I recently read The Musician’s Way a Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness by Gerald Kickstein. This book was extremely helpful in reminding me how I should practice and how to treat and protect myself as a musician. In order to succeed on your musical path, practice is the only way that will get you there. In the music world, talent is important but the musical progress depends on practice more than on talent. Talent represents the potential within you but practice makes you realizes your potential.
But not every way of practice will show positive progress. Throughout this paper I will discuss how to get organized, how to practice deeply, how to have a fearless performance and lastly how to recognize injury and prevent injuries. College musicians nowadays are studying music under pressure due to jury exam, recitals etc…People tends to take shortcuts of the correct ways to practice in order to save time because of the poor time management or not having enough time for practice due to heavy school work.
Since time is already not enough, we should all practice in the correct way therefore we can get the best result in the shortest amount of time, and also the most important point, make beautiful music in the performance. There are a lot of things that I think it is really important fundamentals to know when practicing, although some are simple but in my opinion these are essential.
First we need to know what practice really is, Yehudi Menuhin the violinist said, “practice is not forced labor; it is a refined art that partakes of intuition, of inspiration, patience, elegance, clarity, balance, and, above all, the search for ever greater joy in movement and expression. ” There are five points of how to get a practice organized; the very first one is about the practice environment. Practice environment is extremely important, not only as a workplace, but also as a source of inspiration. The practice room essential varies, this list is for vocalist. 1. Music stand, 2. Notebook and pencils, 3. Electronic metronome, 4.
Correct turned piano, 5. Clock (keep a record of practice time), 6. Mirror (for monitoring movement habits), 7. Audio recorder, 8. Water (drink plenty of water especially for vocalist), 9. Adequate lighting and climate control, 10. Relative quiet and privacy, 11. A room that can hear the resonance of your own voice (not a room with heavy insulation board). The second part is how to plan a productive practice session; there are couple of small areas that I think it is really important in order to plan a practice session. To work on a large quantity of music efficiently, Klickstein recommended sorting them into five zones. . New material – Divide into sections, establish interpretive/technical plan, and slow tempo. 2. Developing material – Refine interpretation, increase tempo, and memorization. 3. Performance material – practice performing, maintains memory, renew and innovate. 4. Technique – Diction, Arpeggios, scales and etc. 5. Musicianship – Sight reading, theory/ear training, listening/study. Now we know how to plan a practice session, let’s find out about how to schedule practice sessions, in my opinion there is also five points of scheduling practice sessions.
First is practice regularly, our artistic evolution is best served by steady, the practice time does not have to be long but similar amount of playing or singing each day is essential. Second point is practice more times than long time, try to arrange several practice sessions each day, maybe start off in the morning, practice in the afternoon, and practice before bedtime. Third is taking breaks between small sessions, generally you rest ten minutes of each hour that you practice, but for vocalist should be 20~30 minutes and rest 10 minutes.
Fourth point is increasing your practice time gradually, and when you increase the practice time it also needs to be consistent. The last point of how to schedule practice sessions would be living a balanced life, make practice a part of your regular life, but also make room to exercise, eat healthy foods and relax with friends. A balanced lifestyle is essential to your well-being and for a successful musician. Now we know how to practice, we need to start off with picking new pieces of music to practice, this might sound easy but in my opinion there are 3 important guidelines to choose your new music materials.
First is the taste, try not to pick a piece that you have absolute no interest in, you should enjoy the music that you learn, if the piece gives you excitement it will motivate you to practice. Second is the capacity, pick a piece that the creative capacity is not too far off from your musical and technical abilities, picking a piece that is difficult will not increase your strength and skills as much. Lastly is the plan, plan out your upcoming events, and see if it is possible for the new material to be ready before the next performance. Self-Recording – Benefits of Self-Recording:1. Sharpens musicianship, 2. Prevents distorted perception, 3. Heightens practice efficiency, 4. Enhances lessons, 5. Promotes objectivity. Habits of Excellence – Your habits in the practice room is very important, because the habits in the practice room will be the habits when you are on stage. 1. Ease – choose manageable material, because the more attention you use up supervising technical elements, the less room you have available for artistry. “Playing is never difficult; it is either easy, or it is impossible. –Kato Havas, violinist. 2. Expressiveness – you can only become an expressive performer if you practice expressively, really do the dynamics, and have imaginations when practicing. 3. Accuracy. 4. Rhythmic vitality. 5. Beautiful tone – make sure the standard tone is full and rich, also develop a tone that will project to the back of a hall even at the quietest level. 6. Focused attention – When you’re practicing, imagine yourself being on stage and about to begin a performance. 7. Positive attitude – There will always be challenges, get help if you need it, and proceed confidently!
Essentials of Artistic Interpretation – “Notes First” should not be the first thing to do when receiving a new piece, because once the habits are formed, it is even more difficult to rework the wrong habits. 1. Capture the mood, style, and tempo. 2. Shape the dynamics. 3. Color the tone. 4. Mold the articulation. 5. Contour the meter. 6. Drive the rhythm. 7. Express the form. Mental imaging – “When I sit in Paris in a cafe, surrounded by people, I don’t sit casually-I go over a certain sonata in my head and discover new things all the time. ” –Arthur Rubinstein, pianist.
Physical practicing is important but without mental imaging during usual practice, performer is more likely to make mistakes in performances. In order to do mental imaging, you have to be able to hear the music without playing it, that helps musicians memorize the music with ease, rather than memorizing music forcibly by practicing over and over again without any mental imaging. Starting New Material, Singers should – 1) Speak text in rhythm. To grasp how the words and rhythm fit together, expressively speak the text in rhythm. If anything feels uncertain, speak a section three times. ) Polish diction and comprehension. If you understand the language well, you can carry out this procedure before speaking the text in rhythm. But if it is a language that you’re not familiar with, then by speaking in rhythm first you will ensure that your accents line up correctly. Lastly, recite the text in the original language “as if in a dramatic reading. ” 3) Sing the melody on “ah. ” With the rhythm, diction, and meaning clear, move on to mapping pitches. Sing expressively to the section on ah or by using other vowels. If pitches are not correctly, review the intervals then sing the section three times.
When the music needs to be memorized, besides singing on ah, you should also profit from singing the melody with fixed-do solfege syllables. Performance anxiety is one of the biggest issues for all performers. Cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich said, “You must play for the love of music. Perfect technique is not as important as making music from the heart. ” Sounded very easy and true but indeed it is very hard to do. Now we’re going to analyze about the performance anxiety, then we will start talking about the routines and suggestions to reduce the anxiety.
Why do we have anxiety? Anxiety is a natural response to a perceived threat, when you feel the threat, adrenaline pours into your bloodstream, and this is called: the fight-or-flight response. Psychologist Stephen D. Curtis says, “The most important psychological contributor to the onset of performance anxiety is a performer’s concert for, or fear of, the outcome of the performance: that is, the performer’s thoughts become focused on an imagined negative outcome or failure. ” If you’re afraid of performance, the switch of fight-or-flight response will be turn on during your performance.
But this does not mean adrenaline is bad, if you can use this adrenaline to more of an excited way, this will benefits your performance, therefore, in order to reduce fight-or-flight activation, you have to manage fear. There are 3 stages of anxiety effects, it is important for performers to know what type of symptoms they might have while in these 3 stages of anxiety effect, each stage has different anxiety effects. Preperformance Effects – 1. Avoidance of practice, 2. Obsessive practice. 3. Busyness/disorganization. 4. Depression/fatigue/laziness. 5. Worry/distorted thinking. 6. Headaches. 7. Insomnia. 8.
Difficulty focusing. 9. Stomach upset/loss of appetite. 10. Trouble with relationships. 11. Academic decline. 12. Substance abuse. At-Performance Effects – there are two different types of At-Performance Effects, first one is Physical/Behavioral Effects. There are 10 kinds for the first effects, 1. Trembling. 2. Cold hands. 3. Racing heartbeat. 4. Heavy perspiration. 5. Nausea/butterflies/wooziness. 6. Muscle tension. 7. Technical insecurity. 8. Rapid or restricted breathing. 9. Dry mouth. 10. Urge to urinate. The Second effect is the mental/emotional effects, 1. Fear. 2. Confusion. 3. Memory lapses. 4. Distorted thinking. . Agitation. 6. Hypersensitivity. 7. Negative self-talk. 8. Shame. 9. Anger. 10. Panic. The last stage of effect is called Postperformance Effects, and the effects are 1. Distorted thinking. 2. Shame. 3. Anger/hostility. 4. Misattribution. 5. Avoidance of practice. 6. Depression/fatigue. 7. Persistent insomnia. 8. Trouble with relationships. 9. Academic decline. 10. Substance abuse. Now we know the different kinds of anxiety effects and the cause of fight-or-flight response, we are going to talk about routine for preperformance, some guidelines for at-performance and routine for postperformance to reduce anxiety.
The routine for preperformance is all about preparing before the performance, therefore it is a very important routine. How to prepare yourself before the performance? First you need to practice, not physically but mentally, because there’s really no point in doing any extended practice. Second, you need to rest before performance, if there’s no time for a nap, at least spend 10 minutes in a resting pose before performance. Third is meal, prepare a balanced preconcert meal is very crucial, you do not want to perform with a 10 out of 10 fullness of your stomach, or 2 out of 10 fullness either, 5 is the best fullness.
Fourth is activities, a mild aerobic workout will be refreshing, and that will benefit your performance. Fifth is wardrobe and grooming, you should sort out your wardrobe and grooming days ahead of time to prevent any mistake such as only one sock or missing tie, it is never fun to find that out at the last minute. Lastly, prepare you music, instruments and gear, printed programs, music stand (if necessary), tools and spare parts just in case if a button fell off etc…, backstage water is extremely important for vocalist, lastly, snacks. There are couple brief points that I think are pretty important and essentials when performing on stage.
Attire; make sure to match your clothing to the venue, for example, no tailcoats for evening recitals. Bowing, when the audiences are passionate, take a deeper bow than the usually bow to show your appreciation, bend no more than 45 degrees. Setting up, no need to rush for set up in the beginning, listeners also need time to settle into a mood from applauding. Performing, body language can show different elements of your performance, could be negative if it is inappropriate, therefore, recording a practice performance is needed. Handling scores, performers should prepare scores early, a loud page turn can break the music.
There are 3 important points for post-performance routines, this is also important because if the performer gets the feeling in the wrong way, it can turn a person into depression. First thing for the post-performance routine is to interact and cool down, after bowing, cool down and accept your own performance. Secondly is to assess, the best way to enhance your assessment is recording, but it is best to wait a day before you go back and listen to yourself or else the performer(you) will be extra judgmental about their performance on that day.
Lastly is to move ahead, after the assessment, it is time to move on, do not think too much about the mistakes of the last performance, start planning for your next practice session which is most important. I believe chapter twelve is among the most important chapters. It talks about injury prevention, causes of injury, warning signs, injury-prevention basics and lastly how to recover from injuries. Most musicians’ injuries are music related. Musicians work hard in order to maintain their abilities, but few musicians realize that over performing, practicing and teaching can trigger injuries.
Most instrumentalists end up having tendonitis, which is extremely harmful as a performer because it may stop artists’ from playing for several days, which is really bad especially if they have gigs aligned for that week. It is mentioned in the book that most instrumentalists injuries are five causes: overuse, misuse, accidents, anatomical differences, and individual sensitivities. Overuse is broken down to what part of the body is overused. Musicians tend to overuse muscles, muscles can only sustain so much work before having to rest.
Slight damage tends to heal overnight, but when a musician continues to work on a strained muscle it will cause trauma to the muscle which may cause permanent damage. Tendons are another muscle musicians must pay special attention to. Physicians Emil Pascarelli explains that the fluid that lubricates the tendons is used up during movement and is restored during rest. So when musicians play without taking breaks it is extremely harmful because fluid becomes depleted and friction arises between the tendon and sheath causing damage.
So it is recommended throughout this book to take rest when breaking, it is wise to practice in increments. Misuse ties in without taking breaks during practice as well as having bad living habits which inhibits the instruments (voice) from resting or even as an instrument one needs to rest and not misuse or abuse their body. It is mentioned in this book that most accidents happened from musicians hauling their gear, and performance stress. Warning signs that a body sign sends out that a musician must pay close attention to are: fatigue, pain, and odd sensation.
The response to these symptoms that the books gives are common sense, it suggests that one must stop what they are ding, rest and get help from a doctor or instructor. Overall I found this book to be extremely helpful. Most of the information I mentioned were common sense, but I find that people tend to forget about it because we have so much going on as students and are just trying to fit everything in a day. I would definitely recommend this book to my colleagues. Personally I found this book to be my musical bible. I now turn to this book as a reference when I need help with something when I struggle as a musician.