Meri’s Musical Musings

A conscious approach to music study

Posted on: March 22, 2009

The idea of approaching music consciously or with mindfulness is an idea that can help musicians of all levels and instruments improve their playing. This idea consists of at least four aspects: paying attention to technique, becoming aware of what’s happening in the other parts, writing down how you intend to improve your playing, as well as how you will work on that, and finding your own solutions to solving your playing problems.

 One aspect of the conscious approach to music is paying attention to your technique and correcting it when necessary. Not just during lessons, but also during practice sessions, rehearsals, and concerts.

 For example, a string player learns about a change in holding the bow which enables a better sound. This musician only focusses on it during lessons. Outside of the lesson, the student plays with poor bowing habits. Such a student may take a long time to correct the poor playing habit, if it is corrected at all. If the student had paid attention to technique in musical situations outside of the lesson, it would take much less time to correct poor playing habits.

 To show that the idea of paying attention to technique outside of lessons works, here is a personal story. My clarinet instructor and I worked on problems with air and embouchure very early in my lessons. He showed me what I was doing with my air and embouchure, showed me a better way of playing, and had me do it in the way he showed me, which took several attempts until I got the hang of it. About two months later, to my teacher’s amazement, it was clear the new way had been established. He told me it took him two years to pick up the same concept. Why did it take me a very short time to pick up the idea? I decided to pay attention to my technique outside of lessons, correcting my technique when necessary, such as during practice sessions, rehearsals with the two bands I played with, and a woodwind quintet.

 A second aspect of the conscious approach to music is becoming aware of what’s happening in the other parts while your part is going on. When the conductor is working with another section of the ensemble, listen carefully to what is happening in in that part. An example of this is when your part has the counter-melody, and the melody is in a different instrument. This enables a better understanding of how your part fits with the part being played, or will provide sound cues before an entrance from a long rest that you may miscount.

 A third aspect of the conscious approach to music is having specific things you want to accomplish. How do you want to improve your playing? How do you plan to improve your playing? Write down your short- and long-term goals and what you plan to work on in each individual practice session while keeping the goals in mind.

 A fourth aspect of the conscious approach to music is finding your own solutions to problems, such as by reading about ways to solve them, finding out whether they work for you, and creating exercises to focus on particular playing problems. One way of doing this is by using common patterns in music such as scales to focus on particular playing problems, such as the motion of the fingers.

 There are shortcuts to becoming a good musician. It’s a matter of how you approach the learning of playing an instrument. If done with mindlessness, one may never become a good musician. If done with focus, one can improve their playing greatly in a short period of time.

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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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