8:35 pm admin Says:

    Thank you, Julia, for telling the whole story in all its gory detail!

  7. On November 10th, 2010 at 9:02 pm Julia Wilson Says:

    Believe me, I’ve spared you some detail!!!

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