Monday, February 25, 2008

Practicing or Playing?

Which one do you do? Did you even know there is a difference? How much time should be spent on each one? These are very valid questions, and certainly worth looking at to get the most out of your time.

In my opinion, "practicing" is time spent working on songs that need work. You are in the process of learning them. You have issues such as:
1) Memorization
2) Speed
3) Left-hand clarity and/or dexterity
4) Right-hand fingering or bowing
and so on...

"Playing" is the time you spend having fun with the songs you already know pretty well and/or maintaining what you already know.

As your reportoire increases, it becomes impossible to play through every song you know every time you play, so you must spend some time practicing and some time playing.

Generally, I work on (practice) several songs at the same time. I spend the majority of my time practicing. I may practice the same song, or part of the same song, over and over again 100 times in one practice session. If I'm memorizing something, then I like to do it while I watch the news on television. I work on memorizing a small portion of the song during the commercial breaks (with the TV muted), and then I watch the news when it comes back on. This works very well for me because I have to keep trying to remember what I did during the last commercial break. Since I have to keep dredging up what I just tried to memorize 10 minutes ago, I stand a much better chance of remembering it the next day.

If I'm having an especially bad practice session, then I might turn it into a playing session. At least I get some playing in that way and I can maintain some of the songs that I already know fairly well. It also keeps me from getting too upset with myself and not enjoying something that I usually enjoy very much.

If you are just starting to learn an instrument, then it is important to try to practice every day. Even if it's just for a short period of time. The most important day to practice is the same day as your lesson (if you are taking lessons). When you can come home after a lesson and go through what you learned in the lesson, you will find that you can remember much better what you are supposed to do. That will stand true for all of your practice for the remainder of the week, too. Several shorter practice sessions are better than one long one. For instance, practicing 15 minutes every day of the week is better than practicing for one hour one day a week. Your mind will be fresher, things will feel more natural, and your memory will be better. If you can't do this, then do whatever you CAN and don't make yourself feel bad about it. If your progress is slow, so what! At least it is progress however slow it may be! If you enjoy what you are doing, that is all that matters.

So, keep playing and keep practicing!

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