Practice as “Me Time”: Redefining Practicing, Part 3

The time you spend with your music is time you don’t have to spend anywhere else, on any other thing.  It’s “Me Time.”

Choosing that time in your day is the first thing. Just make sure that it’s YOU choosing it, and not your other responsibilities choosing it for you. Otherwise, those other responsibilities will hijack that time in your mind every chance they get.

If you’re getting that “ugh” feeling before practice, take a moment, sit down with a piece of paper, and just express all of your honest feelings about practicing, everything you hate and loathe about it, and let loose with all the self-doubt and distractions, without censorship, without thinking–let it all out, and just let the paper absorb them. Burn the paper for extra effect.

Alternately, use motion: wiggle and dance that “ugh” feeling out of your body until your body is nice and loose. Do some yoga stretches and breathing to relax. Let yourself empty the feeling completely, until there is nothing. (Sometimes I notice that the practice music itself will clear me, if I just begin and let everything else fall away.)

Only then, in that space of nothing, begin the music. This time exists for you and no one else–not your teacher, parents or peers. Just you. Nothing else has to happen at this time; turn the phone and computer off.  Your object is to enrich yourself. This is your time to make music. Have your practice be a meditation, a prayer or healing session. Have it be a chance to discover yourself.

Out and about somewhere? Study your score silently outside of your normal practice time.  You can do it anywhere–in a coffee shop, library or waiting room. Read the piece like a novel or poem. Tap the rhythm with just a soft fingertip. Feel yourself breathing through it without making a sound. Unhook your mind from the mere mechanics of it and you will get a totally different experience.

Of course, we can’t get away from drills and scales, so let’s put them in a new context: Practicing a scalar pattern actually has you participate in the Music of the Spheres and attune your own body and soul to all similar cycles that define our Universe. Steady the breath and work within your natural motion and way of being. Use it as a meditation or mantra. Embody it, let your body ring with the sound. Let the exercise work on you, rather than you work on it. And as your grow in your mastery of it, have its execution be a single, fluid motion, rather than separate beads on a strand. Delight in the whole as much as the parts.

Complete your practice session with reflection. A journal is good for this. What value did you get out of it? What progress did you make? What will you need to work on for the future? What questions can you bring to your teacher? How can you make your experience better?

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