The Practice of Practice - Part 3

OK, so you've put in your 10,000 hours of practice and are a "working musician," but you don't always have time to practice. The good things is, as I stated before, you have a lot of both mental and muscle memory built up from all that previous practice. This gives you an advantage over any lack of time or place to practice.


Mental Practice

There are various books available on "The Inner Game of Tennis/Golf/Music/etc." These books all look at the mental side of sports/music. As a musician, you are able to practice mentally anytime and any place. Think of all the time you spend waiting in line, traveling, etc. Instead of just wasting it away, put it to positive use. 


  • Imagine yourself playing your instrument. Think of it as real as actually playing. Go through the same thoughts you would if you had your instrument in your hands.
  • Since your muscles already know how to make the moves, think of this as your brain practicing sending those moves to your muscles.
  • If it's not an annoyance for others, air drum, or drum on your lap and tap your feet. You can run through your same practice routines, but in miniature. The movements are basically the same.
  • If you have your practice materials/books with you, read through them. Get to know them inside out. Make notes. Understanding what we are playing is half the battle.

Filling the Well

Along with having downtime, bring materials to study beside what you are working on. Have a book with you on music/art/etc., that can help inspire you and give you new ideas & perspectives. While I'm a musician, I love to read about people in other artistic disciplines: writers, dancers, painters, etc. I often find ideas I can relate to my music, and sometimes find answers to questions I have. [BTW, this whole blog series was inspired by something I read on a cello blog!]I also like to read biographies of different artists in order to understand their lives and how it affected the art they created. 

I'm a very visual person, so I have found a lot of inspiration is photos/paintings/films: "How would this photo sound as music?" I also listen to music from around the world in all genres. I've often found ideas & inspiration in music without drums. Listen to the world around you: trains, cars, factories, nature, anything that is sound. I've gotten some great rhythms from water dripping and the clothes dryer.

I also have a big interest in science, physics, and numbers. I've found a lot of inspiration for my music there. The great thing about percussion, is that it encompasses just about everything. If you look for ideas & inspiration, you will find it.

  • Effortless brutality—that's what it's [drumming] all about.      Bill Bruford

Keep on practicing!

~ MB

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