How many hours do you practice at a stretch?
During my freshman year in college, a senior named Becky accompanied the Male Glee Club. Fairly often, as most people were headed to dinner, she would stay behind in the music building to practice. No amount of cajoling would change her resolve. This would occur most often when she needed to learn music on short notice.
At crunch times, Becky would say, “I’m going to lock myself in the practice room and stay there til I can play it.” What do you think? Good idea?
Artur Rubinstein wrote that did the same thing. He loved his busy social life, and hated to practice when he was young. While staying in the villa of one friend or another, he would let practicing slide until two weeks before a series of concerts.
With the pressure building, Rubinstein would lock himself in the music room and learn his program. But there was an added incentive! He talked about having a bowl of cherries on one side of the music rack, chocolates on the other. 🙂
Practicing for long periods with no breaks leads to problems, even more when stress is present. A few that come to mind are brain and muscle fatigue, and inviting injury.
Long-distance haulers have mandatory breaks written into their contracts. Why don’t we add a similar mandate to our practicing contracts with ourselves?
Do you know when you need a break?
Many people don’t. Do you:
- lose track of time when you practice?
- push in order to “get through” and “save time?”
- stop eating regular meals?
- practice beyond your ability to listen effectively?
- find mindless repetition creeping in?
I have seen myself doing all of these far too often, both in practicing and in computer work.
All of us are most alert at the beginning of a session. Even without considering the issues of eating and being vulnerable to injury, we will obviously accomplish much more if we remain alert.
How can we notice?
If you “check out” while practicing, as I do, there are some small things you can do to help yourself out:
- write down your start time
- set a timer or an alarm OR
- develop a habit of checking the clock
- take break before you need one ~ don’t let it go.
- make sure to take a break once every hour
Remember that the small structures of our hands and wrists were not built for multiple repetitions. They need time off in order to recover from practicing.
So even if it’s only getting a glass of water, take a break! Your body and mind, the learning process, and your neighbors will thank you.