Chapter 2 of The Musician’s Way spells out deep practice principles and provides frameworks that get fleshed out throughout the text. The individual sections are titled:
- Practicing Deeply
- Habits of Excellence
- Essentials of Artistic Interpretation
- Mental Imaging
- Warming Up
The chapter gets under way by describing what deep practice is and emphasizes that there is no one “correct” way for musicians to practice. That is, capable performers employ related principles of learning, but all of us customize our practice to fit our learning preferences and the styles of music that we perform.
What does it take for us to learn our material deeply and efficiently? The subsequent pages answer that question while equipping readers to find their own paths.
In the next two sections, I specify 7 habits that are essential to practice and performance and survey 7 essentials of musical interpretation.
After that, an examination of mental imaging shows how we musicians use mental maps to guide our performances; that section also features a keyboard exercise that introduces readers to the ways in which mental imaging can be applied in practice and performance.
The chapter concludes with six principles for warming up.
Applying the Concepts
I reinforce the material in Chapter 2 in both private lessons and group classes. For instance, in technique classes, we might mentally image scale patterns before executing them; then, as we play, I prompt students to image ahead so that they habitually lead their execution.
As another example, during performance classes, after students play, I often ask them to explain why they made certain interpretive decisions, and then I inquire as to how they plan to deepen their interpretations. I also ask them to delineate what practice strategies they’ll use to achieve their goals (they keep personal audio recorders running throughout this process).
By merging performances with verbal analysis, I aim to unite practice and performance and empower students to become independent thinkers who can trust their artistic intuition.
In particular, my group class allows me to teach with optimal efficiency and also enables students to discuss the content of The Musician’s Way. We typically spend 10 minutes per class on such discussion (most of the 150 minutes of class time is taken up by student performances and a technique/movement class).
Still, given time limits, these group interactions don’t allow me to discover enough about each student’s strengths and weaknesses. So, to help me obtain added insight into how thoroughly students are learning and applying the concepts in Chapter 2, I’ve put together the following quiz – students complete it in about 10 minutes, and then we go over the results in lessons. I email the quiz to the students one day before the class meets; they fill out a paper version during the class; it isn’t graded.
Quiz – Chapter 2 of The Musician’s Way
- What is one quality that you think differentiates deep learning from superficial learning?
- What is one thing that you’ll do this week to deepen the quality of your practice?
- List the seven Habits of Excellence described in The Musician’s Way.
- Name two ways in which you feel musicians’ practice habits might affect their performances.
- In which of the seven Habits of Excellence do you feel that you need the most improvement?
- List one step that you’ll take this week to bring about improvement in the area you mentioned in #5.
- Name one advantage of establishing interpretive ideas at the start of learning a new piece.
- What is one thing that you do at the outset of learning a new piece that helps you be more artistic and expressive in your practice?
- How can awareness of the form of a composition aid a musician in developing an interpretation?
- List two ways that mental imaging might be used by a musician?
- What are two ways that you employ mental imaging in your practice?
- In what way or ways do you find mental imaging to be challenging?
- The Musician’s Way describes six warm-up fundamentals; list at least two of them.
- Name two reasons why it’s important for musicians to warm up before practicing or performing.
- What are two activities that you typically include in a warm-up?
- List 1 or 2 reasons why warm-ups shouldn’t be overlong.
© 2009 Gerald Klickstein