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How is practicing like a meal kit service?

Have you heard of Hello Fresh? What about Blue Apron or Chef's Plate? What could these possibly have to do with music practice?

For me one of the biggest ways in which a meal kit service helped me was that it cut down on decision fatigue. So, what is decision fatigue?

According to registered psychotherapist Natacha Duke, MA, RP, decision fatigue is a phenomenon (as opposed to a diagnosable medical condition) where the more decisions a person makes over the course of a day, the more physically, mentally and emotionally depleted they become. A person experiencing decision fatigue struggles with executive functioning. This can have a wide range of consequences, including impaired judgment.

Maybe you don't experience decision fatigue as some of us do, but making decisions does take time and mental effort. Like using a meal kit or even just meal planning for the week, sitting down and making the decisions about what needs to be practiced (or eaten) and how much time to devote to each item is a big part of what I consider the work of practicing. If I have a limited amount of time with my instrument to practice I don't want to take any of that time sorting out what I should be doing. I want to take those 5 or 10 mins and just do it.

Part of the way I do this is to anticipate things that might need to be worked on over the course of a period of time and during a time where I don't have a lot of practicing do, I'll start on some of these items as it's possible.

For example, If I know I have a recital over the course of the year. I'll get to planning my repertoire as soon as I know I have that obligation/ opportunity and then make a plan for how I'm going to practice all of the repertoire pieces over the time between now and the recital with small achievable milestones in between.

In the orchestra our repertoire comes out by May of the previous season for the season starting in September. Once that happens I can look ahead and see what is coming up and plan for any pieces that might need extra attention. Carolyn Christie first had me do this exercise where I wrote out what I had coming up and assign a "reactivity level" to concerts or pieces. These levels could be based on the difficulty of the music (i.e Classical Symphony), the external situations (i.e Music Director is conducting and this is the kind of repertoire he gets obsessive over), or my personal history with the piece (i.e. Radetsky March is a piece I've had some pretty exposed fails on in the past). Once I did this, I could make a plan for those pieces and approach them bit by bit with lots of time to try and control the level of anxiety I would feel during and leading up to the performance.

Below you'll find a chart I am using for the repertoire between September and December. It's less important to understand the specifics of the music we are doing, and more important to understand how I use this to organize my practice.

Things that appear in green I feel good about. For example, Dvorak 8 although it's a piece with some exposed 2nd/ flute and a tiny bit of piccolo playing is something that we've recently read with the music director and it went well. I prepared well for that rehearsal and I think I have a good idea of what to expect. The yellow are things that are on my radar because either I know they are hard or because they have a high degree of unknown. For example I remember that Prokofiev violin concerto has lots of flute but I don't remember the details so I want to make sure I look at these sooner than later. Things in red should be prioritized. Tchaikovsky 4 especially as a side by side needs attention. I know I can play it, we've done it recently but I have difficult audition experiences with it and if I'm also coaching a student (it's listed as a side by side) I definitely need to be on my A game.

Once I've identified these items I'll get my hands on the parts and work them into my larger practice routine. Check back on later posts to see what that looks like.

Do you think a chart like this could help you? It's available for free download here, or create your own!

Grey & White Half Year At Glance Workbook Planner
Download PDF • 31KB


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