“In order to be creative you have to know how to prepare to be creative.”
-Twyla Tharp, choreographer (The Creative Habit, p. 9)

Even though musical expertise results from persistent practice, it can be tough for us musicians to stick to our practice schedules over the span of months and years.

What’s more, when we arrive at the practice studio, it isn’t always easy for us to make inspired music.

I believe that all of us can be consistently creative, but the key to our doing so lies in our ability to prepare for our practice sessions.

Free Downloads that Aid Practice
Part I of The Musician’s Way helps performers organize their practice, cultivate spontaneity, ignite motivation, and more.

In tandem, MusiciansWay.com provides free downloads that aid practice planning and evaluation.

In this post, I describe some of those downloads and summarize how they can promote creativity. (Click on the numbered headings to view each download.)

1. Practice Sheet
A practice sheet allows us to concisely document what material we’ll work on (see pages 6-10 of The Musician’s Way). We can then glance at the sheet and instantly pinpoint our practice aims.

The sheet removes the burden of having to remember what to practice and thereby frees up mental bandwidth that we can tap for creative purposes. Plus, by eyeballing the sheet periodically throughout a busy day, we can keep our musical goals in mind.

2. Practice Schedule
When we specify practice times on a schedule (whether in print or online), it helps us prioritize our creative work and structure our lives in accordance with the rhythms of our practice.

I advise musicians to practice multiple times per day, if possible, and in shorter sessions that enhance learning and avert fatigue.

3. Practice Log
If we intend to change our practice patterns, it’s often useful to note what, when, and how we practice each day. If you’ve never before used a practice log, try logging for a week, and see what you learn. You might also try this Practice Check Sheet.

Documenting our work reveals our habits, exposes strengths and weaknesses, and stimulates fresh thinking.

4. Practice Graph
We can use this graph to plot the quantity or quality of our practice over a 30-day period. Along with or in place of a log, it too can illuminate aspects of our work habits and inspire us to practice regularly.

The downloads page at MusiciansWay.com includes an example of one student’s completed graph.

5. Performance Preparation Timeline
When a major performance lies on the horizon, a timeline of goals is a potent tool to clarify practice objectives, counter avoidance, and foster a feeling of accomplishment.

*  *  *

Music critic Ernest Newman wrote, “The great composer does not set to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working.”

For composers and performers alike, sensible planning and consistent practice keep creativity flowing and empower us to be creative on cue.

© 2010 Gerald Klickstein

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