'I just want to have fun with my music!' students say. Yet teachers know poor foundations hinder enjoyment. The overcommitted most need to learn time management. So how much practice is enough practice?
The great God ‘Technique' is a juggernaut that has demoralised many performers. Beethoven ridiculed the acrobats of the keyboard who 'prance up and down, putsch, putsch, putsch what does that mean? Nothing.'
Quality concentration reaps richer results than unfocused hours' weariness. Last minute, pressured practice can cause repetitive strain injury. Tell them:
• 'Practise what you can't play, instead of what you can.'
• 'Set short, medium and long-term goals, to enjoy solid results.'
Schumann said, 'It is very foolish to devote hours each day to mere mechanical practice in which neither head nor heart are concerned.' His own diary entry reveals: 'Overdone technical studies. Laming of my right hand.'
Chopin recommended no more than three hours' practice a day, fearing the stupor (‘abrutissement') of over-practice. String pedagogue Carl Flesch ridiculed some players' exaggerated preoccupation with mechanical repetition which 'develops either intelligent bunglers or brainless acrobats, with a desperate resemblance to factory toil... by which even players of great natural talent have been ruined artistically, and sometimes physically and spiritually as well. They lose connection with the essential thing in music, technique becomes an end in itself, the springs of the imagination run dry. Not until violin teachers realise that the development of the student's ability to think logically is one of their most important functions, and that the latter will learn more in half an hour of consciously directed study than in a week's mechanical practice, will the degenerate produced by the eight-hour labour day disappear.'
Wind and brass players know last-minute pressure risks sore lips. Clarinettist Don Westlake says 'My own view after a lifetime of over-practice is this: there's a great blue ocean out there, for swimming, fishing and sailing. There are beaches to walk on, children to rear and take on picnics. If you have to do more than, say, three hours' practice a day even in your formative years maybe, just maybe, you're looking in the wrong direction!'
(From Confident Music Performance http://www.ruthbonetti.com/booksmusic.php3)