The title may not be flashy or cute, but it is the question that has been on my mind quite a bit recently. So, what does practicing actually mean? I'm going to explore this topic in two separate blog posts. Below is part one...
Like many other beginner band students, I would give my parents a practice sheet to sign, which documented my time spent on the instrument each week. At the end of the semester, the person with the most hours received a prize. While we can learn by spending time devoted to playing music, should it really be about the amount of time spent? I'm not so sure. In a debate between quantity (number of minutes/hours spent) VS quality (goal oriented practice time spent), I believe that quality is neglected at the first twinge of frustration.
Most of my students have experienced the following scenario, especially in our first semester together:
[Student begins playing the first assigned etude or solo of the lesson, only to have me wave them off a few bars into the performance (yes, a lesson is a performance) after too many mistakes are made to ignore.]
Faske: (after a pause) "Did you practice this?"
Student nervously replies,"Yes, I did...."
Faske: "How much?"
Student: "Half an hour each day this past week."
Why the frown? The answer to 'how much did you practice?' isn't a number as much as it is a measure of thoroughness. As a teacher, nothing would make me happier than to hear "I was really having trouble with the descending wide interval slurs, so I spent lots of time on those so I could figure out why they were giving me trouble. That made everything easier!"
I understand why it doesn't happen. Students are conditioned by everything around them to check boxes and "get things done." it is easy for practicing to become just another thing on that list, but take a moment to consider that, except in rare circumstances, you had to audition on your instrument to join your college music program. Why not let it be the thing that helps carry you through your degree, as the challenges get tougher and more numerous? Don't lose your love for your instrument and let it be just another box to be checked.
Good luck!!! If you have questions, I am happy to help!