Practicing to Practice
"Practice is for suckers!" - Minnesota Fats, the famous pool player, said this in an interview before a championship tournament as he was knocking balls around a pool table by himself. (It suspiciously looked like he was practicing.)
What he said is absolutely untrue, of course, and absurd. But, you may be wasting your time if you don't have a plan.
So, how do you practice music?
Do you have a plan? Do you have a list of priorities and goals to meet for each and every session?
Do you flip through the pages of your study books until you find something interesting, and then play that?
Believe it or not, there is more to practicing music than taking out your horn and sittling down in front of a music stand for three to eight hours a day. But, prep time is usually skipped if it is thought of at all. Or, they say, "I want to get to the good stuff.", and think they don't have time for planning.
So much music; So little time
Something else that makes musicians feel like they're in a hurry is the sheer volume of music there is to learn. It's too easy to get overwhelmed. There is more recorded music than any one person could possibly listen to in one lifetime. And, more written music than anyone could possibly play.
So, as musicians, how do we break it all down into manageable pieces that are more easily approachable?
Stick to the Basics
Fortunately, part of that question is answered by studying fundamentals. The basics of music never change. There are, after all, only twelve tones within a chromatic scale. And, those tones are used to create the other scales and tonalities. We'll ignore, for now, the infinite tunings between those twelve tones.
Each instrument has it's own peculiar techniques that require a certain amount of attention each day, so that should account for at least part of your daily practice.
Practice: A Logical Approach
This series gives you practical approach to practice music. Not what to practice. That is up to each individual to decide for themselves. But, being organized and having a methodical and strategic way to practice music is more important than the practice material itself.
Knowing what you want to learn will also help narrow down the choices in material. Obviously, you wouldn't continue playing Transposition studies when you really want to improvise like Clifford Brown. You'd need to listen to and transcribe a lot of Clifford Brown solos. And, playing Cafarelli Studies wouldn't help you much in that case.
Now, why are you practicing that?
It is essential to know why you are practicing the material you are learning. I own so many etude books filled with excellent studies that contain not a single word of explanation about why the studies were written or what concepts they are supposed to reveal.
This ten topic series will talk about what you need to know to get the most from your music practice time. The first five topics discuss getting ready to practice. Yes, it's that important. We'll talk about setting aside time each week to do your prep-work, setting priorities and making goals, and how to stay organized.
The next five topics will cover how to use your time when you practice music; how to stay focused on your priorities and meet your goals in the shortest time possible.
Follow the links below to read this tutorial:
- Make Time To Get Organized
- Setting Your Priorities
- Break Your Priorities Down Into Goals
- Collect Your Materials
- Monitor Your Progress
- Cover the Basics
- Practice Your Instrument
- Knock Out Your Priorities
- Stay Focused
- Play to Your Strengths
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