December 16, 2020

How to Practice: Strategy 5 - A Lasting Impression

A positive lasting impression is what most music majors need to stay motivated. Seems like most professional music students and educators want to continue to push through practice sessions. Consequently, frustration and agony seem to recur due to the underachievement of meeting studio professor expectations. Professional musicians can certainly inspire and reignite the spark to perform but sometimes a practice regiment needs to be reworked.

Why Can't I End Strong?

Audience members often remember the beginning and end of a musical work. Often the middle section of a piece does not easily get remembered unless there is something that contrasts significantly with the rest of the piece. What does this mean to music students who slave away practicing? Consequently, this means that special emphasis in preparing the beginnings and ends of pieces should be considered as they are the most likely to be remembered. This is not to say the middle of a piece is not important but rather the beginnings and endings of a piece should possess lagniappe.

Even more is that most students regularly start from the top of the piece and play it often. As a result, the beginning of the piece tends to have a better musical flow, phrasing, breathing and just tends to sound cleaner.

How to Practice: Strategy 5 - A Lasting Impression

In contrast, the ending is played less and has less opportunity to develop musically. My question is why would you want the last thing your audience hears to be the least prepared? Even if the beginning of the piece is stellar, audience members may interpret a lack-luster ending as the musician's inability, as the performer, to have the energy or motivation to commit to the entire piece? How can we change this interpretation?

lasting impression

Practice Strategy

When considering how to leave a positive lasting impression, for your audience, learn your music backward. What I mean by this is to start from the end of the piece and clean small chunks - such as a two measure segment. Similarly, after you have cleaned the last two measures, practice the 3rd and 4th to the last measure.

Above all, be sure to clean notes, rhythms, dynamics, and other musical components. The next step would be to combine and clean the last four measures, focusing on slightly more musical concepts like the phrasing.

A visualized example of this practice strategy, taken from a quote by the late Winston S. Churchill "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

  • 1: "that counts."
  • 2: "to continue that counts."
  • 3: "the courage to continue that counts."
  • 4: "it is the courage to continue that counts."
  • 5: "not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
  • 6: "failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
  • 7: "not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
  • 8: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
Last Impression

In conclusion, by using the lasting impression practice strategy performers will learn how to play the end of their pieces more in-depth and with better understanding. Due to the reinforced synaptic practice connections being made less conscious thought is required. In addition, the mind has the ability to focus on other things. As a result, musical components such as phrasing, dynamics, timing, and direction will set the performer up to leave a positive lasting impression.

References

Kageyama, N. (2013, June 24). A Better Way to Practice. Retrieved from https://lifehacker.com/5939374/a-better-way-to-practice

Kish, D. (2017). Practicing with purpose: An indispensable resource to increase musical proficiency: Featuring 50 practice techniques!Delray Beach, FL: Meredith Music Publications.

Tsioulcas, A. (2013, September 03). 10 Easy Ways To Optimize Your Music Practice. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2013/09/03/216906386/10-easy-ways-to-optimize-your-music-practice



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