Practicing One Thing Is Practicing Everything - Part Two
Compacting Your Practicing
By Jamie Andreas
It took me about ten minutes to bring that passage from no tempo, to slow tempo, to "up tempo", or performance speed. Now, it must be understood that when I first started working on it, I had to spend a few days ONLY DOING NO TEMPO PRACTICE, along with posing on the stress points. Only after a few days of building into my muscles the correct feelings and reactions, did I test myself by trying a slow tempo.
At this point in the practice process, the metronome comes in. The metronome is used here as a TEST of the efficacy and integrity of our previous practice. In other words, if I can't do it at the slow tempo of 60 at 4 clicks, PERFECTLY, then I have not done enough no tempo and posing, or I have not done it properly, (which means the bottom of my practice is not deep enough).
After a few days, I tried slow tempo practice, and the passage was holding up. I was getting all the notes, and I was comfortable, and everything looked and sounded good. Now, at this point, I begin a "work up".
I see how far I can push it. After about six days of practice on the passage (devoting maybe 15 minutes a day to this passage), I find I can do it comfortably at 60, one lick per note. That's good, I am almost halfway there!
Here is where I begin to "compact my practice". I begin to leave out some of the intermediate speeds during my work up. I move the metronome by larger increments. I rely on the muscle memory that I have already built in during the first phase of practice to work for me. So, here is what I do:
Every day, I follow the first two steps of the Basic Practice Approach. I think, and review what I have previously discovered about this passage, so that I can apply it to today's practice. Then, and this is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT, I re-visit the bottom of my practice, and make it deeper if I can. In other words, I do powerful, no tempo practice on the passage. This is key.
Most people, in learning music, stop doing their slow practice on a passage after they feel they know it. They begin to only play it fast. If you only play your music fast, it will, after awhile, begin to "deteriorate". You must always clean, renew, and rebuild the reflexes and muscle memory by visiting the bottom of your practice. It is the intermediate speeds that can be condensed and compacted in order to save time as the amount of material to be covered gets larger.
This particular passage I was using as an example was in a piece I had planned to play at the workshop. So, since I knew I was going to perform it, I had in the last few days "compacted my practice" of the passage. I did good no tempo practice on it, and then my workup consisted simply of playing it at 60 4 clicks, then 2 clicks, then 1 click, then eighth notes. I did the same at 80, and I was good to go!
All of that only took about two minutes on the passage, not a bad investment of time to make sure I didn't mess up that passage. And guess what, I didn't! I am happy to say the passage held up nicely when I played it.
Copyright 2010 Jamie Andreas. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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