That question was once asked to the famous Cello player Pablo Casals at the age of 90.The full question was ,why do you Practise everyday?His answer was illuminating;”Beacause I think I’m getting better”.Such a simple ,yet profound reply.If you want to really achieve anything in the expressive arts,you have to work at it.
Today,I have been working on the contemporary repertoire,and that needs particular attention because you have to achieve an emotional connection that is far more prescribed than in classical music.Classical music demands a personal voice as it were,yes,the musical elements have to be there,but you have your own voice to weave into the piece,so no playing of a Chopin prelude would be the same,and that is essential really.However,when you are playing contemporary piano music,there is a certain expectation of familiarity that is expected.Although it can be tempting to go off piste as it were,it’s never fully the done thing,so when I play “In too Deep”,by Genesis,there is an expectation that it should really be that ,and not an extemporisation of the song.
So,practise is essential to the mastery of any piece of music to be honest.As I have always practiced ,it would appear that I have a discipline now ,and that I get to miss it if I can’t play for some reason.Yes,there have been times when I have not practised in my life due to family pressures or personal illness,but those are the exceptions.
Nowadays,it’s a challenge to get pupils to practice,and I take a view of trying to inspire my pupils,as lecturing,and finger pointing will only work for a while,because music is ,and alwayshas been,voluntary.Its not a STEM subject,and so demands far less on the school academically that it did in yesteryear.Now that is a fact and we just have to deal with it.
Speaking personally,I have good days,and awful days with practice,and I have o-Kay days.Its a bit like life,we have good days,bad days,and o-Kay days,but the Sun comes up,and we get on with it.When we accept our own foibles,our own limitations,then doing music can be oh so wonderful.It is when we think we ought to be like Kissin or Lang Lang that things get out o f respective,and we lose the joy of playing.
Pablo Casals exuded life in his playing,and left a legacy for the world in his great recordings,and we can leave a legacy by showing others that whatever we do in life ,if we can put our whole effort into it,then we can’t ask anymore from ourselves.