Researchers have observed that expert and student musicians display profound differences in their approaches to learning new material, and those differences lead to huge disparities in performance quality.
Nonetheless, I’ve found that students can employ high-level practice strategies and then perform expertly.
But those practice strategies have to be learned.
Discovery, Repetition, Evaluation
Chapter 3 of The Musician’s Way, spells out a range of strategies for tackling new pieces.
The chapter starts off by defining three fundamental practice activities: discovery, repetition, and evaluation.
That is, when we pick up an unfamiliar piece, we first discover its expressive and technical ingredients; next, skillful repetition instills fluency; all the while, we evaluate the quality of our work.
To become adept practicers, then, we must develop expertise with discovery, repetition, and evaluation.
The six chapters that constitute Part I of The Musician’s Way are designed to help musicians do exactly that. Here’s a quick summary of what you’ll find in Chapter 3.
“Researchers have observed that expert and student musicians display profound differences in their approaches to learning new material, and those differences lead to huge disparities in performance quality.”
A 4-Step Path to Musical Mastery
The process that I recommend for starting on new material comprises four steps:
Starting New Material
1. Get an overview
2. Map an interpretation
3. Map the technique
4. Execute your map
Note that I emphasize building interpretive and technical awareness before executing. My aim is to enable musicians to be precise and creative from the outset of learning by assimilating a composition’s artistic and technical content.
Step 1: Get an Overview
To get an overview of a piece, I propose that we establish an aural model (typically by listening to recordings), research background information, and prepare a score.
Score preparation entails dividing a piece into sections, identifying difficulties, translating any text, and numbering measures.
Step 2: Map an Interpretation
To map an interpretation, I apply the Principles of Artistic Interpretation detailed in Chapter 2.
Among other things, I incorporate into this step the expressive vocalization of rhythms.
Step 3: Map the Technique
I provide separate guidelines for singers and instrumentalists to map the technical requirements of a composition.
For instrumentalists, technical mapping involves aligning fingerings, breaths, bowings, tonguings, and so forth with the interpretive map.
Step 4: Execute Your Map
With an interpretive/technical framework in place, I describe ways in which we can play or sing with ease while ensuring quality and efficiency.
“When we pick up an unfamiliar piece, we first discover its expressive and technical ingredients; next, skillful repetition instills fluency; all the while, we evaluate the quality of our work.”
The ensuing three chapters of Part I set down practice strategies to mature pieces to concert-ready level. Part II then covers the development of performance skills.
Ultimately, my objective is to outfit musicians with the tools they need to be independent artists who can absorb music quickly and perform fearlessly.
Preview and read reviews of The Musician’s Way at Amazon.com.
© 2009 Gerald Klickstein