I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but I have fallen in love with practicing as an adult. When I was younger, it was not so! As a child, I remember my mom hiding chocolate behind the pages of my music to entice me to practice on my own, to no avail. I rarely practiced my assigned pieces outside of lessons or orchestra rehearsal, and it wasn't until I decided to major in music when my teacher opened my eyes to the art of practicing. As an adult, now I realize how powerful mindful practice can be and how difficult it can be to carve out that alone time.
The spark that really lit my fire ten years ago came from reading Daniel Levitin's book, This Is Your Brain on Music. His chapter on expertise explains the often cited 10,000 hours rule and asserts that no musician has achieved mastery without massive practice at their art. Somehow, putting a quantifiable number on the idea of mastery was so freeing to me - instead of questioning my innate musical ability, I refocused my efforts on the quality and quantity of my practice. From that day on, I began to chart my practice hours and set a goal of roughly 1000 hours per year. Some years I have fallen very short, due to my teaching load or moves for my husband's work, but some years I have come closer. In 2017, I was able to log 960 hours, and I hope to practice even more this year!
Kindling for my fire seems to be there every time I have really needed it. This past year, my favorite motivation has come from audio books and podcasts that I can listen to while I am running or driving around town. Nathan Cole's new podcast with his wife Akiko called, Stand Partners For Life, chronicles their musical growth from childhood to raising their own children all while leading the LA Philharmonic's first violin section. Another bounty of positive motivation can be found on the Per Service podcast, where four friends support each other through the trials and tribulations of musical auditions and contracting life.
To kindle your own fire, check out these motivational books that can turn up the heat in your practice life:
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Practice of Practice: How to Boost Your Musical Skills by Jonathan Harnum
Practice: 250 Step by Step Practice Methods for the Violin by Simon Fischer
The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness by Gerald Klickstein
I'm still on the hunt for kindling for our practice fires! Please let me know if you find a gem not listed here.
And for now, Happy Practicing!!