Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Practicing Toward Perfection: Part One

The Background, or "Why I Wanted to Write About Practicing."

A couple of years ago, I was faced with a new challenge as a musician. This challenge started me thinking about practicing in a different way. However, when I sat down to write this article, I realized that I needed first to explain my background as a musician. So if you are not interested in the story, and just want the tips, thoughts and links, that will be in Part Two, which will be along in a day or two.

There are advantages to learning an instrument as a child or teen. Children have time. They have someone to push them to practice. There are--(or used to be!)--opportunities to be involved in an orchestra or band at school. When the parents can afford it, there are--(from the students point of view)--free private lessons. By the time the concerns of adult life kick in, you have six or more years of practicing as your background. That's a lot of muscle memory! 

It's different when you start your music career as an adult. You have to fit in practice around the mundane: dishes, laundry, errands, yard work, spouse, a day job, family and more. That means making the most of your time.
I returned to the world of making music late in life, and had the good fortune to find a teacher skilled at teaching adults. I had been going along for a few years, learning music for annual recitals, and to perform at or two pieces at a time. That all changed a couple years ago when my teacher said: "I think you should consider giving a full recital."

It sent chills down my spine! I'm don't have the energy than I did 35 years ago. My hands ache often, and it takes me longer to learn than it did when I was college age. I have people around me who depend on me to keep the household running. Cooking, cleaning, errands, yardwork all take my limited time and energy!

I couldn't imagine how I was going to be able to work on more than one piece of music at a time!! As it turned out, I learned the music, but after sliding the deadline back multiple times, I decided I didn't need to do the full, one-hour recital. It would have been quite expensive, by the time I rented a hall, paid an accompanist. Where would I find an audience? When you're in school the hall/accompanist/audience are all "built-in." 

I did get to perform all the pieces I learned, but not all at once. I enjoyed the challenge and learned a lot about practicing along the way.

So that's the background. I am an adult student, with arthritis in my hands, and a busy life. I've been working at playing the flute for 11 years. I have written and published 10 pieces of music for flute and piccolo, and am working on more. (Check back for details on purchasing "Musical Journeys" or "Aurora Borealis: A Trio of Solos for Piccolo or Flute.")

Practice is the foundation to being a good musician.

That is what has led me to write about practicing. How does anyone work on more than one piece of music at a time?  How do I keep track of it all? How do I use my limited time effectively? Those are the things to be addressed in Part Two.

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