Believe it or not, but you know what I hate?
Practicing!
Yeah, and you know what I hate even more than that?
All the sayings about practicing:

Practice makes perfect, no.
PERFECT practice makes perfect,
No! PERFECT practice makes Better.
Well, you know how you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!

But practicing is still something that I’m passionate about, because being a better practicer means being a better musician, or a better anything!

And well intentioned people have started talking about “Focused practicing”, or “Deliberate practicing” or even “Mindful practicing.” They don’t ever get down to the core of what Good practicing is. These are all very broad “mindsets” to be in, just like “slow” practicing is a style of practicing.

So I’d like to talk to you about the S.C.A.T. method of practicing, or rather, the four categories of good practicing.

Now, this isn’t anything new…I’m not that smart. This was something that was drilled into us by my teacher, who got it from his teacher, who got it from his teacher etc.

Good practicing is Scientific, Creative, and Artistic Time spent with your instrument.
Let’s break it down.

Scientific:

Scientific practicing is about figuring out what is working, what isn’t, and why it’s not. Take your emotions out of the picture, and be brutally objective.

The underlying principle here is that playing any instrument is a physical, and physics based activity. Every musical sound (good and bad) is produced because of a physical action: fingers stopping the string, bow angles on the string, air speed through the reed, the distance your fingers are moving above your instrument. It’s not mysterious, you can figure it out.

This type of practicing is also where we Test, Analyze, Adjust, and repeat.

*Tools:*
-Metronome
-Tuner
-Record yourself,
-Video yourself.
-Play for someone else
(Don’t forget Chocolate)

Creative:

Creative Practicing is about making a game out of practicing. What we want to do is dive into a trouble spot and practice that passage from every different angle.

Creative practicing is the opposite of playing from top to bottom. It’s about finding different ways to solve the problem by attacking that problem from multiple angles. We want to make our brain and fingers work harder than they’re ever going to have to in real time.

*Tools*
-Practicing Rhythms
-Isolating one hand
-Changing bowings
-Practicing from the End, forward
* See 17 Practice Tips

Artistic

Artistic Practicing is where you let your inner diva have control. Here is when you’re allowed to play through longer passages and enjoy shaping phrases, and experimenting with shapes and colors.

Artistic practicing isn’t the same as “Performance practice” though. Here is where we make Artistic decisions.

*Tools*
-Singing your part
-Practice from memory
-Practicing in the concert hall by yourself.
-Practicing in the dark

Time

Time is the 4th main area of Practicing.
Learning music takes time. Even the most efficient practicers are putting in about 3 or 4 hours every day. But don’t let this one quadrant become more important than the others.

Because, just checking into a practice room at 8am, and checking out at noon, isn’t the point. Yes, 1 hour of focused practicing can be just as good as 4 hours of distracted practicing. But it doesn’t mean you should only practice for 1 hour.

*Tools*
-45 min of practicing, 15 minute breaks is what I like. But 20min /10 min break might be more realistic for younger students.
-Set a timer for how long you plan to practice each piece. When the time goes off, move on (This forces you to be more focused about what you need to accomplish).
-1 hour every day is better than 5hours, 1 day a week.
-Cramming doesn’t really work in music.

These are the 4 pillars of good practicing, that we should all work on every day.
That reminds me, I should go practice now.

Be Well and Practice Well.
-Michael O’Gieblyn

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