It was a concert band setting, light classical and the inevitable "Pomp and Circumstance"...a LOT of consecutive quarter notes, imagine the "motor" behind the melody and that's what I was playing. This would be a tempting place to go on auto-pilot and mentally visit the Azores as we repeated the melody over and over, but something about the way we were playing the quarter notes reminded me of something from my undergrad days. My teacher Stephen Duke has an exercise that he called "The Scale and Arpeggio Exercise", the specifics of which are to deep to go into here. Suffice to say, that a portion of it involves tapering notes to silence in time.
I decided to take this few minutes of playing quarter notes and be hyper aware of my note lengths, taper, and attack. Could I make each taper the same length? Could I control the taper in such a way that there was true silence between each note? Could I EXACTLY match the tapers of my colleagues?
In playing this passage while asking myself these questions, I was able to take a simple gig in terms of technique (in terms of "fast fingers") required and make it into a valuable practice session in instrumental control (every bit as much "technique", yes?).
It can be tempting to mentally check out from time to time on simple music. But, if we look deeply enough, there is a lesson every time we pick up our instruments.