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Phases and Seasons of Practice

One thing that I have learned, and ignored, and learned again is that there are phases or "seasons" of practice. You may have heard folks say "in this season of life". I'm not sure where the concept comes from originally, but I understand it to mean that your life adapts to your circumstances. Here's an example, in my current season of life I have adapted a very specific practice structure that works for me as I balance solo projects, orchestral life, teaching, et cetera. This looks very different from what my practice routine looked like in high school, as an undergraduate student, or post graduation while free-lancing. Heck, my practice routine ebbs and flows throughout the year as my schedule changes. In all of these "seasons" You Have Time to Practice. Here are three key concepts about practicing that I have held onto when undergoing changes in circumstance that affect my practicing.

  1. Practice in service of your art.

  2. You don't have to touch your instrument to practice.

  3. Practice smarter, not harder.

Why do we practice? To reach for a higher level of musicianship, and to be able to re-create on our instruments what we hear in our heads for the music we play. In my opinion, practice is in service of that goal not a single concert/ audition or mastery of a single skill or piece. This is also helpful in motivating practice even when you don't have something on the horizon.

Re-frame your idea of what practicing is. For me, score study, physical activity, mental skills training, concert attendance, this is all a form of practicing. If you are building the conditions for optimal performance this is a form of practice. We all need time away from the instrument sometimes but that doesn't always mean you aren't practicing.

When you do have your instrument in your hands, find ways to optimize your time. If you have a lot of time in a day, that's great, maybe you can afford to play for pleasure or as Sharon Sparrow says "serenade yourself". Sometimes this is just what the soul needs, beautiful music not highly structured and critical analysis. Don't be fooled though, this is not the most efficient or effective way of practicing. In further posts I'll talk more about the tools I use to optimize my practice time and split throughout a busy day even when it feels like I don't have time. In reality, You Have Time to Practice.

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