|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