Preparation is one of those words that either excites you to no end (you’re thinking about the final result), or terrifies you instead (thinking about the process to the final result).
A page from Mozart’s opera Cosi fan tutte. I’m preparing the role of Dorabella for a performance in May 2014
Musicians are perpetually in a state of preparation; the next concert, the next audition, the next lesson, the next masterclass, etc. As a performing and teaching musician, I prepare for each of my student arrivals. From the very smallest ritual of preparing to practice one afternoon, to the long months of preparing a role for performance, it is something we do all the time, we just don’t often consider the idea and process of preparation.
If you are a public speaker, you prepare the nuts and bolts of your presentation before you speak (at least I hope you do!). For a fantastic guide on preparing your presentation, I highly recommend Mitch Joel‘s recent post “How to Give a Great Presentation (Seriously)“. In fact, musicians could certainly take some of his presentation advice and apply it to their own preparation.
Preparation on on a small scale might include a brief ritual before you practice each day. It could be just closing the door to your practice room, turning off your phone and computer, and opening the score. It could simply be taking a breath for the next phrase.
Because my days are generally packed with work, teaching, and other life activities, I find it helpful to meditate in silence for 5-10 minutes before practicing singing. Sometimes it’s seated, sometimes I lay on the floor on a yoga mat and just breathe. I set a timer so I stay present and mindful. There are plenty of meditation timer apps out there for mobile devices that have pretty chimes, or you could just set the timer on your stove or oven! By being silent for a short time before practicing, I focus (prepare) my mind for the activity ahead.
I personally find it REALLY hard not to be distracted before and during my practice. By setting a timer for both my preparation for practice and my practice time, I know that I have to stay focused for that period of time. It’s part of preparation. Getting mentally in the space to do what needs to be done.
Preparation also includes planning. I am about to learn and memorize a lot of music in less than one month. I will create a practice plan so I can get the most out of my time, instead of just practicing ‘when I have time’. This includes being SPECIFIC. ie. Today I will learn the rhythms on pages 231-240 and memorize the text. Tomorrow I will memorize the notes on that same page, keeping in mind the shape of each phrase, etc.
One of the great changes that has happened to the way I approach my life is preparing for the following day or week ahead. Instead of being caught off guard, I take 10 minutes to look at the day ahead the night before. I keep a small notebook with me during the day, then keep it beside my bed at night where I write down a few words about what I’d like to achieve, see, do, etc. the following day.
In the end, preparation helps us achieve a goal or other final result. The process of preparation can be arduous (speech, report, paper, project, etc.), but it is the journey to what will be a great end result. You will know that you did the best preparation you possibly could, and that will give you a great feeling inside!
What do you prepare for? What sorts of preparation rituals do you have? As always, thanks for reading and please follow if you haven’t already!
- How To Give A Great Presentation (Seriously) (twistimage.com)
- Modern Rituals: Five Minute Meditation (001skincare.wordpress.com)
- For a different kind of preparation that I didn’t reference above: Preparing to die (clairebarbetti.wordpress.com)