On Practicing Less

My practice history has been like this:

2013 = 1 hour a day. 
2014 = 2 hours a day.
2015 = 3 hours a day.
2016 =  4 hours a day, and usually actually a whopping 5...
2017 = maximum of 2 hours EVERY OTHER DAY.

I'll save a long story and just say that practicing less was basically against my will and certainly not a choice I would've made for myself if I could help it. Practicing 5 hours a day certainly had me see a lot of improvement in my playing, technique, ability to learn difficult parts relatively quickly, among many other musical things. And I loved doing it (especially for someone who was not pursuing classical music and competitions as a career path), so to practice a dramatic amount less was a little shocking to say the least.

However, here are some things I've learned over the last months that, although counterintuitive, are very real nonetheless.

1. My playing is far more natural.

This is the first time in 7 years that my technique has ever actually felt solid and effective. With less time on my hands, I am unable to force myself into a technical mold that isn't natural for me, and as a result, my technique gravitates toward being more organic and just easier. I have more bow control, and better left hand facilities because I only had to time to grow them intuitively.

2. It's easier to play and I'm more comfortable with my instrument.

This is kind of a result of number 1. Since my technique is more relaxed, it's easier to play. I'm able to know precisely how my bow will respond to a certain landing onto a string because my technique is intuitive; I'm able to mesh with my instrument better because I'm not trying to predict how an unnatural technique will respond, I'm predicting how a natural technique will respond. The latter is so much easier.

3. I am forced to practice more efficiently and to quickly find the most effective way to accomplish something.

Self explanatory. I have to pick and choose my battles, and make sure I win the ones I choose... as fast as possible. It's a really good life skill in general...

4. I am better at sightreading.

Weird I know, but when you don't have enough time to practice the music, yet have an important rehearsal anyway, you learn very quickly to sightread amazingly well on the spot...

5. I am less emotionally attached to practicing.

The first month I wasn't practicing 5 hours a day, I was freaking out because I thought practicing less was going to be terrible. I thought my technique would degrade faster than I-have-no-idea-what, and that I wouldn't be able to play difficult music any more. I thought I absolute HAD to practice that much. I had so much anxiety because--as I realized--I very much thought that the importance of my entire existence was dependent on how much I practiced. I was wrong. Now, I don't find it emotionally necessary to practice that much, and I can finally--after like, years and years--not freak out if I don't practice multiple hours a day. Not freaking out is good.

6. I enjoy it even more.

Enough said. While I did most certainly enjoy practicing millions and millions of hours, I enjoy it even more now, because it feels more like a privilege and less like a duty.

Let me say again: I am not any worse a player, actually, in many ways, I play better than before. Also, I'm not saying that if you practice an hour a day, you should cut it down to 15 minutes, there is kind of still a certain amount of practice needed to be effective. But if you're a practice-aholic and pushing 3-5 hours like I was, it might be worth a bit to try it...

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