My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Learning a piece of music in 5 minutes a day - day 1

photo by Hannes Grobe,
from Wikimedia Commons
This is the second time in my life that I've found myself only having literally 5 minutes a day to practice my instrument and I think I'm starting to get the hang of it.  The first time was during my graduate school days at Eastman.  I had developed tenosynovitis in the process of preparing for my senior recital the previous year and found that I couldn't play for even a few minutes anymore.  It was a devastating time for me and someday, in another blog post, I'll go into details about that whole period of time.  But for now, I just want to focus on what I learned to do in response to the very little time I actually had to practice following such an injury because I quickly learned that if I wanted to get anything done at all I had delve into some major strategic thinking.  Analysis became crucial and having a plan for each practice session was imperative.  In a period of 5 minutes, wasting 30 seconds of your time (the time it takes to just run through your favorite phrase a couple of times) means wasting 10% of your entire practice time.  My school was very patient with my recovery but they didn't stop time for me - I still had to give a degree recital in spite of me being in the middle of my recovery.  I had to find a way to learn a recital's worth of music in very small increments of practice time.

A month of so ago, I fell down some stairs and sprained my left rest.  Ugh.  It was time to go through a similar process of healing.  After about one month, I'm starting to feel like I can start playing again but as with my college years, I have yet another performance to prepare for - a mini-recital for our daughter's kindergarten class.  I've picked some very do-able music considering where I am physically but as with my previous recovery, I'm having to figure out how to do it in short increments and in a way that will continue to allow my hand to heal.  I'm being reminded yet again of the necessity for careful planning, pattern recognition, and any other tool I can use to maximize every single second of my 5-minute practice sessions.

Since I talk about many of these issues a lot in this blog, I thought it might be interesting to videotape my 5-minute (give-or-take) practice sessions and to annotate the videos so that others can see into my thought processes regarding practicing.  I think they will show some of the things I preach a lot:
  • searching for patterns to speed up the process of learning
  • practicing without mistakes
  • practicing slowly
  • practicing with rhythms
  • practicing with a steady pulse with little, or preferably no, hesitation
  • stopping when I sense my brain is not relaxed and processing comfortably
  • practicing at least somewhat musically
  • using thoughtful repetition (always having my mind engaged & thinking about what I've been learning) 
I will try to post on a daily basis until I have this particular piece, Mussorgsky's "Ballet of the Chicks in their Shell" from Pictures at an Exhibition, learned.  Without further ado, here is day 1 of my 5 minutes a day practice series.

Other posts about practicing:
Tapping into the video game world when practicing
A lesson learned about practicing while gardening
Addicted to practicing
Look before you play: a sleuthful approach to learning music
Learning to "Leave Los Vegas" when it comes to practicing

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