A pivotal part in the growth of a musician comes from practicing and the way in which they practice. However important practicing is, it is meaningless unless it is purposeful and methodical (efficient, involves process, and yields results). I want to quickly touch on some topics today that I learn over and over.
The pleasure of music is debatable. No one piece of music (or one aspect of music) moves every single person on earth or in exactly the same way. Pleasure of music can come from the aspects of intellectual, visceral, physical, social, and so on. If a musician is like an actor, then would it not be in the best of the musician’s interest to learn as many roles or styles as possible to successfully serve their role in the context? Certain Hollywood actors are criticized for playing the same character in every movie they star in, and many consider them as sell-outs, or failures. If a musician finds a nice sound and functional articulations for playing in a Beethoven Symphony, it does not necessarily mean these things would or should transfer in all other types of music. Just as a person learning a new language cannot learn to speak fluently only through books and theories, a musician must listen (viscerally and critically/consciously) to the style of music they play. This helps them gain the necessary tools/ vocabulary to convincingly execute their art, especially in the formative years.
Every serious musician has gone or will go through phases of mindless practicing where they wishfully equate the number of practice hours to the quality of practicing being done. If practicing is not done consciously or thought-out beforehand, it can often be more harmful than no practicing. A fully-alert and un-intrupted hour practice session can be more productive and successful than a mindless practice session that spans 8 hours and consists of Facebook, e-mails, repeated mistakes, snacks, alcohol, socialization, and other distractions that yields no clear result. Regardless of how busy your schedule is, write out a list of specific things you want to get done that day. You will be surprised at how good and eager you are at crossing off the things from your list.
Tailoring your practice to your daily needs and time availability should be an art itself. Do not give up on practicing because you do not have 3 hours available that day because you’re traveling all day. Think of other ways you can practice without your instrument- studying scores, reading about artists/ composers, listening to music, trying to sing the piece/ lick you are learning from memory, resting, or even doing a routine maintenance on your instrument- all of these can contribute to turning your next musical experience a better one, and even help you become a better musician. Having fewer hours in a day to practice will help you be more focused in the few minutes you do have to yourself and encourage you to become methodical (which hopefully you will transfer to your longer practice sessions).