Day 116 – Four Things I’ve Learned About Practice and Dedication

I meant to post this on Day 42 of my Project 365, but only just now discovered it forgotten in Evernote (oops). Anyway, I’d like to share a brief update on four things I’ve learned/noticed so far.

1. Practicing when I’m tired is counterproductive. If I’m tired, I am unable to focus when I’m practicing and so I’m not making any improvement. I’m just playing for the sake of playing. The same went for when I was sick. I’ve found that in both cases, it’s better not to practice at all because I start to pick up bad habits (not playing with the greatest time nor am I paying attention to little mistakes such as bad finger movement). As much as I’d like to suggest “fighting through the fatigue”, I just don’t think it’s beneficial to your playing in anyway.

2. Transcribing seems to be the way to go. Practicing etudes and scales helps with technique, but playing along to recordings helps you develop your vocabulary. You can compare it to learning a language. We first learn to speak by emulating what we hear, so why not approach music the same way? Learning grammar and studying literature come later, so I would suggest that etudes and exercises fall behind transcription in priority.

3. Clean your instrument! Especially if you’re sick. I had the flu a few weeks ago and I made sure to soak my mouthpieces and reeds in mouthwash to keep the germs from spreading. I even threw out the reed I was using during that time just to be safe. I usually give my mouthpieces a thorough wash every few weeks, but I did it everyday while I was ill. Plus, cleaning and taking care of your instrument keeps it in better playing condition too!

4. Focus and handwork really pay off. I spent the last two weeks learning and memorizing hours of music for a performance. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to do it, but I did. I also learned a few new skills that I had been avoiding because the concepts behind them intimidated me. By working out a system to “tackle” learning new repertoire and working out different aspects of my playing, I was able to accomplish them. Even after just a week of practice there was a notable difference because I was focused on improving those skills during that time.