“To get to authenticity, you really keep going down to the bone, to the honesty and the inevitability of something.”
–Meredith Monk, singer and composer (The Musician’s Way, p. 19)

A music student performs a new piece, but numerous things go awry – technical glitches, rhythmic hiccups, memory slips.

He’s puzzled because he believed that he had practiced the music thoroughly. What’s the student missing?

Although performance problems can stem from many causes, including anxiety and a lack of practice skills, they also occur when musicians aren’t honest with themselves.

That is, when the musicians know how to prepare for concerts but don’t face up to all of the detailed problems that need to be solved if they’re to perform at their best.

I believe that honesty is essential to creativity, so here are 4 ways I’ve found that help rising musicians practice honestly.

1. Notice
Honest noticing involves calm awareness. We might play or sing an excerpt at a manageable tempo, and coolly observe whether our execution meets our standards. With our senses alert and mind open, we register whether our lines flow or are marred by interruptions. We detect everything.

2. Accept
An honest approach to practice allows us to accept errors and difficulties rather than dread then. We can then solve problems without physical or emotional tension.

3. Explore
Practice is endlessly fascinating because it involves coming in contact with new repertoire and the leading edge of our abilities. By noticing and accepting, we can then let go of worry and tackle problems with gusto, much like we’d take pleasure in touring a scenic landscape.

4. Record
It’s hard to imagine a device more honest than a recorder. By recording ourselves and then objectively evaluating our recordings, we can be sure that we’ll shine on stage. In my own practice, I record both small sections and complete practice performances. I jot notes as I listen, and then I enjoy refining my playing.

Part I of The Musician’s Way abounds with strategies that boost honesty and authenticity in practice.

Related posts
Awareness, focus, concentration
Beautiful repetition
Mindful musicianship
Performance-oriented practice
Self-evaluation: The key to artful practice

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
Photo licensed from Shutterstock.com

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