The Background, or Why I Wanted to Write About Practicing.
I am faced with a new challenge as a musician. This challenge has started me thinking about practicing in a different way. When I sat down to write this article, I realized that I needed first to explain where I am coming from. So if you are not interested in the story, and just want the tips, thoughts and links, that will be in Part Two, which will be along in a day or two.
There are advantages to learning an instrument as a child or teen. Children have time. They have someone to push them to practice. There are, (or used to be!), opportunities to be involved in an orchestra or band at school. When the parents are able to, there are, (from the students point of view), free private lessons. By the time the concerns of adult life kick in, you have six or more years of practicing as your background. That’s a lot of muscle memory!
It’s different when you start your music career as an adult. You have to fit in practice around the mundane: dishes, laundry, errands, yard work, spouse, a day job, family and more. That means making the most of your time.
I have been thinking a lot about this lately, because a few weeks ago my teacher said to me, “I think you should consider giving a full recital.” This probably won’t sound quite the same to many of you. If you had the privilege of studying your instrument as a college student you knew that you would have to give a recital. You could count on an audience of peers and family to come. You had a free hall to use, and most most of all, time to practice with practice rooms to work in. You also knew that this recital would be part of reaching your goal of a degree..so a big reward was waiting for you.
Don’t get me wrong! I am sympathetic to the fact you may be carrying, (or did carry), a full academic load, with other homework demands. You may have to work to support yourself, or add to the assistance from scholarships or family. You also most likely have an active social life. So you also have to manage your time to get in the practice.
I don’t have that kind of support. I’m older, and have less energy than I did 35 years ago. My hands ache often, and it takes me longer to learn than it did when I was college age. I have people around me who depend on me to keep the household running. Cooking, cleaning, errands, yardwork all take my limited time and energy.
My friends have busy lives, jobs and children. Even though they support me and enjoy when I perform at church, they aren’t likely to give up their precious free time to come sit for an hour of flute music. And this could get expensive! I will have to find a suitable hall, and likely pay for the rental. I will be paying an accompanist.
I am actually excited about the challenge..to play for an hour, learn the music, be the “star” of the show. I have given myself a year to prepare. And in spite of their busy lives, there are people I can count on to come. If it’s small enough, I can hold it in my own home.
So that’s the background. I am an adult student, with arthritis in my hands, and a busy life. I’ve been working at playing the flute for 8 years. I am going to pull this thing off, and along the way I am sure I will find other thoughts to share.
Practice is the foundation of being a good musician, and now I must find a way to work on many more pieces at one time. Up until now, it has been a single song, or a single movement of a larger work. I now have what amounts to 13 pieces to work on at the same time. This is in addition to a new song every 3 months for church, and my parts for TwtrSymphony.
That is what has led me to write about practicing. How am I going to do this? How can I keep track of it all? How can I use my limited time effectively? Those are the things to be addressed in Part Two.