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30 May 2018

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Solitary Confinement - The Downfall of a Musician

The majority of Music Students spend over 80% of their time playing their instrument practicing in solitary

According to a recent survey I conducted on my Youtube Channel - The majority of Music Students spend over 80% of their time playing their instrument practising in solitary, that is, not to an audience or with others e.g. in ensembles/lessons. IF THIS IS YOU - read on....

It is true, that to be a good musician you need to spend many hours practicing. However, this very act in itself can be the downfall of a musician. We can spend so much time perfecting our technique or a particular piece, that we can lose sight of the reason we started studying music in the first place. Ask yourself now, "Why did I start learning an instrument? Just to perfect a certain piece and pass exams or to share the talent I have with others?"

Even thinking about that aspect of taking exams, it is interesting to note that the ABRSM criteria for a distinction on your pieces mentions, 
Vivid communication of character and style
Your aim is not to just play the notes correctly, but to convey the composer's intentions, to communicate emotion through musicality and this can be much harder when practicing on your own. I can speak from personal experience, that when I am playing to an audience, the senses are heightened, I feel a connection with the audience and that gift of communicating emotions to them through my instrument is a rare opportunity that many people on this planet will never have.

Added to this, practising on your own for long periods, can have negative psychological effects. You could liken it to working in a dead-end job where no-one seems to notice what you do and this mundane monotony can find it's way into your playing. On the other hand, playing well to an audience gives you the performer a reward. To use our work analogy again, wouldn't you feel more motivated in your job if someone acknowledged your efforts, praised the work that you do. As a musician, I guarantee you, sharing your music with others, will make you a better musician. 

"But I need to practice", I hear you say, "and I don't have the opportunity to play to others everyday." Well, I have an interesting exercise for you. Find a piece that you consider is up to performing standard and make an audio recording of it, trying to communicate the composer's intentions as if playing to a live audience. Then listen to your recording and be your own audience. You will be surprised at what you hear, that you never noticed when you were playing. Then, I have another proposition for you. I have opened a new discussion post on the MusicOnlineUK Forum HERE on this blog, where you can upload and share with the community, your recording and also listen to other people's recordings on which you could give feedback. It will be like having a virtual audience, complete with the "reward of sharing" that I mentioned earlier.

Of course, nothing can beat the experience of a real live audience, but if such opportunities don't come your way that often, I would encourage you make use of this community and not just keep your music confined to the privacy of a practice room.

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