Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Practice, Practice, Practice

The old joke goes something like this: A tourist in New York City asks a man on the street, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" The man responds, "Practice, practice, practice."

That's sound wisdom for any artist or creative (and I believe that all of us are creative, because we were made in the image of the Great Creator). Practice.

So we sit in front of a music stand with our instrument, or at the pallet with our brushes, or with pen in hand and we practice.

But we need to think beyond traditional practice and look for creative ways to improve our craft. The writer looks at people and in their mind creates a "character" based on what they see. The painter always has their sketchbook handy for when they stumble upon a scene.

I remember as a Jr. High student, learning music in my Beginning Band class. My director was teaching us about intervals, and the relationship between notes. Wanting to master this fundamental, I would listen for sounds in "life" (the hum of a motor, a blaring car horn, the test pattern of a TV station), and practice humming intervals while identifying them in my mind.

To this day I still hum intervals when I hear a sustained tone. I think I'm being creative. My wife thinks I'm odd.

And then there are scales, the lifeblood of instrumental music. Wanting to use more than just my "band time" and my "personal practice time", I would (as a trumpet player) practice the fingering of the various scales by tapping them out on any surface my hand was on. (For you brass players reading this, when I took up the French horn in high school, I had to practice tapping with my left hand also!)

Again, I still find myself unconsciously moving my fingers in the sequence of a scale. I've noticed guitar players working on fingerings using their forearm as a fret board (a tell-tale sign you are a guitar player).

We should never stop practicing, even when we've "arrived". Practicing should be as much a part of our creativity as the performance. To this day, the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma regularly practices, sometimes five hours a day.

May I encourage all of us to continue to practice. Whether it be purposeful or casual, in preparation for an event or simply to hone your craft, practice. Your goal may not be Carnegie Hall, but the investment is worth the effort.

Question: What do you do to practice your craft/art? Share your thoughts below in comments.
 
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