Okay so, I don’t generally share this publicly, but I’ve never been one to have a regular practice routine unless I have a performance that I’m preparing for. Don’t tell my students!!
I used to get down on myself and wonder why I had trouble getting motivated to do the thing that I love so much. I would write in my journal at night about how much better of a musician I would be if I played every single day for an hour. I would plan out my week and schedule in an hour of daily practice time, just like my uncle and my dad. When the time came I would experience myself drifting off into other “more urgent” things before I got to practice. Then the whole day would go by and I’d be too tired, so I’d decide that tomorrow my daily practice habit would begin.
This continued year after year.
And now here I am, a music educator and performer with a successful private lesson studio, and I expect my students to practice regularly. What a hypocrite.
But recently I had an epiphany. Maybe this is just an excuse for all my years of lazy practice habits. But bear with me here.
Making music is not about “practicing”. Making music, at least in my life, has become a daily habit of engaging with and experiencing music in the world around me. Regardless of how often I practice, I have a deep understanding of what music is, and how it relates to the world around me. Here are a few ways that I make or experience music on a daily basis:
1. Listen. Every morning when I wake up the first thing I hear is birds. And I listen to them. I hear them calling to each other, the shrill, the gentle, the lilting, the imitating sounds. It’s a sub conscious morning meditation that sets the tone for the way I experience music as the hours of my day unfold.
2. Read books outloud. I have small children who read books every night before bed. When I read outloud it’s not about just reading the words on the page, it’s about the story that’s being told. I tell stories with a musical, exagerrated inflection that portrays emotion – the shaky scared girl in the woods, the gruff masculine wolf, the gentle reassuring grandma. The sound of an axe swinging through the air – SWOOSH. As my voice changes into new inflections my kids can really feel the story.
3. Create harmony in my environment. Though this doesn’t seem like a musical experience, it actually is. Harmony is an essential element of music that can be expressed in non-musical ways because it refers to interconnectedness. I am very sensitive to dissonant energies in my life. I try to clear the air with people I have a disconnect with and I’m uncomfortable when there is tension around me. You can also connect the concept of harmony to colors in a palette when selecting paint for your walls, or when communicating across cultural barriers during travel. Constantly seeking levels of harmony allows me to stay in tune with my self and my environment.
4. Honor the rhythms of my body. Our clocks are organized in groups of 12 (much like a chromatic scale! Coincidence? I think not). My body is on a clock as well – I wake naturally at a certain time every morning. I get hungry at certain times. My mind is sharpest at certain times. My creativity kicks in at certain times. I get tired at certain times. And this all repeats day after day. When I listen to the rhythm of my body and actually DO what my body is telling me I should do at any given time, I am rested, have healthy eating habits, and I’m productive. However… It is VERY hard to be this in tune when you have small children whose own natural rhythms have to take presidence over yours. So don’t be hard on yourself if this takes awhile to kick in. There was once a time when I had my own daily clock down. And I. Felt. Awesome. I’ll get back to it one day.
I find that this musical understanding I have gives me a bit of an edge so when I DO practice, I feel more deeply connected o the music I’m playing and my audience connects more deeply as well. I’m less concerned with technique and notes on the page, and more concerned with the feeling that I radiate through the music.
We can all deepen our understanding of music and how it relates to the world around us. I hope this post gives you ideas for staying connected to your musical self. Even if you don’t practice every day or don’t even play an instrument.
Welp, I’m performing next week so… I really should go practice now.