As with all things, success leaves footprints and the same is true of classical musicians. We’ve found the top 10 habits of successful classical musicians. A thought on the minds of all musicians who graduate formal education is that of whether they will be able to take control of their musical journey and pave a way that will lead to a successful career. A specific method for career control does not exist; however identifying the traits which are common among successful classical musicians can certainly be worthwhile.
The 10 habits outlined below are seen in successful musicians and all aspiring musicians do well to take each one to heart.
The 10 Habits of Successful classical Musicians
Know Who You Are
You are the start of your music. If you want to tell the world that you are a musician worth taking note of and really be a successful classical musician, then you should be able to clearly articulate why you have a passion for music and why you want it to be the center of your life. Knowing your place in the music world, including what you already have under your belt and what you still have to learn, is another crucial factor. Make sure you are your own worst critic, that way you will be prepared for anything that comes your way.
2. Don’t Settle For Being A Good Musician, Aspire To Be A Great Artist
Musicians are two a penny, but true artists are hard to find. A real artist has an adoring and loyal fan base and rewards their fans by constantly providing something new and improved. Work out what it will take for you to be a real artist, then make the moves you need to get there. Think about the people who inspire you, who do you consider to be a successful classical musician and use their examples in your life. Picasso, Mendelssohn, Charlie Chaplin, there are plenty to choose from. Step into their shoes and allow yourself to see life through their eyes.
3. Never, Ever Stop Learning
A real artist is always hungry for new knowledge, thirsty for incredible ideas and ready to drench their minds with things that inspire. Make interesting people a focus in your life. Read about them, listen to them, talk to them, ask them questions; in simple terms, do your best to be in the company of interesting people each and every day of your life. Don’t forget that unconventional sources of information can still be excellent sources of knowledge. People who never stop learning are the best company to be with, they are always transforming themselves and enriching their personal growth experience. Make sure that you are one of those people and you’ll be well on your path to becoming a truly successful classical musician.
4. Perfect Performances Require Work
Comparing your own performance to your ideal performance is something you should not shy away from. Never lose your passion for constant improvement. Make a recording of yourself on your mobile phone. Let your friends hear your performance and tell them that you will only accept honest feedback. Take the time to listen to the musicians who inspire you the most. Volunteer to perform for the most incredible musicians that you know. This will show that your level of dedication far surpasses everyone else.
5. Friends Are Crucial
Careers need people, not solitary confinement. Your contact list of friends, mentors, and contacts within the music industry should be well kept and ever expanding. There is great likelihood that it will be one of the people in your contact list who gives you that life-changing inspiration, introduces you to the right person at the right time, or opens the door to an opportunity that could otherwise have been missed. Having a big musical family certainly isn’t something to complain about.
6. Become a Successful Classical Musician And Imagine Various Lives That May Be Within Your Reach
Stay open-minded to the various ways that you could make being a musician the center of your life. The options are very varied. You know the old saying (with a slight adjustment), ask not what the music industry can do for you ….. Working in the world of arts presents big challenges for everyone who makes this their career path in life. As a musician, your aim should be to present a great solution for them, rather than give them a problem to deal with. When it comes to recommendations on how to run the organisation in an improved way, tips on programming or innovative ways to appeal to the public, these people are more than appreciative of your ideas. Make a point of asking how you can be of help.
7. Inspire Others By Your Example
The mind of an artist, including ideas and ideals, is something others may struggle to fully understand. That is why the best way to stand out from the crowd is to live life in a way that shows exactly who you are and what you are passionate about. Let your example inspire other people and doors will soon open.
8. Make A Habit Of Giving Back
Don’t underestimate the need to get sharing your own knowledge, experience and personal inspirations with potential listeners of classical music, as well as people in your locality and further afield. You are an artist and a musician, that means you will always have something great to share with others. People viewing you as a generous person who thinks of other people is sure to be a good thing for you too.
9. Stay On The Path
Stay dedicated to your art – always keep respect for why you became a musician in the first place and resist any temptation to deviate off course – ultimately that is what will earn you the respect of the industry as a whole, as well as that of individuals. Today’s music industry dangles many temptations to leave the high standards of practice and study to the side.
Those in music education, administrators, and musicians themselves go to great lengths to create opportunities and get tickets sold. When it comes to it, if you really want to be trusted and respected in the industry you need to show that you are not someone who is willing to stray from the course of musical excellence.
10. This is where you add your own tip,
9 tips are enough to get you started, please share you comments and add what you think should be tip 10 in the comments below!
Just how much suffices? Is there something as way too much practice?
Is there an excellent or ideal variety of hours that one should practice?
What Do Entertainers Claim?
A few terrific musicians of the 20th century have actually shared their ideas on these inquiries. I remember having a meeting with Rubinstein years ago, in which he mentioned that no one needs to practice more than four hours a day, clarifying that if you required practicing more than four hours a day, then you possibly just weren’t doing it right.
Violinist Nathan Milstein claimed to have done this successfully. As soon as I asked his educator Leopold Auer just how many numerous hours a day he needs to be exercising, he responded that “Practice with your mind and also you will certainly do as much in one and a half hours.”
Heifetz had also expressed that he never ever counted on exercising excessively, in which extreme practice is” equally as poor as exercising insufficiently!” He mentioned that he exercised not more than three hours a day excluding Sundays.
From the examples above, it can be seen that this is not a negative concept– among my very own educators, Donald Weilerstein, recommended that I develop a 24-hour time period on a weekly basis where I was not permitted to use my instruments.
What Do Psychotherapists Claim?
Psychotherapists recommend the implementation of a “ten-year regulation” and “10,000-hour regulation” meaning least 10 years and/or 10,000 hours of purposeful practice is needed in order to attain a skilled degree of efficiency in using any type of music instrument– and this also applies to artists as well, one gets to become well-versed after twenty-five years of practice in order to achieve an exclusive worldwide degree.
Here are the things you should remember in the practice room:
Keep in mind that the actual trick right here is not the quantity of practice needed (as the precise number of hours is arguable) but the kind of practice needed to obtain a skilled degree of efficiency.
As the saying goes “Practice Makes Perfect”. If you want to be the best classical musician you have to be ready and willing to dedicate your time. A day in the life of a successful Classical Musician showcases how much time he/she spends in a practice room and what impact it brings to their lives.
After a couple of weeks of intense practice we musicians tend to run in automatic mode. We know what to do and when to do it—but that doesn’t mean we are getting the most out of our routine.
That’s when we have to bring back a little consciousness to renew our contract with music.
Here’s what you should consider during your practice sessions:
1. Feel comfortable with the temperature of your cubicle. You can only learn when you are comfy.
2. Have all your accessories in one place.
3. Breathe and slow down—you are about to start something religious.
4. Focus on focus. Leave everything behind, clear your mind and enter the PRACTICE mode.
5. Warm-up! 15 minutes at least. Take care of yourself so you can make the art you love so much for years to come.
6. Stretch before playing your first note.
7. Have your pencil ready to jot down your progress and make markings.
8. Once you are ready to STUDY, keep your “mental control”. Focus on what you are learning—not about the pizza you’ll eat afterwards.
9. Use a mirror as part of your practice. See how you look like and what can improve your tone/performance.
10. Posture is essential to improve sound—and other things.
11. Prepare a plan before your sessions and stick to it. Know what each minute of practice is dedicated to.
12. Follow your plan no matter what. Trust your preparation beforehand.
13. Build the music. Don’t practice everything at once. E.g. The first hour you learn notes, the second intonation, then rhythm then everything together. Then everything separate again and building it one at the time for a couple of weeks. It’s a long process but it’s the most efficient.
14. Spend time building your technique. When inspiration finally arrives you will have a viable way to express yourself. Get into those etudes!
15. Listen to a lot of music and hear the professionals’ interpretations. Learn from styles and composers.
16. When you practice slowly, you forget slowly. Mr. Perlman said that!
17. The metronome is discipline’s no.1 ally.
18. Repetitions will engrave things in your brain forever.
19. Know the structure of your piece. A little music theory never hurt anybody 🙂 .
20. Imagine the rest of the orchestra while you play your part. Keep them in mind while performing.
21. Phrasing a line is making music. Not phrasing is playing notes.
22. Make a good dynamic contrast—but don’t lose the sound in the (p) pianos.
23. Style is what characterizes the piece.
24. Rhythms HAVE to be accurate.
25. Play in tune. All you have to do is: LISTEN. Mr. Perlman said that as well.
26. Read a book or two about the history of the composer you are interpreting.
27. Get free scores at imslp.org or get them on Amazon.
28. Once you know the style of a piece, you’ll perform the right strokes.
29. Vibrato has to be controlled.
30. Articulate! Play clean.
31. Coordinate both hands.
32. Re-check posture. You’ve been working a lot and might’ve move into a more comfortable position. Adjust.
33. Your breathing has to support your playing.
34. Take a break when your mind is exhausted, don’t waste time.
35. Stay hydrated to maximize efficiency. Drink a lot of water.
36. Take vitamin C to stay healthy.
37. Don’t Facebook while on breaks – stay with the music in your head as long as possible.
38. Keep your mind focused on what you practiced. Keep practicing in your mind. Think and rethink rhythms, notes, etc.
39. It’s all about surviving, really. Effective practice takes a huge amount of concentration. Survive your 3 hours session and then you can rest.
40. After a couple of hours you will leave the focus-house and that will be fine.
41. Push your limits. Stay longer if you can.
42. Leave when you are not productive, not when you get tired.
43. Remember: Practice is the only thing that will get you there.
44. You want to be good; then you have to give it all.
45. Be constant. Do it every day.
46. Move drip by drip and SMILE. There is no finish line.
47. Believe in your dreams and do give up what you are not passionate about. Then, follow what you are passionate until you get there. Enjoy the ride, and don’t stop until you reach it.
48. Remove distractions while working. It helps concentration.
49. Live a calm life.
50. Love what you do.
Now you have something concrete in your hands (a list)—it’s time to take action.
It’s fun and entertaining to read lists like the above but only when you take action can you improve your persona.
Remember: smart practice is a combination of:
· Knowing what to do
· Sticking to it no matter what.
I hope these items serve as inspiration to work at your best level.
FOR THE EMPIRE,
What do a first violinist, second violinist, violist and a cellist need in order to play completely together?
(it’s not a light-bulb joke 🙂 )
The Answer: Get Uncomfortable
Counting calories is uncomfortable, so is practicing at 6 am. But what choice do we have? What about the results you are seeking?
Quartet rehearsal is not comfortable when the violist keeps rushing (we violinists never, ever, ever, ever rush, especially when playing 1st). Wouldn’t it be great if you all just play it incredible the first time?
But it isn’t that way.
So, how do we deal with being uncomfortable?
Fear no more! I’m here to lead the way! (Cheers, applause, mass noise, wooooooo). Thank you, thank you!
First of all, if you think about it, uncomfortable doesn’t mean you are in pain.
It means you are not within your comfort zone.
And that is also OK because when you jump out of your comfort zone, you explore new possibilities.
If my math is right, you’ll be exposed to a bizillion new things (good and bad) that you weren’t exposed before when you sat in your comfort zone. Exposure will leads to experiences and experiences will make you smarter. Isn’t that what everybody wants?
Is there any way at all I can make the uncomfortable
YOU CAN’T. But there are some tricks you can use to soften the process and still get incredible results.
How to be Ok with Uncomfortable
* Savor Every Moment – Put your first vegetable in your mouth and touch it lightly with your tongue. Now chew. It tastes bad but it’s not painful. Immerse yourself in the flavor, even if it gets uncomfortable, realize there is no pain. I bet you never tried this way before. Repeat the process various days and see if it gets better.
* Realize you are not alone – There are 7 billion people with the same problem. For them a couch is more comfy than flossing. Uncomfortable will always be uncomfortable, you can only learn how to soften the impact.
* Become the Hulk – Man up! Scream, awhhhahhhahahahhhh for a few seconds and just do it. Then freak out!
* Get a little uncomfortable – Start waking up at 10 am. The next day at 9:50 am, then 2 days later 9:40 am and so on, until you reach 7 am. Changes are gradual—otherwise you won’t succeed.
* Look for it – Find discomfort and get into it. Practice being uncomfortable and adjusting. Keep thinking about the results.
* Observe yourself – Develop the ability to see yourself running away from discomfort. Go back and say: “No, I’m learning to take discomfort” and then immerse again.
ARE YOU PART OF THE EMPIRE YET?
It has always been the ultimate goal of many musicians. Sometimes, it’s even the reason young students sign up for music lessons; and definitely the “why” you and me spent so many hours locked up in a practice room.
We want to play it “A tempo”
From day 1 you imagined yourself on stage playing your solo with a great orchestra. That’s the goal. It’s hard to realize we must go through certain stages; an inevitable process. Playing fast is more than just being awesome, it’s actually knowing what it takes to earn that awesomeness. It is also being able to notice every single detail going on while you are performing.
Are you in tune? Is your performance clean at this tempo? Is my hand(s) working to facilitate movement? Play fast is one thing. Playing fast with all of the above completely mastered it’s another thing. After listening to a live performance of all the Paganini caprices, I personally get really excited. I feel the need to be able to execute/have the technique to play these caprices. I believe it’s vital to watch the pros in action. Get pumped up and find the motivation to start taking small steps in the right direction.
All the Elements Together
Playing Fast Requires Time. How much? It depends.
1. On the difficulty of the piece—
2. How many time you’ve done it, and
3. How bad you want it.
If you want it badly you are half way there, said someone I can’t remember right now. Every time you do something, anything, your brain carves some tunnels. These tunnels can brume away easily if they are not deepen enough. How?
Repetition and Time
At some point after hundreds of repetitions you won’t need to do it anymore (don’t worry it will take years so don’t even think about it). For now keep repeating smartly and you’ll be on the right track.
1. Think you are a turtle. It helped me. Move from one note to the other and feel everything; your finger playing that note, intonation, the distance between the new note and the old one and so on.
2. Understand the learning process. It’s not 3 days of slow boring practice. You need a plan.
3. As a rule, practice what you learned the day before (so it can be carved deeply) but still move on to new things.
…it’s also a big ingredient. Knowing that it won’t be “a tempo” tomorrow morning is a big realization. I understand, your eager to play it the way you would at Carnegie Hall. Yeah, that’s the goal but not now. The soonest you get to really understand that, the better and more efficient will your sessions be.
Believe in your abilities and wait.
1. Follow a working plan. Spend at least a month to see bigger improvements.
2. Don’t get frustrated. Big things are not accomplished overnight. Baby steps are essential.
3. Look forward to the end but don’t rush it. Try enjoying the process of building your different techniques and applying musicality.
Musician’s Best Friend; Mr. Beat
Or any other kind of metronome. He is your best companion. He will help you play accurate and evolve with conscience. Mr, metronome will treat you like if you were a baby. And that’s a good thing .
Things to consider:
1. He is your best friend only if you follow him. Don’t lose him. To be efficient is to follow your best friend.
2. Work strategically. Select some excerpts of the pieces you are working on and perform them really slow simulating the conditions you will be executing when you play fast. (e.g. Same part of the bow).
3. When you are satisfied move up. Perhaps 5 points up and try to stay on top of your technique as well as the musical understanding.
Separating all the technical difficulties and practicing them one at a time can very much helps the final result. It will allow your brain to cook things better.
As you work your way up, individual technique practice will enhance each area so that the entire technical aspect works towards one another.
1. Remember the tunnel carving. Repetition makes these tunnels deepen to the point that the info stays forever.
2. Slow practice is crucial for coordination of both hands.
3. To have a smart practice session, you must analyze from different points of view at all times.
As you continue to grow as a musician, you will find that organization is probably the number one thing to focus in order to have a satisfactory performance. You want to play fast? Great! Now, let’s see how we can do that with a good level of musical and technical understanding. You must know your music, the orchestra parts, accompaniment, main lines, how your part develops and where to, and how your line fits among the rest.
When the fast part arrives, controlling your emotions will play a big role. Staying steady and being a good musician should be the priority at all times. Have fun, show off what you have practiced and keep growing as a musician. If you did your homework, you will be growing as a person as well.
In order to level up your complete persona, you must try everything.
That’s right! You have to try it all.
But it looks gross!! It doesn’t matter, eat it. You might be missing the best flavor your tongue could ever experience.
Musicians don’t always take this approach. I mean, we are artists. We are supposed to be the craziest living beings on earth. Look at modern art and you’ll understand what I mean.
Besides, in what other profession you get to be the slave of a piece of wood or brass or otherwise lose your tone, pitch and complete feeling of the instrument?
We lock ourselves in the practice room so that we could play from decent to really good performances. And that is awesome, the work really pays off. But there are other ways to keep experiencing life and put it in context with your music career.
For example, when I travel and get to witness fascinating place, I can somehow communicate those feelings through my instrument later on. What I have experienced in the past helps me understand those emotions—then I just have to find a way to communicate them. That’s where my violin comes in.
You have to go out there! Live! Experience stuff, do crazy stuff.
Set yourself free.
Do the things you are more scared of! Prove that you have the courage to face what gives you Goosebumps. It’s all part of the learning experience. You go through things in life so that you can be prepared the next time it happens or so that when something bigger arrives, you can deal with it.
Try risking more, more often. You’d be surprised of the consequences. They will not be as bad as you originally thought.
One day at the Time
It is the number one rule to be an efficient and productive person (my opinion). You may have these million projects on your mind but they won’t come alive if you don’t take the first step.
Baby steps are essential. Organize your “to do” list and set a deadline.
Persistence and Perseverance will get you there. Work only a few things every day, know what comes for the future but don’t worry about it.
Take a few tasks and tackle them. Feel the joy of accomplishment. Then do the same the next day. Before you know it, you’ll get to the end.
The 21 days to change a habit
As a musician/person, we’ve built many bad habits over time. It’s important to identify them and correct them applying the right techniques.
According to the people who like to do research, changing a habit is as easy as spending 21 days doing the opposite. Painful, not cool and sometimes horrible—but it is a proven method. You could start by going to the gym every day for 20 minutes. Or by drinking 3 full glasses of water every day (additionally to those you would normally drink).
To be a complete person/musician you have to take small bites in a strict manner. You can’t miss a day for at least 21 days. There is a quote that I really like; When you want really want it, you are already half way in.
Last advice; travel, risk more than you usually do, persevere, take one thing at the time and wait 21 days to get used to new things. All of this will grow you into a greater person/musician.
Music. Life. Humans. It’s what we are. What we do. We start every day exactly where we left it the day before. It’s a continuous cycle that builds a “new you” over time. But life is more than growing and becoming a professional. I would say life is mostly about being Happy. But also about some mystical behaviors that enhance who we really are.
Sadly, we often forget about these holdings. Most of the time, life goes by without any appreciation for the things we have. An average day can be forgotten easily. When we are bored we find something to do to get rid of our valuable time.
At the end of the day, you look back and the time was just gone. We could spend a few years “living” and the same thing may happen. You look back and Zap! Time is gone. And then I think… Is that what I live for? am I entirely happy by having this kind of life?
Should I be taking 100% advantage of the time? Maybe trying to become a productivity buff? Is it OK to play video games an entire day (once a week) and forget about practicing? What’s right and what’s wrong? What’s healthy? According to who?
What’s cool about life is that as you age, you get wiser. You’ve lived enough to tell what’s worth spending your time in. But for now, you must learn as you go. Try different things no matter what.
What old people usually say is that failure can be considered your best friend, for it teaches you some valuable lessons. On the other hand it can be your mortal enemy because it makes you feel like crap.
For me, happiness it’s a vicious process in which you feel that life stops for a certain amount of time until you prepare for the next scene. You maintain happiness as long as there is no happiness anymore. Then you have to ask the inevitable…
What happened to happiness? How do I get it back?
Imagine a person standing and looking themselves from the shoes up. You have a whole body, you are the owner. You can do with it whatever you feel like. You can be fit or eat unhealthy—you can be awesome or be dull.
It is actually your responsibility to protect your assets. As you gain conscience, you will feel that happiness can be attained in matter of seconds. The cool thing is, that it can also stay as long as you want it to stay.
One thing we usually associated with happiness is our own professional goals.
Example; If you are a grand soloist, you are definitely happy!!. Why?
Because you have a very exposed career? Because you go on tours?
What if I am a music teacher and change the lives of thousands of kids? am I successful? Should I feel happy then? Again, according to who?
You determine what success means.
… then you can create your own interpretation of happiness.
Know that you were selected among thousands of organisms to be a human being—the highest class of living organisms (you could’ve been a giraffe ). But instead, you were chosen (in our case) to make an impact with your music.
When you work toward changing people’s lives, you will be happy.
(whether you are a soloist or not)
But is not going to be easy. You will have toPersevere.
Yeah, I know you’ve read that word before on many of my blog posts. But it’s actually how you can keep the joy of being who you are.
As you persevere, you will have several encounters with your own persona. Those will be inevitable, sooner or later, you will realize that every single thing that makes you unique, counts.
Uniqueness works on your favor to help you stand out among the crowd.
Organization is also essential to define what you want to accomplish—what in the end will keep happiness around you.
It’s OK not to have an answer for everything right at this moment, the important thing is that you persevere and organize your life so that you remain in certain paths that lead to your main goal.
Stay on Earth.
Be grateful for what you have. Health, friends, family, etc. They complete the human being inside you—not the 8 hours a day in the practice room. Is the people around you who define the real you. When you go out, notice what’s around. Be grateful you have eyes to appreciate. Be grateful for as many things as you can—that satisfaction sends you through the right paths I talked earlier. That feeling, will help battle those “learning moments” so that you stick to your plan and avoid pitfalls.
Believe in learning. Believe in appreciation. Be aware of how small you are as an individual but also, how big and privileged you are to be alive and breathing.
You will make a difference in this world. Your music will change the life of thousands of people that you may not even know.
Reflect on that.
You are home practicing scales, stressed and overwhelmed by music but think of the final result—is a huge miracle. A miracle so big that you may not understand it completely.
The joy of being who you are should remain within yourself for the rest of your days. The spark that turns on when you are happy about something, can make a difference in other people’s lives. If we find a way to keep it alive by applying basic techniques of self-development, perhaps we could build a small army of self-disciplined people that influences a bigger mass by showing off the final result.
When you and me understand what make us who we are, the actual purpose of our existence, many elements unify. The universe itself will turn positive vibes in favor of our ideas. We will find success as a crowd and not as an individual. We’ll be able to strengthen the laces of human kind. Only by having this kind of behavior, may we prove, that this fictional world I just created could one day be a reality.
Let`s face it—practicing scales isn`t much fun. Most pianists see scales, along with arpeggios, as a necessary evil on the road to musical dexterity. On the flip side of the coin, those boring exercises are crucial if you want to be a good pianist or instrumentalist.
Whether you`re a singer, saxophonist, guitarist or keyboard player, technique is vital to your craft. You`ll be glad of those hours of practicing scales and arpeggios when you`re playing hard stuff.
Likewise, if you decide to become a pop or jazz performer, you`ll still need the manual dexterity you acquire by leaning your scales.
There`s no way to avoid them if you want to play really well.
There are, however, things you can do to make practicing scales more entertaining. Here are a few tips to make your scale practicing more endurable and even enjoyable:
Find some imaginative scale studies to work on. You don`t have to do the same scale exercises day in, day out. There are plenty of creative books on the market today that are geared toward making scale practicing more interesting. Visit a music store or go online and find some new exercise books.
Make it more exciting by taking your scales all the way up and down. You`ll be panting for breath after the first couple of scales and you`ll feel as if you`ve run a marathon, but it`s good for your muscle memory and adds some excitement to your practicing.
* Set some imaginative and creative goals. Try to play a scale perfectly 10 times in a row, or try to play the scale 20 times in three minutes without making a mistake.
Practice hands separately and then together (pianists), as this creates a little variety. You can also practice your scales in syncopated rhythms, accenting certain notes. This not only adds interest, but it also helps you build your muscle memory.
Remind yourself how much the scale practicing is going to help you in some of the repertoire pieces you`re working on. For example, if you`re working on a Bach Prelude and Fugue, you can easily see how much your performance is going to benefit from some intensive scale practicing.
It’s important to find some books that will make scale practicing a more enjoyable activity, instead of the tedious, boring chore that it can be. With the right choice of exercises and a little imagination on your part, you`ll be amazed how quickly the minutes will fly by as you practice your scales. You`ll also be amazed at the improvement in your playing when you`re working on your repertoire.
Just remember, technique is vitally important, but it`s a means to an end and this end result is the skill with which you play your musical repertoire.
I am still a young musician. Unlike my professors and people who have been playing for many, many years, I am still learning.
In fact, that’s one of the reasons I started this blog, to share what I’ve recently learned and hopefully help other musicians find a higher level of musical understanding easier and faster.
Lately, I have been trying to practice a good amount of hours, and as usual, trying to do so as smart as I can.
It’s good to remind ourselves what’s really effective, what really works. After many weeks or even moths of practicing, one can stop thinking. You get used to a routine and stop looking beyond your own boundaries.
Yeah, yeah, I know you’ve heard it before. But you haven’t heard my approach yet.
Every musician take notice of it in master-classes, seminars, YouTube, lessons, etc.
Now, what does it take to practice slowly in an extremely productive way?
You practice slow and then it’s perfect?
Do they mean slow scales?
Here’s what I think. I’ve done a series of experiments and this is what I believe slow practice is about:
1) Music must be built up the same way you build up your muscles.
You work different parts, all separately.
After working in detail each of these technical issues, you can then put them together one by one.
a) Legato + Intonation
b) Intonation + Articulation
c) Intonation + Legato + Articulation
And so on…
This will take a long while. I’m talking about weeks if not months, depending on the difficulty of the piece. Be patient, you’ll get there the smart way. Have You Practiced 10,000 Hours Yet?
You need a strong base to support a heavy piece of music with hundreds of details. You can then get deeper into the music and work aspects like musicality.
2) Slow practice needs time. Your brain is an awesome machine. Make sure you learn how to operate it.
You need time in order to cook your food and get the maximum out of it.
a) Select hard passages.Slowly analyzing.Watch how your fingers move and how you get to the new note.
Your fingers learned how to get to “B” from “A”. But they haven’t learned how to get to “B” from “C”. (Yep, it’s that hard)
b) Practice your excerpt really slow focusing onas many details as you can. After 15- 20 minutesleave it. You brain, muscles and mind get tired, it’s hard to focus longer that.
Like I said, the brain is an amazing machine. Next time you come back you will notice a difference. Your brain it’s still working on it even though you are not physically involved.
3) Control your instrument with your mind. You don’t have to be a psychic though. Instrumental playing is really delicate. You can change something by moving your pinky slightly forward (string players) or by relaxing your right shoulder.
a) Sometimes it only takes tobe aware of the problem. If youthink what you need to do (yes, only by thinking) you will perform it as well. Not always, but when the “fixing” is small.
Through slow practice you figured that the fourth finger is a little too flat. Be aware of it and don’t try to play it higher, think about it, then perform it. Next time you play it, you’ll fix it immediately.
4) Be aware of your body. With slow practice you will have enough time to notice a variety of things including how your body behaves.
Are you tensing up 5 measures before that hard passage?
I bet you will notice if youpractice slow.
a)Feelyour shoulders, fingers, hands, forearms, mouth, cheeks and every other part of the body that could be involved in your playing.
b) Replay the excerpts with a new mind set- relaxation.
If you understand your machine’s needs and give it what it needs, then it will repay you by giving you a strong base. You two must work together as a team (yes, I mean you and your brain). It is the only way to feel the owner of a piece of music.
What is exactly is being productive? Does it mean staying focus for a period of time? Is it what I need to do in order to play at my best level?
Those were some of the questions I asked myself when I first approached the term productivity. I wanted a straight to the point guide. How can I prepare the Tchaikovsky concerto the fastest, easiest and most effective way?
Fear no more! I will explain productivity with stuff I’ve tried and what others have taught me.
Here we go!
If you subscribe to my colleague Dr. Noa Kageyama at his Bulletproofmusician blog, you will get a Practice Hacking Guide. This guide will get you on the right track.
It is evident that you need to be willing to work hard in order to change bad habits for good ones, but keep in mind that as a musician you’ve already build strong elements to do it. By spending many hours in the practice room you already considered a disciplined individual.
Now, the question is—how long should I practice?
Here are some good answers to that question! (You can come back after reading the whole post) J
Today I want to provide you with an effective productivity plan. Not just my opinion on how long you should practice but more like how to take 100% of your efforts home.
In order to take advantage of every second you destined to practice, you must have a plan.
What do you want to accomplish?
How are you going to do that?
What strategies are you going to use?
How long will it take?
Planning a practice session is like planning out your life. You give direction and try to reach those goals while preparing other tasks. You can’t waste time—it’s limited.
Let’s say that you have 30 minutes to practice.
How would you get the most out of it?
How do you take 100% of your efforts home?
With 30 minutes you can easily take a big excerpt of music and work many things. Hopefully you picked a hard passage. Pick some technical as well as some musical problems.
5 minutes| tuning each note. Slowly watching your fingers from note to note
5 minutes| figuring how you would phrase that passage
5 minutes| actually playing the phrase with dynamics, etc.
5 minutes| repeating hard fingerings, bowings,etc. Cleaning everything up.
10 minutes| using the metronome and trying to get it up to tempo.
30 minutes will change the life of those measures forever. You were completely focus on those measures and actually worked things separately. You can even combine tasks by working on technical and musical problems at the same time.
I can personally focus for only 40-50 minutes at a time. After that, I am not really100% concentrated. I get distracted and start playing things without thinking much.
Many experts on the subject talk about 50 minutes practice and 10 resting (1 hour of work).