It’s for your own good
Practice. For some students its a bad word. According to many children under the age of ten it’s a punishment. Why practice when I can be outside with my friends? Or maybe you would rather be gaming online, or locally owning your unskilled friends and declaring class is in session.
Maybe you’d rather be hiking or swimming. Well, have a seat folks. You’re about to get schooled on how you could be running your “practice session” into the ground. Remember that not all of these may apply to you due to age, knowledge, or circumstance. However, I’m willing to wager my 2 cents that at least a few have crept into your routine. Let’s dive in and do some musical introspection!
Don’t blink, don’t close your ears. If you do, you’ll miss this racing musician. Sure, we’d all like to feel that we’ve done all our scales, etudes, repertoire, etc, in record breaking time. Here’s the problem: if we don’t put in the necessary effort, we will literally break records with how poorly we play and how bad we sound!
Don’t fall into this trap. You’ve got to realize that practice makes permanent and if you don’t SLOWLY go through your studies, you are going to make sure that your skills go nowhere fast. Slow the pace, inspect your posture, your intonation, and your rhythms so you can make sure you’re not internalizing bad habits. The last thing we want is to have to break old habits in order to learn the correct ones.
This individual lives by one rule: why do now what I can put off until later? Why should you not be this person? Ill tell you why, oh captain of the cozy arm chair, because later turns into never! We should call these people “The Procrastinevers”. Thats more appropriate.
Am I harping a little bit on the subject? Maybe. But we will never arrive at our destination if we KEEP saying the word “later”. At the risk of sounding like the latest positive thought guru, we’ve got to keep our goals in sight. Where do I go from here? What’s my next move? How much time will it take for me to learn this scale, this piece, this etude, this technique? That time is precious.
Use time accordingly. View it as something you can never, ever get back. Prioritize, friends! Im not saying that there isn’t a time to sit back, enjoy a cup of skillfully brewed coffee, and take stock of life and accomplishments, because there is. There’s a time for relaxation and reflection. But there is also time for investing in your skills and growth. In stealing a line from a TV show, “Make it so!”
This one can be crippling. Ive had students paralyzed in fear because they weren’t sure if they held their finger at just the right angle and location on the bow while they played an open “A” string. Ive had a student who was so concerned about their sound that they kept sawing on the violin continually until I made them stop and move on.
Friends, we want to play correctly. We want to make a good sound. However, if you’re still playing twinkle twinkle little star, and you’re so worried that you’ll never play like Lindsey Sterling or Joshua Bell, you’re going to worry yourself out of enjoying the violin and out of making improvements. Remember, the violin is a journey and you have to allow yourself some mistakes from time to time.
However, if you can keep moving, faithfully executing all your assignments from your teacher, I know that you will succeed and one day play as beautifully as your standards are high. But first, we need to release ourselves from the curse of worrying about whether or not we will ever make it there. You will. Stay focused, and you’ll reach your goal.
The super mario of the practicing world, the Jumper leaps to and fro in their books and repertoire. What was a simple, linear process for advancing their techniques becomes a jumbled, twisted mess with the practicing person attempting to play pieces and etudes that they aren’t ready to play. Let’s look at it like this: if you’ve never exercised before, you might be able to run seven miles today, but it’s going to be extremely difficult and take twice as long if not longer to get where you’re going.
The Jumper does themselves a disservice because, for whatever reason (usually boredom in my past), they simply cannot stay stationary and make sure they properly and completely learn the skills they need in order to make the seven mile run feel like a walk in the park. Using this analogy, depending on where you are in your own personal musical journey, start off with the half mile, the mile, or the mile and a half and then work your way up to the hard stuff.
Either you’ve been here, or someone you know has been here. This is the guy or gal who doesn’t need to practice because practicing is for people who don’t know what they’re doing and they clearly know what they’re doing. Another name for this person might be “The Superstar”.
They show up and act like you should be serving them iced tea with a lemon spritz. No one is perfect. Everyone is capable of making mistakes. Everyone WILL lose their skills if they do not put in the time to keep them up. Ive known many of these individuals in my twenty plus years of making music.
Ill be honest, some folks can get away with it, and some of them fall flat on their face when they are presented with a real challenge. Don’t want to fall flat on your face? You like your nose the way it is? Then put in the time on your instrument and work hard. Never let someone out work you. Ever.
What do I mean by this? I mean the person who can’t see past their nose. I mean the person who refuses to go outside of “their thing”. The worst thing a musician can do is stay inside their comfort zone. We never grow that way!
If you’re a fiddle style player, learn classical. If you’re a jazz musician, learn classical. If you play rock music, learn classical. Ok, it’s not always about classical music. But the point is, step outside the box and do something you never thought you would. Play Bollywood music for a week. Learn Gregorian chant. Play a crazy jazz run in the middle of a cadenza (don’t get up in arms here. Follow the sheet music, but remember to experiment at home too).
All you know is Bach(classical)? Then try learning some Kenny Baker (bluegrass music). Some of the greatest musical breakthroughs have happened because people refused to stay confined to their genre. Go make musical history friends. You’ll have fun doing it!
So you can see that there are ways we slow ourselves down (or speed ourselves up), and hinder our musical progress. Remember to keep a practice journal and catalog your practicing every week. Make sure you’re constantly evaluating your progress and you’ll keep moving forward. For some great tips on how to maximize your practice time, check out this article. In the mean time, kick these practicers out of your room and watch yourself grow!