My Fourth Best Practice Hack


I used to shirk preparing my music.

This is because score prep is one of my least favorite musical activities, right behind music stand assembly and disassembly.  I resent printing out my music, dislike hole punching and taping, abhor cutting and pasting, and lack enthusiasm for binder assembly. And don’t even get me started on numbering my measures.

As a result, I used to postpone this chore as long as possible, often until hours before the gig.  This ultimately was a time waster- practicing with an unprepared score or part is simply less efficient than practicing from something that is performance ready.

Then, a few years ago, I discovered a simple cognitive trick that allowed me embrace (or at least tolerate) all the musical chores I’d been squirming out of.

I called them practice.  

See, I’m pretty good at getting myself to practice.  On the “Big Five” personality traits, I score the highest on conscientiousness. I may not be able to practice as much as I did when I was young and unencumbered by adult obligations (anyone else spend hours tracking down a gutter company this week?), but it’s an extremely rare day that I don’t practice at all, and I prioritize it in my schedule.

By calling music preparation “practice,” I suddenly had time for it, because I’d blocked out time to practice.  I also found myself resenting it less- instead of having to take time I didn’t have for a dreaded chore, I was fulfilling my obligation to practice.  And the time it took away from more traditional practice was time I ultimately got back by not having to shuffle through stacks of paper hunting for my music, or negotiate reading from too many pages at once.

I’ve since done the same thing with recorder maintenance (another hated chore), music organization, and directed listening, which is something I don’t hate, but which tended to get pushed to the back burner.  

In short, by making my definition of practice more elastic, I am able to accomplish more.

And you know what, these tasks really are practice. They are activities I undertake to improve my playing, and what is practice if not that?

If your challenge is getting yourself into the practice room in the first place, this hack may not work for you.  But it’s been a game changer for me, and for several of my students.  

So happy practicing, whatever form it takes! (And my best, second-best, and third-best practice hacks? Try here, here, and here.)

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© 2016 Anne Timberlake