30 things to do when practise feels like an impossibility

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Anyone who has ever read a post on this blog will know that I struggle with avoidance of the one thing that means the most to me in my life: music practise. Well, yesterday I read two great articles (this one and this one) and then I wrote this list. I printed it out and stuck it to the wall. Maybe there’s something in it for other music students.

1. The usual: listening. Listen to a new piece for 10 minutes.

2. Listen to a piece you’re working on for 10 minutes.

3. Listen back to a recording of a lesson or performance practise and take notes.

4. Write down repertoire list and plan out how to prepare for upcoming concerts and events.

5. Search for dream repertoire – solo/ensemble.

6. Listen to a recording of Manuela Wiesler/Emmanuel Pahud/Felix Renggli/Sophie Cherrier and try to emulate something of their sound/vibrato/anything.

7. Do 3 rounds of sun salutes.

8. Do a mental rehearsal of a piece you’re working on – could just be a section or could be a whole piece.

9. Do a set of 21s (mental rehearsal technique) on a sticky section.

10. Set a timer and improvise for 10 minutes, noting down any fun sounds you find.

11. Simulation training: run around the block/do wall sits or hold a plank/do some of those crazy push-ups-plus-jump and then try centering and beginning a piece or a section.

12. Write down a list of everything you’re feeling bad about right now, then find something good for everything bad.

13. Write a short story about one of the pieces you’re playing.

14. Come up with an affirmation and say it to yourself 15 times.

15. Turn on Björk really loud and dance.

16. Make a Spotify playlist for your next long train trip, and download it on your phone for offline access.

17. Do 20 mins of rhythm practise. Nail 7s over 5s or 9s over 4s.

18. Write a progress report addressed to someone really inspiring, but don’t send it.

19. Write a note to your past self about how far you’ve come.

20. Write a note from your future self to your present self about how far you’ve come.

21. Go for a walk in the woods/by some water with your headphones in, listening to a big energetic symphony (Schumann 2, Brahms 3, Mahler 1).

22. Reimagine one of your pieces with different rhythms or spatial notation, try to feel tension carry through different rhythmic outcomes.

23. Sing the whole way through one of your pieces. If you’re unsure about any section go over it a few times.

24. Imagine the perfect snack that one of the composers of your pieces might eat and make it for yourself before playing through the work.

25. Practise mindfulness with Liam for 5/10 mins.

26. Breathe into your lower back while lying/sitting/standing in various positions.

27. Get all of the to-dos out of your head and onto paper. Then do just ten minutes practise and think of a reward before you try to tackle anything on the list.

28. Compile a bookmark folder of inspiring articles. Read three of these then see if you feel like practising.

29. Message Latham. Tell him you don’t feel like practising. He’ll send you good vibes.

30. Vomit-write 750 words. Get it all out of your head. Work it out after then, don’t let it all stew in your brain and give you brain poisoning.

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