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Six Hidden Practice Skills of Expert Musicians


organist practicing - practice skills of expert musicians“Deep practice integrates all that you are – your body, mind, and spirit.”
The Musician’s Wayp. 20

Expert musicians possess numerous abilities that are apparent on stage – rich tone, fluent execution, dramatic interpretation, secure memory, and so forth.

But the building blocks of high-level performance are assembled in the practice studio, hidden from the eyes and ears of the public.

In this post, I spotlight six of those building blocks – that is, expert practice skills – pointing to other relevant articles on this blog.

Aspiring musicians who adopt these practice techniques maximize their growth as artists. See The Musician’s Way for additional strategies that empower musicians to become commanding performers.

“The building blocks of high-level performance are assembled in the practice studio, hidden from the eyes and ears of the public.”

6 Hidden Practice Skills of Expert Musicians

1. Artistic Repetition

Accomplished musicians shrewdly use repetition to master the technical and artistic ingredients of compositions. Every reiteration of a passage in practice has a purpose, and experts use strategies such as those outlined in the following articles to ensure that each repetition fosters greater ease, higher beauty, and deeper feeling.

2. Feeling Ahead

Perhaps the most hidden of all musical skills, feeling ahead involves sensing musical gestures before we execute them. It’s an essential component of music making that underpins ease and confidence. Whether reading from score or performing from memory, expert musicians fully take in what’s coming next, instilling that habit in practice.

3. Solving Problems

Student musicians sometimes skip over problem spots during practice. Expert musicians, by comparison, tackle problems with gusto, stopping in practice whenever a passage makes them stumble. They then dissect the elements of tricky passages, mastering each one to make difficult phrases feel easy.

4. Handling Mistakes

Mistakes in practice call for responses that differ profoundly from how we deal with them in performance. In practice, we treat mistakes like problems – stopping to resolve their causes and then reiterating larger phrases to ensure fluency. On the other hand, when we flub in performance, we keep going. Expert musicians practice in ways that enable them to repair mistakes in practice and minimize them in performance.

5. Cultivating Ease

Ease of execution originates in the brain and manifests in physical actions. Expert musicians learn their music so thoroughly that they can be accurate and expressive with the lightest mental touch. Concurrently, they maintain mental focus, release unwanted tension, and minimize effort, as the following articles describe.

6. Reinforcing Performance Habits

The habits required to perform securely and artistically become second nature only when those habits are steadfastly employed in practice. When experts practice, they adopt the identical mental, physical, and emotional habits they’ll need when on stage, ensuring that they can easily focus, feel ahead, shape phrases, manage stress, and so forth no matter what performance situations they face.

For detailed music practice techniques suited to both solo and ensemble practice, see Part I of The Musician’s Way

© 2023 Gerald Klickstein
Photo via Pixabay
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