I've been meaning to start this blog for quite some time now. It has been sitting empty on my website for months. I wasn't sure what exactly my goal was for it, however, I've come to realize over the last year or so that my takes on the music scene differs from quite a few of my colleagues. So here we are. I'm hoping that these musings will serve as inspiration to some musician out there. Maybe you'll find something to take with you and resonant with you. Maybe you'll read something here you vehemently disagree with and it will inspire you to develop your opinions more strongly. Whatever the case, I'm glad you're here and I hope this little blog aids your musical development.
Okay, so now onto the main topic of the blog. Practice. Want to hear a hot take? Practice should not be a miserable experience. If you are practicing music and you are miserable, sad, frustrated, want to bang your head against a wall, then you're doing something wrong.
This is something I see normalized far too often, especially in music programs at the collegiate level. I know so many musicians who are having panic attacks in practice rooms, crying after rehearsals, staying up late/not getting enough sleep so you can practice more, skipping meals to practice, and generally spending all your time that isn't in class in a practice room.
This isn't healthy and it should not be normal. I think most musicians can agree that it sucks we feel this way, but what do we do about it? Do we just have to accept it as the norm in university music programs?
I think the first step is breaking down the idea that this is normal. When our colleagues come up to us and proudly say they have been practicing for 6 hours straight and haven't slept all night we should not laugh and say "oh yeah, I feel that." Rather, we should check in on our colleague, encourage them to go take a nap, eat a nutritious meal, and have a break.
I find it's easier to break this normalization when we are regarding other musicians, but when it comes to ourselves it gets even harder. We are willing to put ourselves through things we would never subject our peers to.
There's more here than I can actually break down regarding building a healthy relationship with practice, but here are a few tips if you are feeling overwhelmed and like you have to spend all your time practicing.
1. You need to set better practice goals. Break that down to it's smallest goals. (Play through measures 1 and 2 at 75 bpm). These smaller chunks will help you feel productive and fulfilled in your practice sessions
2. You're allowed to take a break. It will make your practice even more productive when you come to a practice feeling well rested, socialized, full, and happy. If you are tired, take a rest. If you feel like you need a break, take a break.
3. Take away the time goals. Good practice isn't the longest practice session. Goal based practice is the best place to start, then I suggest setting a time limit (i.e. I will practice from 10-1 and then be done no matter what). Stick to that time block. Even if you haven't finished everything. That's okay. You'll get more done in your next session after having a rest.
4. Accept that perfection isn't the most important part of music. Music will never be perfect. And that's okay. You aren't a better or worse musician for being at a different place. Having a healthy practice routine that allows you to feel fulfilled and happy and healthy makes you a good musician. Being able to sustain your practice and ensure you don't burn out makes you a good musician. Enjoying your practice and performances makes you a good musician. It's okay if it isn't perfect.
Alright, I think that's all I've got for now. No editing here, so apologies for any typos or grammatical errors. I believe I'll try to plan these posts out a little bit more in future.
Thanks for reading!