|FW:||What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?|
|Daniel Tong:||If you don’t love music unconditionally then it’s not the job for you.|
|There’s always more to learn.|
|Be an avid student and have respect for the musicians of the past as well as the present.|
|Forget your instrument – it’s just a means to an end.|
|Every note means something.|
|Always be open.|
|Nothing kills music more quickly than dogma.|
|Music doesn’t speak for itself. It speaks through us, the performers.|
1. Goals reduce your current happiness. When you’re working toward a goal, you are essentially saying, “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.”
The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.”
SOLUTION: Commit to a process, not a goal. Choosing a goal puts a huge burden on your shoulders. Can you imagine if I had made it my goal to write two books this year? Just writing that sentence stresses me out.
But we do this to ourselves all the time. We place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight or to succeed in business or to write a best-selling novel. Instead, you can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals.
When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time."
Great post from The Bulletproof Musician on the positive ways you can compare yourself to others.
1. “Vicarious experiences” can help if you compare yourself to someone who is in some way similar to you.
2. Be careful you’re not comparing your worst moments with someone else’s best moments.
3. Focus on the process used to get there, not the outcomes.
4. Take action: focus, prepare, be positive.
"Have you ever been frustrated by the fact that you can take a difficult passage, work on it for a bit, get it sounding pretty good, but return to the practice room the next day to discover that you’re back at square 1? That nothing has really changed? And despite how good it sounded yesterday, now it sounds just as bad as it did before you worked on it?"
Dr. Christine Carter talks about “random practice schedules” vs. “blocked practice schedules” and offers some practical advice on how to improve the effectiveness of your practice routine.
— Stephen Hough, in International Piano magazine (Nov/Dec 2013)
Researchers at St Andrews University have uncovered evidence that musicians have sharper minds and are able to pick up mistakes and fix them quicker than the rest of the population.
And they believe their findings suggest that learning to play a musical instrument could protect against the decline in mental abilities through age or illness.
The study, published in the latest edition of the journal Neuropsychologia, states that the findings demonstrate the potential for “far-reaching benefits” of musical activity on mental and physical well-being.
The study was led by St Andrews psychologist Dr Ines Jentzsch, who compared the cognitive ability of amateur musicians versus non-musicians in performing simple mental tasks.
She explained that the most striking difference she found lay in the ability of musicians to recognise and correct mistakes.
They also responded faster than those with little or no musical training, with no loss in accuracy.
Dr Jentzsch, a Reader in the university’s School of Psychology and Neuroscience, said that this was perhaps not surprising since musicians learn to be constantly aware of their performance, but to not be overly affected by mistakes.
She said: “Our study shows that even moderate levels of musical activity can benefit brain functioning. Our findings could have important implications as the processes involved are amongst the first to be affected by aging, as well as a number of mental illnesses such as depression.
“The research suggests that musical activity could be used as an effective intervention to slow, stop or even reverse age- or illness-related decline in mental functioning.”
(via Slipped Disc)
Now that I am back in my practice season, I have noticed this aptly named law more frequently. For those unfamiliar, The Law of Diminishing Returns is when the amount of energy expended is greater than the return investment. As much I as would like to believe that the more time I put into my craft (seeking those golden 10,000 hours), the better I become, this is only true dependent on the quality of my practice sessions.
There are times when I am intensely motivated to practice for hours on end, feeling like I should spend every waking moment near the piano, but I typically cannot sustain this mode for a very long period of time without suffering some serious burnout. Unfortunately the period of time that I can truly consider efficient (for myself) happens to peak around 2-3 hours, of which I can say I get negative feedback after 4 hours. In one sitting, I can only practice efficiently for up to 1.5 to 2 hours maximum (with 5 minute breaks every half hour), if I want more practice time, I need to take at least a half hour break before I return to the piano. Lately I have been a big proponent of breaking my sessions up three times a day, a breakfast, lunch and dinner, if you will.
The two limitations involved are mental and physical; I find the mental aspect can be tapped much more than the physical, exceeding well beyond 4 hours (of course, time will be needed to ‘recharge’), whereas the physical limit can vary depending on the person (and for me, wears out much quicker than mental). When these two processes are not working in symbiosis, I must take appropriate action to either get in the right mental state (sleep, nutrition, etc.) or physical (stretching, warming up, etc.).
A factor to consider is the difference between playing and practicing (as stressed in previous posts), but to put it simply, practicing is when the intensity of the session is increased (deliberate and goal based). Practicing requires that the mental state and physical state are optimal to produce results, in my opinion, playing can usually rely on one more than the other.
All in all, it takes some time to find the limits for each person, but well worth it when discover, allowing the person to work to their strengths. I find it very liberating to have an actual time limit, it makes me focus more on keeping my sessions consistent, and reduces stress by having to break my goals into smaller chunks over a period of time. The challenge then becomes not “How many hours can I practice,” but, “How can accomplish what I need to in less than 4 hours?”
“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
― Bruce Lee
My partner (officerofmonkeyproblems) caught me practicing with my new “motivational” metronome.
— Peter Jancewicz, “Productive Practicing: The hidden part of the iceberg,” Clavier Companion, Sept/Oct 2013