WORKSHOP #2: "Avoid the 'Full-time Job, No time to Practice' Blues!"
Time is always an issue if, like me, you work full-time or otherwise find your days jam-packed. As an organist, I've watched (in horror) my practice time shrink away over the years. I'd like to share with you some of the ways I've learned to make my practice sessions more efficient and productive.
1. Plan services in advance: I usually plan a month of services at a time. Planning a month at a time or, better, through Christmas or Easter, saves time and energy by consolidating your planning sessions. Plus, trying to decide what to play right before a service really stresses me out.
2. Don't plan during practice time: I schedule my service planning sessions at times that I would ordinarily be away from the organ. If I need to plan at the organ, I schedule extra sessions as needed but I never plan when I should be playing.
3. Announce your music: Posting my music on the church bulletin board or website and listing it in the program or bulletin forces me to plan in advance. While you're at it, including background on the composer, the period, or the piece is rewarding and informs listeners who may have enjoyed a particular prelude.
4. Make a List: Between practice sessions, I make a list of what I need to accomplish at the next session. By doing so, I no longer spend time during my sessions trying to remember what I need to practice; I just follow my list. In the end, I feel better knowing that I accomplished what I needed to do.
5. Prepare materials ahead of time. Once I have my list in hand, I know what materials I'll need for my next practice session. I usually collect and organize everything at the organ after my Sunday service or after my previous practice session. Good practice time isn't spent digging through piles of music.
6. Practice ahead: Planning in advance naturally leads to practicing in advance. If I begin practicing a piece far enough in advance, I spend less time working on it overall. Also, the pressure of brushing up on a piece at the last minute has a negative effect on my ability to absorb and retain the material. As a rule, I usually begin polishing a piece one or two weeks ahead of its scheduled performance. The exact length of time depends on the overall difficulty of the piece, my familiarity with it, and how much practice time I have scheduled.
Final Comments: Preparation is the key to creating more actual playing time during practice sessions. Additionally, planning in advance reduces stress levels during sessions, allowing you to accomplish more in less time. I'll talk more about how to streamline practice sessions in a future workshop but in the meantime, prepare to avoid the 'Full-time Job, No Time to Practice' Blues!
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