Photo of Dr Leanna Manuel

Practice Room

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Or….Making Room For Practice

practice room for piano

What do you visualize when you hear the words practice room? I immediately see a small windowless room with a piano, bench, metronome, pencil, and a pile of music. The walls are a dull industrial greenish grey. In reality I never practiced piano in a room like this, but that is what pops into my mind.

What happens if you visualize a practice field? I see a football field that is only half-scale in size and in poor condition. What about practice time? Is it a clock ticking loudly? How do things change for you if you say room to practice? I see my brain with its attitudes, thoughts, and processes. More on that later.

Practice can be defined as:

  1. Perform an activity or skill repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency
  2. Carry out a particular activity, method, or custom habitually or regularly, or
  3. To train by repeated exercises

To practice something requires a certain attitude. Practice is NOT a performance, so there needs to be a willingness, or even an expectation, to make mistakes. As noted in the definitions above, it also includes an expectation for repetition. We’ve all probably heard, and lived, the phrase “use it or lose it.” That’s where the idea of practice being regular or habitual fits in. Did you take Spanish in high school? How much do you still remember if you don’t use it every day. I remember a few words and phrases, but have lost most of it. The same happened with Japanese.

practice soccer

Historically, I’ve not been a fan of practice. I was fearful of mistakes, treated practice like a performance, and didn’t particularly like drills or repetition. This was true for sports and piano. I wasn’t very good at waiting, and practice felt like waiting. I didn’t embrace the idea that something could be happening while I was practicing.

Recently (very recently) my attitude about practice has shifted. Now when I think of practice it is less about the room, field, or venue and more about making room in my brain and life. It is helpful to take a few extra minutes to set an intention for the practice. I ask myself, “what do I want to accomplish right now?” I also think through different strategies to reach the goal.

practice with metronome

Practice can be summed up by trying to do one thing better than I did it before. I wish I could give credit for that wisdom since I didn’t come up with in on my own, but I don’t know where I heard it. I recently found it scrawled on a piece of paper when I cleaned off my desk. That one line changed a very old attitude for me. Wow, am I thankful! Today….I am working on page turns. That will be my practice plan.


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