I’ll admit it: I’ve never really liked practicing. Not to say that I don’t do it. It’s just that at any given time, I’d rather do something else: shop, eat, check Facebook…Once in a newspaper interview, I was quoted as saying that practicing was like brushing my teeth — something I did every day as a necessity without questioning.
My childhood practice habits were pretty standard: my mom made me practice for two hours a day; my teacher told (begged?) me to practice slowly with the metronome. Practice time was always interrupting a Nancy Drew or Baby-sitters Club novel, so I tried to pass the hour as quickly as possible with some combination of dedicated practice and mindless repetition.
I wish more of my musical education emphasized how to practice instead of the duration of practice. The best teachers tell you how to practice instead of sending you home to with the vague order, “Work on it.” Practicing effectively is a challenge in and of itself! Once again, I must direct you to the Collaborative Piano blog for a great list of practicing ideas.
These days I’m still trying to master the art of practicing, and my practicing is much more goal-oriented (see also: Practicing Triage). I enjoy it much more than I did as a child, though I still wouldn’t list “practicing” on my list of fun things to do. Some days I have to con myself into practicing: I tell myself that I only have to work on a certain passage for a mere 20 minutes. Before I know it, one thing has led to another, and I’ve practiced much longer. This tactic works for house chores too!
I’ll leave you with a quote from my piano teacher at Juilliard: If you don’t practice for one day, you’ll know. If you don’t practice for two days, you and your teacher will know. If you don’t practice for three days, everyone will know.