The date is Saturday, February 23, 1991. Violinist Isaac Stern is in the midst of performing a Mozart concerto with the Israel Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta conducting, only to be interrupted by air raid sirens signaling a Scud missile attack.
The orchestra leaves the stage to put on protective gear; the audience remain in their seats wearing gas masks. Stern returns to the stage sans gas mask, and proceeds to play the Sarabande from Bach’s D minor Partita.
Most of us will never perform under conditions like this, but for a moment, just imagine.
How much we should practice every day is always a popular question. We google, we read books and interviews, and we ask around to find out how much the great artists practiced, how much our teachers practice, and how much our colleagues and fellow students practice.
Meanwhile, there is another question, perhaps even more important, that is rarely (if ever) asked.
When should we practice?
Why when matters
Most would agree that deliberate, thoughtful, and focused practice is a more effective use of our practice time than careless, unorganized, and mindless repetition.
How much time per day we should spend practicing for optimal performance is a popular point of discussion. But when was the last time you had a conversation with another musician about how much time per day we should spend sleeping for optimal performance?
According to sleep researchers such as James Maas of Cornell University, optimal mental and physical performance is not going to happen when we are in a sleep-deprived state.
The importance of goal-setting cannot be understated. Yet very few of us actually do it, often because we aren’t quite sure how to.
If you found these helpful, here are a few more principles for effective goal-setting.
Put it in writing
Our brain is designed for efficiency. It tries not to work any harder or store any more information than is necessary. I’m guessing that this has something to do with why we tend to be pretty forgetful.