The Parts of Practice
I was talking with a new student the other day about how to structure a productive and enjoyable practice session and it struck me that I should also share this very useful info with my readers! Having a framework for your practice will help you stay organized and help you meet your goals. I have devolved mine over the years based on the general structure of lessons I had back in my university days. Dr. Carrol McLaughlin had a lovely book made up every year for our harp lessons. It included an inspirational quote for each week, all sorts of practice charts and trackers, as well as some staff lines for musical notation. These books were very useful and helped me to create structure in my own practice that has been a mainstay in my life ever since. It has served me well.
I am going to share my structure with you!
First thing. Collect all the things you need. Make sure your pencils are sharp and that you have all the scores you need. Take a few deep breaths as you settle in. I like to have a cup of coffee with me as well, or a glass of water.
Warm-ups/technique. We musicians need to warm up our small muscles just like an athlete has to warm up their big ones. Not doing so can lead to energy. I recommend keeping your warm-ups rather simple, stretching towards more complex things as you continue your practice session.
Explore. Take a moment and play through something familiar or take a moment to just improvise and enjoy the sound of the harp. This opens the door for compositional ideas as well. If you have any ideas, go ahead, take a moment and jot them down.
What Needs Attention. Time to work on what needs your attention now. Have an orchestra concert coming up? Take a moment with your parts. Recital on the horizon? Start with your biggest concerns and get through them first while your mind is fresh and motivated.
Work on New Notes. Do you have projects further out that need some prep work? I find I need to sit with a piece awhile to really feel comfortable with it. So, if you have the time and energy work ahead of your self towards your future goals.
Perform. Have anything performance ready? Give it a run through here are the end of the session. Make notes of anything that needs attention for practice in the what needs attention part of your next practice session.
In all of these things, work diligently, calmly, without harshness or hurry. Nurture your practice instead of treating it like a plague visited upon you. It is what feeds the performer and the music and allows you to flourish as an artist.
Kimberly Houser Taylor