Quality Over Quantity

“Understanding without practice is better than practice without understanding. Understanding with practice is better than understanding without practice. Residing in your true nature is better than understanding or practice.” ~ Upanishads
This ancient yogic wisdom seems tailor-made for musicians. During my undergraduate degree, I was struggling to catch up with the rest of my class. I entered into USC as an undeclared major. I auditioned for the music education degree, but they decided that year to get rid of the degree and turn it into a master’s program. I had a big decision to make, either I enter as a general music major or spend a semester undeclared and audition halfway through the year for the much more competitive vocal arts degree. At the time, I wanted to be a choir director, not a general music teacher, so I took a leap of faith. I entered as undeclared,vbegged music teachers to let me into their classes, and struggled to keep up with the other students, some who had attended arts high schools. A small girl from a small town, I didn’t even know what opera was. I made it into the vocal arts degree, but I was far behind the other voice majors and had a lot of work to do.
In my attempts to catch up with the other students, I would spend hours in the practice rooms. I’d go over the same few bars over and over until my voice was hoarse. I’d sing through my pieces and run through vocal exercises long past my allotted practice time. I felt that if I worked just a bit harder, I would make enough progress to prove my worth. The problem was, I was not practicing for myself. I was practicing for an unattainable goal of making my voice like everyone else’s. I was practicing to make my teachers happy, not to make myself happy. The more I practiced, the more I would become frustrated and the more I would dig myself into a hole-adding more and more tension to my body and my voice. I’d leave each practice session physically and emotionally drained. Clearly, I did not understand the true reason why I was practicing as I was not residing in my true nature or my voice. After 6 years of study at the undergraduate and graduate level, my voice ended up more of a mess then when I started my college degree.
After taking some time off from singing, doing some major introspection and mental work, and entering into the wonderful world of yoga and meditation, I realized that it wasn’t the length of practice time I did daily that mattered, it was the quality of practice. Being completely present in my body and focused in my mind, I can achieve in minutes what used to take hours. By keeping my cool, giving my voice a rest, and making myself stop singing when I feel frustrated or frazzled, I keep myself from vocal harm and from creating bad habits. Though I now only have an hour or two daily to spend on practicing, during the little time I have, I turn off all electronic devices, devote myself solely to the work ahead, set realistic goals for each practice session, and focus all of my attention on achieving these goals. I now understand why I am practicing and I reside in my true nature. I now know what my voice can do and how to move forward, each and every day. They say practice makes perfect… but it’s the quality of practice that makes perfect, not quantity.

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Whether on the yoga mat, in the practice room, or on a meditation cushion, it is not the amount of time you spend practicing, but how present you are that makes the greatest impact.

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2 thoughts on “Quality Over Quantity

    • Thanks Brad. That’s sweet. It’s been a challenge to come up with posts worth reading, but it’s also been cathartic to let all these thoughts in my head out into the world.

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