Robert J. Lawrence - (Jimmy)
Getting mad and letting go
This is really for me – I can get very volatile when I am not getting what I want out of practice. I can get so frustrated, that I end up laughing about how ridiculous my anger really is. This is great, because it can relieve some stress and get me to realize that a particular task is a lost cause for that moment; and that’s ok too. If your mind and your body is working against you, why fight it? Move on, and try something else. You can always come back to it at a better time.
Feel free - express yourself (with movement and emotion)
I’ve said it before – music isn’t just notes. The ancient Greeks knew how music influences our emotions, and of course it is still true today. Even if you feel like today’s music is watered down and has no emotional pull (every generation does!), when it comes down to it, anyone who can allow themselves to really experience the music will be impacted at more than just an emotional level. But they can only feel that if you are conveying it. When you practice, especially if you’re working through an entire piece, play it for an audience, even if it’s just yourself. Say what you want to say with your music – don’t just play it.
Practice is a part of life
It’s time to accept that practice is a part of the life experience of a musician. We learn from it, we develop technical facility, we grow musically. This is what it really means to practice. Practice is not a replacement for performance. It doesn’t replace the times when we just want to play music. It’s a whole other animal, one that we need to nourish in order improve our enjoyment in playing music, and make our performances really shine.
There is no such thing as perfect
Accepting that practice is a part of life will make it so much easier to understand that nothing we do is ever perfect; we can always improve, develop, and expand. You might be happy with your performance; great! Can it be even better? Well, yes! Not only better, but different as well! You are a human being, and you will always have something new to deliver, something new you want to express – even with the same repertoire. There is always room for growth, and you are never done being a musician.
Practice differently (again, again)
Once more, we can change how we think about practice. Think about what your music sounds like to an audience. Close your eyes, and play your piece in a grand hall. You have a message to deliver, and it is important. If you’re thinking about this practically, your vivid experience of practicing your piece in front of a live audience (in your head) will make it so much easier when you actually perform for one. This is especially true for those of us who get a bit shaky in front of an audience.
Practice should be fun, engaging, challenging, and rewarding (and not necessarily all at the same time). Our attitude is likely the most important thing we should change, and this change will come from within. Though, I hope what I have written will make that change at least a little easier. We all know that there is more to life than mere “fun” – the reward to effective practice is of course the results; but even practice in and of itself should be rewarding – fun is a fleeting feeling, but accomplishment and insight lasts forever.
Have you had any significant struggles or successes in your practicing? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!
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Jimmy here! My desire is to help others grow musically - especially those who don't have access to resources. I'm a husband, father of three, graduate student, and music educator.