Day 26, Quality and Quantity

Hours spent: Practicing: 2, In a Lesson: 1, Rehearsing: 3.  No I didn’t practice by myself for four hours today but I was playing clarinet for six.  I think I need to do a little revamping of my standards for what counts as practice.  Lessons should obviously count because the time spent there is either active performance or experimentation / growth in my playing, which is what I strive for in the practice room.  Rehearsals can be dicey- did I personally play for three hours straight of the same quality that I would on my own?  No.  But it’s taxing in different ways- I don’t get to work on blending into a section or fine tuning intonation with other people I don’t even have eye contact with when I’m alone in my practice room. These are skills I want to build and I value the time I spend doing it.

I wouldn’t be bringing this up if I didn’t feel too exhausted to do more practice tonight.  Even the second afternoon hour was a bit of a push because I had spent a lot of concentration in rehearsal (not to mention my good reeds).  I could keep blaming this on the altitude (it takes six weeks to completely adjust, this is week two), or the day after day rigorous schedule (not gonna rule that out) but mostly I think I need to expand the scope of “practice” to include lessons and at least 75% of rehearsal time.  I don’t switch off my brain when I rehearse, I’m actively thinking about things discussed in lessons and my own observations.

Anyway outside of my own practicing I’ve been thinking about the way everybody practices.  Some people need a year to learn a concerto, others need three months.  A friend here at Aspen told me that she knows someone (faculty) who claims he can learn any piece in two hours.  How do we spend our time in these little rooms with a chair and a stand?  Is the way I spend 30 minutes more or less worthwhile than the way you spend 30 minutes?  Maybe.  No two people will accomplish the same things in the same time, even if it were something easily quantifiable like notes instead of just “tone.”  I know some people who swear by the idea of practicing 6 or 8 or (someone even said 14, but honestly I don’t think we have the same definition of “practicing”) hours a day.  It’s not realistic for me nor would it be productive.

Sort of related to this, I started reading a highly-recommended book, The Talent Code.  I only just started and I can already tell I’m going to love it.  It’s about practicing and skill acquisition.  I’m sure it’ll be mentioned more in my blog as I get through more of it.  The quick and dirty is that smarter practice will take you further than just more practice.

Does it take you the same amount of time to accomplish the same task every day?  I don’t mean “playing a scale” I mean learning and adjusting.  Like what I said yesterday: if I’m playing my warm-ups in the exact same way every day, it’s a waste of my time.


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