How to Practice! Hints from Great Musicians

The lazy summer days are dreamily floating by, and fall is getting closer… you’re gearing up for a fresh start in school or work…and getting motivated to practice well this year. But how? What’s the formula for playing that music better than ever?

Actually there isn’t a formula. However, principles can be applied to achieve the most in your practice time, whether you’re grabbing your flute to play ten minutes before supper or have an hour to hone your piano skills. Let’s see what some of the great musicians have had to say about practicing:

Persistence and Humility: When the great cellist Pablo Casals was 84, he was asked why he still practiced 4 hours a day. He answered, “I keep practicing because I believe I am making progress.”

Mental Practice: Romantic period pianist and composer Franz Liszt advised, “Think it ten times, play it once.” He also noted the solitary nature of practicing: “Mournful and yet grand is the destiny of the artist.” (translated)

Repetition: Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, a formidable pianist, was practicing the piano when his friend came to the door. Hearing Rachmaninoff repeat the same two bars, the friend gave up and walked away after 200.

Interpretation: Create a work of art as you play. French composer Claude Debussy noted, “Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.”

Timing: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart commented on the value of rests: “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”

Expression: We play out of our souls, and to express what others feel. As singer/composer Billy Joel says, “Musicians want to be the loud voice for so many quiet hearts.”

Mastery: Perfect practice makes perfect. Trumpeter Duke Ellington strove for perfection, and he performed what he could play well: “The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.”

Self-Confidence: Own the piece you play! As the soulful singer Aretha Franklin expresses it, “Be your own artist, and always be confident in what you’re doing. If you’re not going to be confident, you might as well not be doing it.”

Now let’s go practice!

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