How Many Hours a Day Should You Practice?

2 hours? 4 hours? 8 hours? 12 hours? How much is enough? Is there such a thing as practicing too much? Is there an optimal number of hours that one should practice? What Do Performers Say? Some of the great artists of the 20th century have shared their thoughts on these questions. I seem to recall reading an interview with Rubinstein years ago, in which he stated that nobody should have to practice more than four hours a day, explaining that if you needed to practice more than four hours a day,…


How to Make Performance Anxiety an Asset Instead of a Liability

We are typically led to believe that being "nervous" is a bad thing. Indeed, most of the advice I’ve ever heard has been aimed at reducing anxiety. Over the years, I tried everything I could to get rid of the unpleasant feelings associated with performance anxiety. I tried eating bananas, drinking chamomile tea, imagining the audience in their underwear, sleep deprivation, practicing more, taking various supplements, and even trying to convince myself that it didn't matter how I played. None of…


3 Reasons Why Beta Blockers Could Ultimately Hold You Back

3 Reasons Why Beta Blockers Could Ultimately Hold You Back

I've read compelling arguments both for and against the use of beta-blockers in the performing arts and can understand why many in the field have strong feelings both ways about their use (here's a great article from the NY Times, another one here, yet another here, and one more here). For the record, I'm not necessarily against the use of beta-blockers. I just don't think that most musicians need them. And worry that, like the ADHD medication Adderall, can be overused and lead to a kind of…


What is performance anxiety, really?

What Is Performance Anxiety, Really?

My favorite violinist growing up was Itzhak Perlman, so when I recently observed a Perlman master class, you can bet that I soaked up every bit of advice he had to offer. At one point he was asked for his thoughts on how best to deal with performance anxiety, and his answer (accompanied by his trademark humor) was to “know thy enemy.” In other words, to understand how your nerves affect you in advance, so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t in the practice room instead of trying to…