In my time as a musician, i’ve heard variation after variation of the phrase, ‘practice makes perfect’. Everything ranging from that, to, ‘repetition is the mother of skill’ and ‘perfect practice makes perfect’. I have to say that I always tended to lean towards the ‘perfect practice makes perfect’ side, which to be honest on the whole served me pretty well but as I sat down to play my first major clarinet concert in years I reflected upon my feelings throughout the preparation progress, ranging from sitting in the Principal chair after several years with only a handful of practice hours under my belt to performing solo again feeling weaker after a weekend of practice rather than stronger.
After two days of solid rehearsals it has to be said that I wasn’t feeling so fit for a concert and I felt a familiar feeling of when I was at college of being at the mercy of my physical weaknesses and wondering if they would expose me in public. I lived with that continual feeling for years….in every practice session, I felt weak…..bruised but it became the norm and I just assumed that I was a weak player and needed to work harder.
If this re-entry into the world of public performance has taught me anything, it is to be a better manager of the time that I spend practicing. Being a natural perfectionist, I really veer towards over-practicing and when I get a bee in my bonnet I just can’t stop playing which after a point becomes so detrimental to the physical strength of the muscles. My experiences in the last few years have taught me the importance of being a witness to myself, my thoughts and my behavious. I’m still sitting with this idea…..it’s a big shift for me. The idea that I can allow myself to stop my practice session when instinctively feels right rather than having to clock up a full 60 minutes (I used to time myself to the second) and that I can enjoy the feeling of partnership with myself and my body in understanding this journey rather than feeling like I need to fight my way through it and more specifically through myself. I guess its all just about re-framing the moment really……Let’s see how it goes 🙂