This is one of those topics that is always talked about, but most people never really commit to the follow through. I'm not talking about time in the musical sense, although that is an important post for another day. I'm talking about the use of the limited amount of time we have in our day to day lives. Students, I'm especially looking at you right now!!
Let's face it, there are a million things that can get in the way of our daily practice and commitment to excellence. "I'm tired. The baby kept me up all night. I've got a hard show tonight, so I really want to save it for then. I had a really big paper or test or project." The reality of it is this: these are all excuses and I've used them.
This is a problem of the world we live in. Artistic goals take work and practice, but there are always things that need to get done for your day to day life. How do we rectify the time crunch of our daily obligations with the goals we set for ourselves? Time management. In your daily practice, you need to be deliberate and cover specific topics. You have to have a plan going into your practice session, otherwise you're wandering and wasting time. I wish I could take credit for this, but I heard it from Ray Sasaki at the University of Texas, Austin: the SAFARE principle:
If we think about each of those topics as a goal, we will have tackled what we need to be successful players. Every routine I've ever seen from a variety great teachers, covers these elements. What that shows us is the teacher/approach makes the difference, not the specific exercise. In my opinion, we can be very dogmatic about our exercises. "You don't do Colin?? You hack." "Bai Lin is overrated." "All you need is Arban, Clarke, and Schlossberg." Well that last one may be true, but I think you get the point. The bigger question is not what exercise you're doing, but that you are doing the exercise with a clear goal in your mind of how you want it to sound like and what it is your are accomplishing. Remember the adage: "Failing to plan, is planning to fail."
Take one hour a day to address your fundamentals. You can always do more and I welcome that initiative. Commit 10 minutes to each of those first 5 categories (leaving off endurance for now), resting as much as you play within the time frame. Then in your final 10 minutes, pick one aspect of your playing that wasn't very good today. Be honest. Maybe it was multiple tonguing in the mid to upper register or intervals. Give yourself and extra dose of the weakness. Make your weaknesses, your strengths. Work on what you don't do well.
Over the next few entries, I'll delve into each of the topics more specifically. In the meantime, be intentional, take a loose breath, and fire it up!