pianist practicing“Repetition inevitably begets habits.”
The Musician’s Way,
p. 52

Over the course of our lives, we musicians do a lot of repeating.

There’s standard repertoire that we perform for years, and we revisit exercises to keep our technical abilities strong.

On top of that, repetition drives our learning of fresh music.

How can we use repetition to enhance rather than mute our creativity?

Artistic Growth During Repetitive Practice

In sum, whatever the material, our repetitions should lead somewhere meaningful—to greater ease, higher beauty, and deeper feeling—and not to a dreary sameness where nothing changes.

The Aim of Repetition

The main purpose of repetition in practice is to form accurateeaseful habits so that we can be secure and artistic in performance.

Precise, expressive repetitions engender ease because they reinforce the mental pathways through which we direct our execution.

As those repetitions add up, the pathways become more inbuilt, and we expend less energy to attain control.

The Keys to Artistic Growth in Repetitive Practice

My basic strategy for infusing creativity into repetition unites habits of ease, accuracy, and expressiveness:

  1. Build ease and awareness with each recap.
  2. Cultivate a reserve of mental and physical capacity.
  3. Tap your surplus capacity to enhance your expressiveness.

For instance, after one pristine statement of a passage, for a second pass, we might fatten our tone and loosen our shoulders. For a third run, we could shore up those objectives while also smoothing out our legato and imaging ahead more vividly.The Musician's Way book cover

All the while, we stay open to shaping phrases in impromptu ways so that we instill both security and spontaneity.

“Our repetitions should lead somewhere meaningful – to greater ease, higher beauty, and deeper feeling.”

Over time, through artistic repetition, we practice being inventive and playful, and then our concerts resound with those same inspired traits.

See Part I of The Musician’s Way for comprehensive guidelines to establish artistic practice habits.

Related posts:
Accurate from the Start
Beautiful Repetition
Dialing Down the Effort Meter
A Different Kind of Slow Practice
The Ultimate Practice Shortcut

© 2016 Gerald Klickstein
Adapted from The Musician’s Way, p. 52-53
Photo © Minerva Studio, licensed from Shutterstock.com