Category: Musician’s Life
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,
I was confused. Musicians were using the word “technique” in seminars and master classes and I felt they were speaking Mongunese. To me, it sounded like I needed tools from the Home Depot and work on my technique.
Yeah, laugh all you want. But that was a tough year. I had been playing my instrument for 3 years and was recently accepted to major in violin performance.
The term “colors” was another confusing one. How do you explain colors in music to a guy who is lost in a conservatory?
I was lost—and the worst violinist there. I felt bad. Who likes to be the least awesome? No body. And if you are last chair of the second violins (me), it’s pretty obvious.
I had to do something about it immediately. I studied my options but had no clue how to come out of that last chair. The only thing I knew was that my life was about to change…
I didn’t appreciate being the sucky violinist and I should’ve.
The first year as a conservatory student was the best for my development. I was lost and my skills sucked. But when you are the worst musician you can learn from everybody, not only the star players but from the average as well.
They are still better than you.
No matter what you hear or see or experience inside the conservatory, everything will affect you directly. You will level up rapidly because you’ve never seen or heard that before.
If you are passionate you’ll catch up quickly and I promise you’ll leave them behind. At least those who don’t commit the same way you do. Get rid of those first, then follow the star players.
Listen to their performances and don’t envy their playing. Admire them and know they’ve been doing it longer and working harder.
Awesomeness doesn’t come from drinking natural water,
When you find yourself in the last position, analyze your options and learn from the guys on top. Your goal should be to be like them, no less.
You’ll be up for a long and difficult ride. Welcome to the path of the erudite.
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.
Are you a bookworm? Me too. Although I don’t have a glamorous historic past among the books, I’ve found that books help me write better and have top understanding on the subjects I discuss here on Tips for Classical Musicians.
Great action novels (which I enjoy very much) are a great resource too. They get my vocabulary going and my imagination escaping away from this world.
These books gave me so much and hopefully they’d do the same for you.
Remember that if you control your personal life, you will succeed in your professional.
First, I’d like to introduce you with two of the greatest books I’ve ever read in the financial and business department. Want to set small business in music? No problem. The $100 startup will give you tons of ideas—not a music related book though. When I read it, I found myself constantly getting new ways to start a business in music. The book was written by the same guy who introduced me to Travel Hacking.
I Will Teach You to Be Rich is another essential read. Rami gives you an inside on how to manage a life where you take 100% control of your money. If you apply his advice, your future will brighten. Great way to be on top of your life.
Now, these next 2 books you have to buy. Not if you want to or feel like it. You MUST
They will guide you through your complete formation as a classical musician. But I am already a professional? Buy it! You will still learn so much from these guys. Everything from scales practice and stage fright all the way to careers in music and strategies to succeed. You have it all in these 2 books. You won’t regret it, I promise.
As a personal-development freak, I read many blogs and always try to remain efficient and productive. Most of the time I have a book or two (usually more) on the subject in my tablet. Among my favorites, here are 4 of them. Easy to read, lots of good stuff and advice you can’t get anywhere else.
TREASURES FOR LIFE!
I’m a little picky with fiction. I usually give the book about 50-100 pages and if I’m still bored, that’s it. Believe it or not, I have stopped many books half way because I’m bored. I recently finished these two and they got me hooked all the way to the end.
Girls, read The Tombs if you are not into action-videogames-guns-manly adventures .
Guys, Hitman is AWESOME! get it right away.
What I Look Forward To
The first part of Hitman was incredible, and the second part just released only a few days ago. Oh, I’m getting it. The Secret of Success have great reviews and I’ve heard a lot about it lately. Tim Ferriss and Chris Guillebeau are two of the people who I really admire. Reading their stuff makes me want to give the extra mile in search of expanding the possibilities and enjoying every moment while doing it. I’m sure that The 4 hour Body and the Art of Non-Conformity will definitely enlighten my path.
A Survival Guide for Classical Musicians
I can’t finish this post without recommending my own work, ooopsss! A Survival guide for Classical Musicians is the companion guide to my blog. Over the years I’ve been studying personal-growth and how to apply it in the practice room. How to grow as a person in order to become a better musician is kind of my slogan. If you get the guide (only $7) you’ll get a free report on Travel Hacking. And you will be supporting the website, the community and the stability of the content being produced. Your support will ensure the future of this blog.
Thanks again for your sponsorship!
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 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 everyday 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.
When was the last time you listened to classical music?
Was it yesterday? perhaps 3 months ago?
I personally don’t listen to much classical music because I focus all my energies into practicing.
It is a fact, after a 6 hour practice session I don’t feel like listening to music at all!
I could not be more WRONG! That was me! and it’s still me sometimes I had a professor during my undergrad who always mentioned the possibility of musicians not liking music. He said that somehow, we musicians don’t enjoy listening to music anymore.
Not everybody, but a good majority! What happened to us? Where did we lost it? Is it true that we musicians don’t like to spend time listening to good music?
I mean, common! That’s what we do! It’s how we make a living–or at least how we intent to make it happen. I consider myself completely guilty on this one. I know it’s important but still, I don’t compromise enough to actually do it. I think if we get to know the many benefits we get from listening to music, perhaps we could organize our study sessions including more listening.
These are some of the things that come to mind:
1) You will learn style.
2) You will learn the composer.
3) You will learn traditional performing standards.
4) You will learn about tempos, colors, atmospheres.
5) You will learn what your part sounds like when the others are playing.
6) You will learn orchestration (if studied with score).
7) You will learn the best orchestras in the world.
8) You will learn other parts.
9) You will learn new music
Today, we have more than enough resources to listen to classical music for free. On YouTube you find everything. As a good resource I will recommend www.naxosmusiclibrary.com. Investing in a streaming site like this one will pay off in the long run. It is a good idea, also, to build up your personal library with scores and Cd’s, but I know there is a lot of money involved there. On the meantime, if you can’t afford that you can stick with YouTube and perhaps Naxos music library.
Get your free scores here www.imslp.org. I’m sure you knew this site
I invite you to join me and take the challenge of listening those works you are working on and other stuff by the same composer. Taking aside 15 to 20 minutes daily will do.
As we analyze the character and what actually makes the composer unique, we will level up an understanding of the music we play. I believe, that will put us at the top of our field.
In general, when you are informed and know what’s going on around your world, you are on the right track to know your competition, your business and what holds you back. You will be better prepared to deal with it. When you get to know who the next little virtuoso is and who won which competition, you maintain a good preparation and set some standards.
Knowing what is going on is part of your business. Don’t forget. This stuff we don’t learn in the practice room but it’s what completes us. The more you know the better– it’s a thumb rule for all fields. In an industry where contacts play a big role, knowing as much as possible is essential to manage a successful career. We can start simply by listening to recordings and knowing most of the recordings of the pieces we are working on.
Be involved! Subscribe to music magazines, blogs like this one and streaming sites! They can only add to your career development. What other thing would you add to the list of benefits?
Feel free to comment
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 to Persevere.
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.
As a classically trained musician, you know that the most important thing you can do is work on and solidify your technique. No matter how talented or expressive you are in your musical skills, it`s technique that gets you through.
Without having a strong technique to support you, you`re not treading a path to success; you`re treading quick sand. On the flip side, however, some musicians rely so heavily on technique that they`re virtually swamped by it. They`re so wrapped up in practicing scales, arpeggios and other exercises that they neglect to work on their repertoire.
When this happens, it`s important to prioritize how much of your practice time should go to technical warm-ups and exercises and how much should go toward practicing your musical pieces. It`s important first to remember what technique is for. You use these strengthening skills to fine-tune and hone your skills as a musician.
Once you`ve got a firm grip on your technique, you can put it firmly in its place as a background to your performance.
If you`re a singer, particularly an opera or concert singer, you have to be especially careful about not over-practicing. Many experienced professional singers are content with 20 minutes a day of warm-up scales and arpeggios before jumping right into repertoire.
If you practice your vocalizes and exercises too long, you`ll tire out your voice. As to how much you should practice your technique during a single session, here are some thoughts to consider:
- Mindless practicing is a waste of time.Most musicians agree that endlessly playing scales and arpeggios by rote over and over again without thinking isn`t a particularly valuable way to spend your practice time. If your head space isn`t in what you`re doing, your muscle memory won`t develop and muscle memory is the backbone of technique.
- Mindless practicing causes sloppinessand soon you`ll find yourself falling into bad habits that will make your practicing destructive rather than beneficial. Neglecting your repertoire leads to a lack of confidence. After all, you`re going to be performing your pieces, not your scales, in front of an audience.
If you concentrate on technique at the expense of your repertoire, your repertoire will surely suffer.
If you have extra practice time, devote it to your musical repertoire, not to your technical exercises, especially if you`re preparing for a performance. Set aside a time for scales, arpeggios and technical exercises and don`t go beyond it. Unless there`s something you specifically want to work on, such as a helpful exercise, keep your technical practicing in its place. It`s valuable, but you don`t want to practice scales at the expense of 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.
- a) Intonation
- b) Phrasing
- c) Dynamics
- d) Bowings
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 you practice 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.
Slow Practice Means More Time for the Brain to Think
When you study slowly you forget slowly.
– Itzhak Perlman