Guest post by Dan Leeman, a music educator and software consultant from Fargo, North Dakota. He taught middle school band and went on to found the Davies High School band program in 2011. Dan’s new site, notestem.com, combines his love of music, education, and technology. While the site is in its infancy, it will be home to music tools and resources that will be released in the coming months.
The impacts of Coronavirus and social distancing are being felt all around the world. Music teachers and students alike are wrestling with the effects on the music-making process, both logistically and emotionally.
One of the greatest opportunities during this phase of social distancing is to establish strong practice routines. Here are some tips to help make the most of your practice time.
Connect with Your Emotions
We often find ourselves in “hurry-up” mode. We’re practicing for an upcoming concert, recital, or audition, and we find ourselves in preparation for an event ahead of us. While that can be motivating, we may lose focus on the music itself.
Music and artistry have long been used to help people express pain, anxiety, and grief during periods of war and hardship.
Olivier Messiaen composed Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time) as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany during WWII. The piece was performed alongside three of his fellow prisoners outside on a freezing night in front of a crowded audience of prisoners and guards alike. “Never have I been listened to with such attention and such understanding,” Messiaen recalled.
Music can be a powerful tool: take time to compose, listen, practice, improvise or otherwise interact with your music in a way that allows you to express yourself emotionally.
Develop a Routine
It can be easy to fall into a bit of disarray when world events rock our sense of normalcy.
While our instinct may be to shed all of our daily routines in favor of bingeing Netflix in our pajamas, research shows that routines can be positive for our productivity and mental health.
Routine can be found in both the structure of our practice session: when, where, how long, and how frequent, as well as what our practice consists of.
By building practice into your daily routine, you’ll also keep your skills sharp for when we’re able to re-enter communal music-making.
Be Aware of Boundaries
While practicing our instruments may bring us joy and comfort, loud sounds in shared environments can be taxing for others.
If you live with your family or roommates, make sure to discuss shared expectations for when and where would be a good time to practice that is least disturbing to others.
Especially during this period of home confinement, people are scrambling to set up Zoom meetings, work, and learn remotely,
By offering to practice during a time that is most beneficial for everyone, you’re helping problem-solve while identifying your musical routine as something of importance to you.
Play Something You Enjoy
Depending on where you’re at on your musical journey, you may feel like your practice sessions are controlled by your circumstances.
Sometimes in high school and college I felt like I was always preparing for one audition or another.
Long tones, breathing exercises, lyrical etude, technical exercise… It was important, but it felt monotonous.
There are so many scenarios that require prescriptive practice. But given that nearly all concerts and public performances have been canceled or put on hold, this is your time to practice something purely for fun!
So whether it’s a favorite Disney classic, improv over some funky chord changes, transcribing a chart you heard on the radio, or simply pulling out a comforting piece from years past, this is your time.