I recently received a reader question about the discipline of practicing and how to improve one’s practicing skills. This is a great question, as it is distinct from how to get good technique. Technique is not going to be very useful unless you are practicing it regularly. Unfortunately, I see this in my studio at times, students with great promise, but without the discipline to practice their skills regularly enough to improve or excel at singing.
Some of the most inspirational information you can get about practicing I think can be found in reading the biographies of great artists and musicians. We often think of great musicians as simply “having talent” and rarely think of the discipline and work it takes them to develop and keep that talent. Remember, if you do not practice, no matter how talented you are, you will not get anywhere with your skill!
I remember reading the autobiography of composer Philip Glass, Music (1987), where he discussed his personal opinion of himself that while he was not the most talented composer when he studied at Juilliard, but he was the most disciplined. He studied his craft and composed like it was his job, until eventually it did become his job. In the book he goes on to describe how he “trained his muse” of inspiration to come to him during specific working hours and refused to write down ideas outside of these times. He was confident this method of working at his skill would mean he could train himself to be productive and creative at his own will instead of being subject to the whims of creativity that some artists seem to struggle with.
Choreographer Twyla Tharp discusses similar themes in her book, The Creative Habit (2003), where she shares her rigorous daily practice routine as well as the intricate process she goes through when creating choreography for any new project. Her process is precise, even downright mechanical – the opposite of what many people imagine when they think of creative artists.
I think these two examples show that the practice of art is a strict discipline and having talent will not be enough to carry that talent to a successful career or even satisfying hobby. Even amateur musicians need to spend regular time practicing, or else they may lose the satisfaction of the skills they have built and need to maintain.
Do any readers have other suggestions for books or websites that discuss the discipline of practicing or have inspired them to find a way to keep their talents fresh?