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Five Essential Practice Rules

0 Janet Horvath
5_essential_practice_rules Editor's Abstract

Practicing is something all we musicians have done since we were little kids, so we’re all experts, right? Not exactly. Whichever scale method, etude book, or repertoire you prefer during your daily practice time, Janet Horvath reminds you about the importance of taking care of your body as well. She presents five rules you should practice that will help prevent injuries while you practice.

Ann Drinan

One would think that when we practice at home on our own, injury risk is lower because we are in total control of what we do, what we play, and how we play it! Unfortunately though, we tend to get so involved that we lose track of time. We push ourselves into endless repetition, we try to cram, and we force ourselves to stay put and get through everything we have to prepare. We are ready to self-destruct to reach our goals. This is a recipe for disaster!

First, remember these five essential practice rules to avoid injury:

  1. WARM UP, first away from the instrument and then at the instrument.
  2. TAKE BREAKS at least 10 minutes per hour, and a day a week, as well as the odd minute to uncurl arms, let go of instruments, and get out of awkward positions and postures.
  3. VARY YOUR REPERTOIRE; one uses different muscles for different types of repertoire. Don’t get stuck on one passage or one work.
  4. INCREASE YOUR PRACTICE LOAD GRADUALLY, if you are coming from time off or lighter loads. Never launch right into heavy intense playing.
  5. REDUCE YOUR PRACTICE INTENSITY PRIOR TO PERFORMANCE. Avoid heavy practice on the day before and the day of a concert or audition. Practice away from the instrument. Mental preparation and visualizations are very effective.
Have a practice plan. Allocate your time wisely and budget time for warming up, cooling down, and a ten-minute break per hour of practicing. If you have a long work to learn, allow several days and learn a few pages a day. If you have several works to learn, make up a practice chart and categorize them according to their physical demands. Column 1 could have left-hand intensive works and column 2 right- hand intensive pieces. If they are mutually inclusive as they sometimes are, put slower, less challenging works in one column. By alternating from column to column, you will be able to budget your time to be sure you are covering all the works you need to learn. You will also ensure that you are working on selections with different challenges using different muscles of your body.

Learn to analyze and avoid mindless repetition. Our goal in practicing is to achieve ease of musical expression. Good practicing entails close observation of musical, technical, and physical details within a framework of a plan with concrete and achievable goals, without wearing ourselves out and sustaining an injury!

From Janet Horvath’s
Playing (less) Hurt – An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians www.playinglesshurt.com

© 2006, Janet Horvath

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