the skill of practicing

from evy's notebook

I wish more people shared their music goals and practice techniques. In the music lessons and classes I've taken throughout my life, I've had a lot formal education about how to play music but surprisingly little formal education about how to practice music. If I practiced as much as teachers wanted me to, I'd probably spend at least three times as many hours developing my skills on my own than with a teacher. So why didn't my teachers spend very long teaching me how to use that time?

Part of productive practice is setting intentions. What do I want to get better at? I want to be able to make specific and achievable goals (both small and longer-term) and be able to measure my progress towards them. Teachers have the experience to know what kinds of goals a student could set - things like note accuracy, phrasing, tone color, reducing tension, or various instrument-specific techniques - things that inexperienced students might not consider on their own. I think it's pretty common for teachers to help with some music goal-setting, since they bring attention to areas for improvement in their lessons. However, I don't think it's common for teachers to give students much autonomy in choosing what they are most interested in working on.

But once I have some goals, how do I efficiently achieve them? I've developed a toolbox of music practice techniques over many years, but I have no memories of instructor or ensemble directors spending much time discussing most of these things. Here are a few of them, without even getting into any instrument-specific technique:

There's also lot of things I want to get better at, things I'm still learning how to practice. I recently researched how to practice sight-reading piano (mostly to be able to play singer's parts when leading choir rehearsals) and found this great resource. I've been interested in learning jazz music for years, and possibly one reason I haven't gotten into it is a lack of clear plan for how I can learn and practice skills for jazz music.

There are many questions I still have about how to practice. Some of them might have answers on the internet, and some are questions only I can answer for myself.

I can watch musicians perform, and I can even watch musicians work with teachers public lessons (called masterclasses). But it's rare for me to be able to watch a a skilled musician practice their instrument and hear their thoughts on what they choose to work and why. Are there Twitch livestreams for music practice? The skill of iterating on something is so valuable, and I wish I had more insight into how other people do this - I'm sure that this information would dramatically improve not only my musical skill but also my relationship to music-making.