Ummm, PRACTICE! Old joke, but still funny.
Practicing isn’t the same as playing. Of course you’re always “playing”. But to practice is to focus on a problem and try different avenues to solve that problem. Playing is when you’re just enjoying the music, playing an entire piece. It’s what happens after you practice.
Effective practice requires a plan and a goal- what are you going to work on. What do you want to achieve. You need to have a setting with all your tools- metronome, pencil, music, rosin, instrument, and closed door. It is quite annoying to be working on a shift, or a measure of “bow only” only to be interrupted by an inquisitive pet or ringing phone. Once you’re in the “zone” you can accomplish a great deal.
I set a timer (thanks, Alexa) for each item I’m going to work on. Usually 20 minutes for something really tough that requires intense focus. Difficult measures that require slow, methodical finger choreography. I like to play my orchestra music along with a real orchestra, so I have recordings in my Amazing Slow Downer and I can play along with these (at a tempo I can play). But this only comes after I have located the problem areas (faster, complicated runs) and spent my 20 minutes on those.
You need to find out what works for you. I like to keep a spread sheet of what I’m working on, what measures in each piece need extra attention. It helps me remember what I need to do. Make your plan, set some goals, and go practice. Every little bit is another step up that mountain.
4 thoughts on “How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?”
David B Teague says:
You are preaching to the choir here. Thanks for the reminders.
At my lesson yesterday, I was reminded, as I frequently am by the teacher, and here(!) that identifying and isolating the problem measure (with PostIt notes as needed), shift, or fingering or bowing sequence, and practice that with careful listening for the problem, for a time.
I find that my concentration works well for only about 10 minute periods of practice with acute listening, with a 5 minute rest periods between, doing something else: stretches, for example.
Your blog is one of the most useful of the many I read. Thank you.
Nancy Mack says:
David, your comments are always appreciated! Thank you.
Peter Wauters says:
One year ago, I restarted the Cello after a 32 year break. (two life times for most of my fellow musicians at the academy). At first, I was trying to rush back to my former level (Popper, Piatti, …) without much of a plan. Got as far as the first solo suite by JSB, moderately proud of that…
Recently I got my act together: planned my practice sessions (as my teachers used to do for me) focusing on technique (the routine: scales, arpeggio’s, exercises, 1 study a week and one or two repertoire pieces at any given moment). It’s working: working on my favourite Schumann (Fünf Stücke I & II) again… with a realistic prospect of performing at a recital end of April. My experience: only with carefully planned and concentrated effort on specific techniques (shifting, intonation, upper positions, thumb, bowing – spiccato, sautillé etc…) one can really progress. Twenty minutes at a time is what I also do. (without timer) Practice session: 1,5 – 2 hrs / day (3 – 4 hrs /day during weekends — I have a very patient wife ;-))
Love your blog.
* I’m considering the transition to the digital age: iPad pro etc… Keep us posted on the pro’s and con’s. I’m very interested in your experience.
Nancy Mack says:
You are an inspiration! Thank you for your story and your plan. Please continue to let me know about your progress!