MUSIC PERFORMANCE:
STUDY AND PRACTICE

The ability to perform music well is dependent upon a two-step process: 1) the acquisition of necessary concepts of performance, and 2) repetitious application of those concepts in performance. Emphasis is placed, traditionally, upon practice; however, the prerequisite to any practice is effective study leading to full knowledge and understanding of the symbols, words, and actions of performance. Accomplishing this, the student is certain to improve with practice.

The definition of study is to apply one’s mind purposefully to the acquisition of knowledge or understanding of a subject. The definition of practice, in this sense, is repeated performance of an activity in order to learn or perfect a skill. When study precedes practice, correct performance and increased certainty and ability will result. When inaccurate performance occurs, one applies the appropriate music study cycle to remedy the misunderstanding. Having fully cleared up the misunderstanding(s), practice may resume. If inaccurate performance is no longer in evidence, practice will then, indeed, “make perfect.”

Music Study Cycles includes fourteen programs of study, each of which comprises an integral aspect of performance. They are described in the chapters of this book and are found in Music Study Cycles Drills, Remedies, and Study Cycles Course Pack. The headings of these music study cycles are:

  1. The Instrument Project
  2. Scale Study Cycle Using Diatonic Modes Drills
  3. Rapid Orientation to Tonal Centers – Major and Minor
  4. Pitch Study Cycle
  5. Timelining Rhythms Using The Rhythm Study
  6. Rhythm Study Cycle – Independent Rhythm Learning
  7. Completing the Piece – Tempo, Phrases, Dynamics, Articulations, Style
  8. Completing the Piece – Interpretation of Phrase Shapes and Mood
  9. Achieving Full Music Literacy Using Basic Music Theory
  10. Elimination of Persistent Errors
  11. Pitch Study Clean-Up/Continuity Practice
  12. Music Study Assignments
  13. Just Intonation Using Gradients of Diatonic Consonance and Dissonance
  14. Just Intonation using Tonal Center Drills with Sound Files

The word “practice” has long been misapplied to the development of musical artistry. The root of the word comes from the Greek “praktikos” from “praktos” meaning “to be done.” In order that any action be “done,” it is first necessary that the action be learned and understood. This is the domain of study, defined above as follows: “To apply one’s mind purposefully to the acquisition of knowledge or understanding of a subject.” Students often set out to practice a piece of music before they have come to a sufficient understanding of it. The result can be misapplication, confusion, inaccurate performance, and very often, disinterest, supposed inability, and, possibly, failure.

However, no student need fail if taught the prerequisite to practice – the study of each aspect of the music to full conceptual understanding. The teacher trained in Music Study Cycles knows which music study cycles precede practice, which ones remedy faulty performance, and which ones broaden the scope of practice. The student trained in music study cycles becomes an independent and self- determined learner. The student who correctly applies Music Study Cycles and follows up with regular application through practice, succeeds as one who can independently prepare music literature.

Music Study Cycles is effective in that it eliminates, or at least reduces considerably, the idea of student dependency on others. It appropriately stresses full knowledge of symbols and words, gradient approaches, and balancing sound phenomena with theory. Each one is effective in the studio as well as in the classroom, rehearsal hall, or home-practice room.

Gradient approaches are central to the success of this method. Each music study cycle is a gradient construct. The first step is something very easy to do, and easily observed as having been done correctly. Completing the first step changes the student’s perception ever so slightly, without overwhelming the student, in the direction of a conceptual goal.

The second step of the study cycle nudges the student to change perception slightly more — again, without overwhelming the student, in the direction of the conceptual goal. In researching this method, step one of every music study cycle was the one most strenuously sought. What is it that any student can do, without rote instruction, imitation, or the like, that changes their perception in the direction of a conceptual goal? As well, each succeeding step needed to achieve a change of perception in the direction of the conceptual goal without overwhelming the reasoning power of the student. Completion of the study cycle achieves the goal. The ultimate value of Music Study Cycles is that students can use it as a tool in unsupervised practice sessions to gain the knowledge necessary to make practicing pay its proper dividends – that of full artistic mastery of the music.

With thorough training of students in the proper application of Music Study Cycles to method books, solo literature and ensemble music, students develop the use of their own minds to solve their performance problems and achieve artistry in performance.