Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Makings of a Great Student, Part 1

A great student is not necessarily the best player, the most talented, or the most intelligent.  Successful students at any level are able to turn instruction into production quickly. Call it rapid turn around time.  This kind of student "gets it" and does it.  An important mark of a great student is in his or her response to instruction.

A violin professor was somewhat surprised to learn of the success of two of his students whose playing had been less than stellar all during their time in school.  What accounted for their turn around?

He learned that two key components to their improvement was their consistent use of the metronome and the recording of their practice sessions on a daily basis. Rather than wait until the music was totally prepared, they listened to their practice room labors every day and made a habit of turning on the metronome!

Significant progress need not take four years or longer.  Diligent attention to rhythm and listening will drastically improve performance in just a short time!  Really, how much talent is needed to dust off the metronome and click on the recording device? 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Glory and Grit

The road to the stage goes through the trenches.  Because the journey of grunt work never ends, we might as well learn to treasure the grit of preparing as much as the glory of performing.  After all, most of our playing time will be off stage. 

A few thoughts on rethinking the practice session in order to make it a pathway to glory:

  • Don't jump into the trenches without a plan. Organized digging only! No wild flailing permitted. 
  • Don't practice like a student. 
  • Pretend someone important is listening.
  • Don't waste your notes. You have precious few.
  • Dig slowly and carefully on the hard stuff.
  • Set time limits. Don't dig for hours on end, lest you exhaust brains and chops and get yourself nowhere.
  • Record your sessions. See if there's madness to your method.
  • Consider your practice sessions as snippets of quality playing rather than large chunks of rubble.  
  • Avoid making brainless mistakes. Try to make the trenches your error-free zone.
  • Practice musical risk-taking.  Don't just play it safe.  
  • The more agony in the trenches, the more ecstasy on the stage!  Sweat the practice, not the performance.
  • Practice enjoying the frustrations of your grit and grunt work.  Don't avoid your weaknesses. Let difficulties improve you, and the glory will take care of itself.