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  • Margaret


Practicing: many people have written about it, and many more will. I can't resist writing about it myself, because it 1. sits at the heart of what we musicians do, and 2. can be such a charged word and activity.

During a certain week years ago, I asked each of my students to free-associate with the word 'practice'. I gave them five minutes, said nothing myself, and wrote down everything they said on a white board. After this we looked at the words, feelings, thoughts and ideas on the white board -- and had a conversation about practicing that was very different from any such conversation I'd had before, whether as a teacher or a student.

One thing I took with me was that for my students, the experience of practicing was mixed. They dreaded it and enjoyed it, resented and appreciated it. This seemed only natural to me. The circumstances surrounding much of our practice are complicated, and sometimes fraught; expectations are high; the actual mechanics are often unclear. It's a large animal, practicing, with soft fur and sharp teeth; it would be normal to have more than one reaction to it.

How can we establish a healthy, joyful, productive relationship to practicing? This is a question to which I return again and again, both for myself and when I'm working with my students. Since practicing does lie at the heart of what we do as musicians, how we create and spend that time becomes vitally important -- not only for how we play, but also for how we feel about playing, how we see ourselves as players, our mental, emotional and physical well-being, and our longevity as players.

As I have a variety of thoughts about this topic, I'll spread them over a series of shorter blog posts. I hope you enjoy!

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