In my video where I discuss how to memorize new music, I said it takes me 7 days. I don’t want you to think that I’m spending all day, every day, every waking hour trying to get these new songs in my head. I typically spend maybe an hour a day on a new piece. A lot of that practice is passive. The active practice is maybe 15 to 20 minutes a day on a new piece. Just one song. Because if you overwork it, it’s just like cooking food. It’s mushy and you still want it to have texture and color and so you can’t overcook it. So just 15 minutes a day and leave it alone. But if you do a little bit every single day, when you need to perform it, it’s great. In the active part of practice I am slowly in the beginning working on the pitches, making sure that I am singing the exact melody perfectly. Making sure that I have all of the words perfectly. If there’s choreography, making sure that I have all of the steps perfectly. Slowly taking my time. And in that 15 to 20 minutes, however much I can get done, that’s how much I can get done. And I don’t always start the beginning over and over again, because then the beginning is great and the end is mess. The first time I practice it very slowly, I’m just doing the beginning. If it’s a long song I’m just doing the beginning. Then the next time I practice I’m just doing the middle and I might review the beginning and I might do the middle, but I’m really working on the middle. And then the third time I’m working on the piece, I’m really working on the end. I might touch on the first two sections, but I’m really concentrating my time on the end. So then like the fourth time I hit the song, I’m doing the whole song through in a medium tempo. And I’m just keeping it there. Then the fifth and sixth time I’m doing it in time.
But all the while I’m also doing the passive part of practice, the listening and the visualizing. Now with the listening: I’m cooking, I’m cleaning, I’m playing with my kids, I’m doing some work on my computer, I am driving my kids to various places, I’m, you know, relaxing doing what have you, but I’m passively absorbing the piece of music in time. Just like when you learn a song from a radio, you didn’t spend time practicing it, but the radio stations have played it a million times so it’s stuck inside your head. So that’s a part of practice. It’s passive, but it is practice. And the other half of the passive practice is visualizing. That’s also done in time. That’s not slowed down, that’s in time. You’re visualizing the final performance: in full costume, you’re visualizing your entrance, your reaction to the crowd applauding, you’re visualizing your initial stance and the song stance, all the way through until the end everything is perfect, everything is wonderful, the crowd goes bananas and you exit stage. I tend to do my visualizations before I go to bed and first thing when I wake up in the morning. While I’m putting on my makeup, if I’m not, if I’m not listening I’m visualizing. Like if I’m in a doctor’s office and I’ve left my headphones, I’m visualizing my performance. Because it doesn’t take any physical effort you can do that for several hours. This really takes focus even though it’s passive practice, you still concentrating and you’re still giving it the mental energy necessary. Now, I wouldn’t do the visualization while I’m chopping fruits and vegetables for dinner, because you’re liable to chop a finger off if you’re doing it properly. But in things where you’re not doing anything else, but you don’t have your music available to listen to, visualizing the performance is excellent. Because also this puts you in a good state of mind that you’re going to play over and over and over again the best case scenario. You’re not going to visualize you’re tripping on some new high heels, you’re not going to visualize your dress falling down, you’re not going to visualize all the crazy things that could possibly happen. You’re going to visualize your moment to shine.
So to recap, there’s two types of practicing. Active, where you start off very slowly working on the various parts of the melody, then you add the lyrics, then you add any movement, and then you bring it up to tempo. Making sure that you get all those notes right, all those words right before you go in to changing the tempo. Then the second half of practice, the passive part of practice can happen all day long. This is a mental exercise where you’re just listening and absorbing the music. And you are, and if you’re not able to listen to the music, you’re visualizing your final performance. And while you’re listening, the moments that you’re actively engaged in the listening process, you’re visualizing your performance. So, I hope these tips can help you with your next song.
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