The Art of Practicing

I frequent many of the bookstores in my area, but I like to give the Barnes and Noble by my house my custom. This particular Barnes and Noble has a cozy little cafe’ that I sometimes like to go to and do my homework at–-good coffee (or rather, lattes in my case) and the occasional friendly and attractive college student(s). Tuesday evening found me sitting in the relatively empty cafe’, struggling to come up with an outline for a speech that I had absolutely no interest in giving (a personal experience speech, gag), I gave it up as a bad job and decided to do a bit of browsing.
As I was looking at a few musical dictionaries that I couldn’t afford, I came across a book that grabbed my attention. It was by Madeline Bruser and called The Art of Practicing. On the cover was a snapshot of a hand caressing a piano key. Scanning the cover with my eyes, I thought to myself,
“Ah, well, this is probably targeted towards pianists–certainly not other instrumentalists, much less bass players.”
My eyes then happened to finally see that the foreword to the book was by the esteemed violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin. Knowing a little bit about Mr. Menuhin, I decided it was worth a few minutes sacrifice of thumbing through before returning to my (affordable!) musical dictionary hunt.I ended up taking the book back with me to my table in the cafe. Casting my astronomy and math books an anxious look, knowing full well I had homework due the next day and practicing to do when I got home, I read the first two chapters of Ms. Bruser’s book.


The first two chapters were full of stuff that I totally related to. For example, take this small paragraph that introduces the second chapter,

“Although we start out inspired to practice, sooner or late we begin to feel frustrated. We can’t get the results we want and we don’t know why. We feel as though we are working too hard, yet it seems we must not be working hard enough. We start to doubt our ability. The piece that once felt fresh begins to feel stale.”

-Madeline Bruser, The Art of Practicing, pg. 10

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt this way with excerpts. Why can’t I get this Mozart 40 spicatto stroke right? Why is this taking so long? Why even bother?! Forget this…I’m playing Koussevitzsky!

I’m becoming increasingly aware that healthy (mentally and physically) and intelligent practicing is essential to the wise musician. Sitting down and cranking out 4 or 5 hours without any planning or conscious awareness of what your actually doing is limited in its scope of helping you to improve. So, to build on what I already think I know about practicing, I decided to empty my bank account a little more and spend the $15 to buy the book.

What I’m planning to do here on the blog is provide a sort of running commentary on every few chapters. I’m not going to dissect every sentence of the book and over analyze opinions; I’ll simply write about the gems of wisdom that I come across in my reading.

Anyone who has read the book or would like to chime in on my take on Ms. Bruser’s writing, please leave a comment or drop me an email at


~ by benjamin86 on January 29, 2008.

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