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.

A Third of the Way

On Monday I will be three and a half months through my Project 365 (practicing for at least an hour everyday for an entire year). I’ve practiced through the flu, a sinus infection, work, conferences, travel, and normal, healthy days. I’ve practiced in my car, at home, and in my hotel room.

That’s 102 straight days, 6760 minutes, 112.7 hours, at an average of 66.27 minutes per day. (If you’re wondering, I’m using askmeevery to track this.)

Some days it’s easy to pick up my sax and practice, others it’s a struggle, but I haven’t missed a day.

The hardest part is starting, but once my horn is out of the case and in my hands, I can play as long as I need to – in fact, I sometimes have to set a timer to remind myself to stop!

It’s still a bit early to tell how much practicing everyday has really done for my playing, but I can hear it in little ways and it’s enough to encourage me to keep going.

And I know this isn’t a groundbreaking revelation, but it’s a lot easier to love what you do if you feel confident when you’re doing it.

What do you love to do and how have you been making it a part of your life?

My 365 Project for 2013

project-365

Last year I started a 365 project with photos of one of the places I love most in the world – Paris. Unfortunately, I pulled the blog down where the pictures were hosting for various reasons. This year, I intended to do a 365 project with photos of France in general, but I decided to do something else instead.

My 365 Project for 2013 is to practice EVERY SINGLE DAY. I’ll chronicle my adventure here on the blog, through my YouTube channel, and through various social outlets such as Instagram/Flickr, Facebook and Twitter.

I’m pretty excited about this project even though I know it will be difficult! I can’t wait to see how much my playing changes over the next year.

If you’d like to follow my 365 project, I’ve listed my information below:

My Web Site | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram (or @sksaxgirl) | Flickr | YouTube | Google+

I hope you’ll join me on my journey! If you’re doing a 365 project this next year, I’d love to hear what it is!

Best,

Shannon