In light of my upcoming workshop Study Smart I have decided it would be a good idea to start sharing some tips on how to study a musical instrument.
In the last two weeks I wrote about my own experiences studying the harp and gave you some questions to think about. This week it is time for a different approach.
From the moment you receive a new piece from your teacher, or pick a new piece to study yourself, you start a musical journey. Just like planning a trip it is a good idea to make some plans before you start.
You can start by finding out more about your destination. Where are you going?
If I were to take a trip to London for instance, I could start by buying a travel guide. This guide would contain a lot of information about the places to see and it usually holds an area map so you know the distances you would have to cover. A quick google search would give me some nice pictures and even some experiences from other travelers.
The same thing can be done for your music. Start your journey by researching your piece on Google and YouTube, maybe you will find some nice examples of how your piece could end up sounding. Sometimes you’ll be able to find other people who have already played the piece who are willing to share their experience with you (for instance on Harp Tuesday).
Finding a suitable guide for your music is probably not going to be as easy as finding a guide to London though, but luckily most starting musicians have weekly help with that: their teacher. Most likely your teacher will know which bars you should spend your time on in order to make your experience a memorable one. Maybe they’ll even know some in London as well!
Sometimes your harp friends can also be a source of useful information. If you have trouble finding anyone in your neighborhood, try searching for online harp forums.
The map to your destination is of course your sheet music. You will find most useful information written down in it. So start by looking at the sheet music (maybe even while you are listening to a recording of the music).
Very important to know is which route you will take. Which passages need to be repeated? Which themes are repeated in the music? Maybe halfway on a repeat your road is blocked and you need to take a different route and go to the Coda. All useful information to know before you set out.
A small detail before you leave: do you speak the language of your destination? In other words: do you know all the words and signs used in your sheet music and can you express them on your instrument? If not, a dictionary might be useful.
When you have taken in all the information you can ask yourself: what would I like to hear in my piece?
You can go to London for shopping, someone else might go for the museums. Even after taking in all the information, your destination will still be a personal choice that you can style any way you want so don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path.