Breaking the Routine

As musicians, many of us live and die by bizarre routines.  Sometimes it’s practice routines, pre-gig or post-gig routines, or performance routines.  We depend upon them for our sanity and self-confidence.  After all, we are creatures of habit.  I am no exception, or I guess I should say WAS no exception.

When I was in grad school, I had a pretty rigid practice routine.  The routine helped me stay on schedule for my weekly lessons and break up my sessions in a way that was physically and mentally healthy.  Unfortunately, post grad-school me hasn’t seen a solid practice routine in awhile.  I will have good weeks and bad weeks, and I have found it difficult to motivate myself.  Not having to meet the demands of a weekly piano lesson, I have let my routine go and have struggled finding repertoire that makes me want to get back in my routine.  *sigh* I have let myself go.

On another note, over the holidays, I decided it was time to brush up on some vocal technique.  I was a voice major in college and sing with a chorus on a weekly basis now, but I have started to lose some of the technique I worked so hard to hone while in school.  Having not felt the inspiration in piano lately, I decided that the holidays were a great time to get friendly with my voice again.  The results have been fantastic, as I have started vocalizing again and working on some performance material, as well.  Revisiting my old friend provided some creative inspiration that I desperately needed.

I made a few other changes this holiday season, as well.  I allowed myself the unimaginable…a whole 3 days off in a row!  After 6 months of working 4 jobs, I was on mental overload and really needed a break to do real people things.  I literally just sat on the couch for 3 days.  I will amend that statement by saying that there was some cleaning and family time in between, but I mostly just turned my brain off and detoxed.  After 3 days of contributing nothing to society, the obvious result was extreme boredom.  The unexpected side-effect was my overwhelming desire to use my brain!  I really, really wanted to practice, and not just because I felt guilty for not doing so.

I think that the point here is fairly obvious, but it warrants restating.  Inspiration does not always have to come from the routine.  Inspiration should beget a routine.  I think, too often, we musicians rely on our chosen path to be our hobby, career, passion, and routine.  It leaves no room for outside influence.  Whereas us pianists can be pretty hard-core about our practice routines, it is important to realize that conveying a musical, emotional message requires us to be real people…not just mechanics at a machine.

My students know upon walking in the door each week that I will immediately know whether or not they have practiced and exactly how much.  They also know that a rough week here and there will not go unnoticed, but it is allowed from time to time.  Life happens…. and thank God, because who would want to listen to us play if it didn’t?

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