The Musician's Way Book CoverThis is the first of periodic posts in which I summarize how I use The Musician’s Way in my studio teaching.

Here, I focus on Chapter 1.

My class of guitar students at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts includes graduate and undergraduate students as well as some secondary-level students enrolled in our residential high school program.

I primarily meet with students in weekly 60-minute individual lessons, periodic ensemble coachings, and in a weekly 2.5-hour group class that incorporates student performances, discussion, and a 30-minute technique class. I aim to efficiently integrate concepts from the book into all of those instructional settings.

Teaching Chapter 1 of The Musician’s Way

At the outset of the school year, I assigned all of my students to read Chapter 1, “Getting Organized,” and be prepared to discuss it at our first group class. Chapter 1 mainly covers these subjects:

Defining Practice
Creating a Practice Environment
The Five Practice Zones
Planning Your Practice
Scheduling Practice Sessions
Choosing New Material

At our initial class, after a brief discussion, I then distributed a blank practice schedule that I downloaded from and asked the students to mark the times when they practice each day and then bring the schedule to their individual lessons. I also instructed them to read the first two sections of Chapter 2 for our next class meeting. Total time: 10 minutes.

The rest of the 150-minute class was taken up with orientation information, student performances, and, for the new students, stage deportment practice (see Chapter 9, pages 171-177).

At lessons, I asked each student how and when they were practicing. With their schedules in front of us, we talked about the ways in which they found practicing on a strict schedule difficult or easy, and I asked them to articulate what practice habits they wanted to reinforce in the coming week.

I next presented most of the students with a blank practice sheet – also downloaded from – that we filled in throughout the lesson as practice goals became established (see p. 8-9). Total time: 5-8 minutes.

The remainder of each lesson then centered on actual playing and dealt with specific issues.

For our second group class, I prepared a written quiz covering Chapter 1 (shown below). I’ll send the quiz questions to the students about 24 hours before the class; the quiz won’t be graded.

After completing the quiz, the students will return their papers to me. We’ll then go over selected questions, discuss the first two sections of Chapter 2, and then I’ll assign additional reading.

I’ll give the quizzes back to students in their lessons, retaining copies for my files. Expected total class time: 30 minutes. The rest of the class will comprise student performances, guitar technique class, and a review of the stage deportment skills practiced the preceding week.

Quiz: Chapter 1 of The Musician’s Way

C = Convergent question / D = Divergent question

C: What is the definition of practice found in The Musician’s Way?
D: How might a musician’s awareness of such a definition affect the musician’s practice?

C: List the primary items that you use when practicing.
C: Note any items that your practice environment lacks and how you intend to obtain those items.
C: What are at least two things that the book advises musicians to do to turn a practice space into a ‘creative temple’?
D: How do the spaces where you practice impact you both positively and negatively?
D: What steps might you take to practice effectively in almost any environment?

C: What are the names of the five practice zones?
C: How are the zones derived from the book’s definition of practice?
D: In what ways might the notion of practice zones impact your practice habits?

C: What are two strategies that the book recommends for keeping track of practice aims?
D: What strategies for planning your practice might be most useful to you?

C: Pages 11-13 delve into five guidelines for scheduling practice sessions – name two or more of them.
D: How might knowledge of scheduling guidelines, or the lack of that knowledge, play out in musicians’ lives?

C: What are the three factors that The Musician’s Way advises musicians to weigh when choosing new material?
D: List three ways that you’d like to be different as a musician at the conclusion of this semester?
D: List three or more of your long-term goals as a musician.
D: Describe three or more things you’ll do this week in support of achieving your short and long-term musical goals.

C: The book looks at five benefits of self-recording – name two or more of them.
D: How does/might self-recording affect your musical development?

© 2009 Gerald Klickstein