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Playing Away From Your Instrument

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

Playing Off Your Instrument

When it comes to practicing music, we cannot always be sitting at our instrument practicing. Without even mentioning all of the distractions and insistent demands of life in general, there are many reasons we can’t just sit or stand with our instruments and practice all day long. From physical fatigue, mental over-saturation to the need to eat and sleep.

But, what if there was a way that we could practice away from our instrument?

Have no fear, for the answer is here! Read through this article, find the specific instrument that you play to learn how you can practice away from your instrument.

Before we commence, it is vital to understand that the successful realization of a piece of music stems from a performer’s ability to blend his or her mental image of that piece

with the physical choreography crucial to bringing it to life with their instrument.

Every single time that we practice, there are two things we strive for

1.) a clear mental image and

2.) clear choreography.

Imagine this scene: you are sitting at or with your instrument. On the table to your right, next to your computer, you tap your fingers on the top of the table to see if you can “play” the first four measures of the current song you are working on, using the exact same fingering and technique you would use if you were actually playing. Really ruminate about which fingers you would be using, how your hand would be moving, and what the notes are that you are playing.

Now--go to your instrument and see if you can play it there!

Voice-- create a mental image of how you want a song to sound & the mental image of your audience reaction. What type of emotion do you want to evoke in your audience? How do you picture their facial expression? Amusement? Joy? Serenity?

Strings-- Imagine the motions of playing while away from the instrument. For example,

as you play the first note, are you playing near the top of your bow, the middle or end?

If you are more familiar with the way a passage moves under your hands than you are with the identity of the notes themselves you can “air play” the notes slowly with the correct fingering and name them as you go along.

Piano-- Connect the mental image of the sheet music in your head with an imagined audio version of it, which naturally helps to familiarize your brain with the sound & image connection.

Experienced musicians will often look for ways to continue the study and practice of their craft away from their instrument. They will spend herculean amounts of time listening to the current songs they are working on and to music that is similar to what they are working on.

Seek ways to bolster your knowledge about the music you are working on.

One of the most effective way to improve musical skills is through saturation & by constantly & consistently refreshing this desire to learn and concentrate on musical material. Indubitably, there is a world of improvement to be found beyond the instrument itself. Yes, limiting oneself to instrumental practice alone is tantamount to short changing the learning process, potentially relegating it to a series of mere routine motions and methods.

As a generalization, if you have time to think, you have time to practice.

There is a plethora of strategies in improving your familiarity with the music you are working on—doing so even when all you have available to you is your awesome brain!

In this newsletter, we examined specific ways to study and explore music away from your instrument. We presented options in learning how to embrace some powerful new methods of practice that entails taking your fingers off the instrument and putting your brain into overdrive.

Here is a summary of 5 tips to play away from your instrument

1.) Listen to the song you are currently working on and similar songs

2.) Imagine the finger motions of playing while away from the instrument

3.) Study sheet music on the bus or while a passenger in the car

4.) Try to hear the musical piece in your head while walking your dog through the park, waiting in line, or riding a bike

5.) Tap your fingers on a flat desk/table—using the same fingering you would on your actual instrument. This is called “air playing” or “table-top playing.”

As the Suzuki Approach states, “Music is a language and every child is born with the potential to master this language, given proper environment and nurturing and expert teaching.

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