Daily Dose

The two components that most accurately characterize a quality musician are the ability to perform music on sight and a high level of technical facility. Neglecting a daily dose of attention to development in these areas could be characterized as a tacit refusal to improve one’s musicianship. Fortunately, each area is remarkably easy to make part of a regular routine!

Performing music on sight, commonly referred to as sight-reading, is improved with a consistent and intentional approach to playing music that is new to you. Consistent, of course, means daily. Every time you play your instrument, you should interact with new music. Intentional implies a plan for this sight-reading time. The music should be chosen carefully, not in a haphazard manner. Select music that is accessible for successful performance on site. Incorporate music that includes dynamics and articulation marks, and that encompasses various ranges or technical components that would be beneficial to your musical development but is sensitive to your current facility. Also look for music that varies in style and pieces that open the door to decisions about musicality and phrasing. Length is far less critical than frequency and the focus should always be on accuracy and musicality over tempo.

Technical development must also be daily and intentional. Consideration should be given both to technical demands of current repertoire and future musical ambitions. Ideally, your personal facility should exceed most technical demands of your selected performance repertoire. Passages that happen to be more technically challenging or exceed your technical facility can be a great starting point for creating repertoire-based exercises. Daily attention to these piece-specific exercises as part of a regular warm-up routine is far more effective than simple reps of the passage within the body of your practice. Beyond techniques demanded for current repertoire, a technical development routine can involve a specific method or be based on a collection of sources. Of primary importance in either case is a process of self-evaluation to identify areas of technical deficiency and make a specific plan for improvement. Both during and after the plan is executed, the process of self-evaluation is repeated to find new areas of technical focus. The goal should always be to make your weakness into a strength and then find a new weakness to address.

To be a better musician, commit to a daily dose of sight-reading and technical development. The regular investment will pay off mightily over time if appropriately made a priority and done with thoughtful intent!