I’m just curious if it’s just me or does everyone experience it also. Some days are just “good”, your fingers just works, memorizing a new piece seems so easy, practice is just great on these days. But other days are just total opposite…I feel so clumsy and passages that were fine suddenly becomes a chore and my fingers are just not co-operating at all…and I just cannot memorize the simplest thing for the life of me. Anyone else experience this?
I know exactly what you mean Victoria, it’s the same here…
And most of the time there’s no evident reason for a good or bad day, for me there isn’t anyway. On a bad day, I try to continue where I went wrong and pick it up from there and if it really doesn’t work at all, I just quit the piece and try something else that I know I can play well enough to give me a good feeling about my practice for that day.
Additionally: what also works for me is to play a piece for other people, for instance a relative or friend who is around, just one or two persons will do, and experience how you play in front of this small audience…are you comfortable and at ease, just like you can be on a good day of practice? This also helps me to see if I made progress over a period of time when I do this every once in a while; ideally, playing for others ought to feel just as comfortable as playing just by yourself, so this way I can tell if that is the case and see (hear) if I’ve improved.
Best of luck Victoria!
I do what Marco does, play for someone else, especially if I feel like I am having a bad day. The other person usually cheers me up, I feel better, and the playing improves! Just thinking about wanting to play WELL for the other person makes a real difference, too!
Even the greatest musicians have good and bad days, but it’s all relative. The wonderful thing about accumulated knowledge and technical ability is that the bad days get less bad all the time. If your brain feels like it just is not absorbing anything, don’t give up. Keep plugging away at it, and you will find that the rough passages will be much better the next day.
Everyone has posted wonderful ideas on this thread!
One technique that is especially helpful when I’m struggling with difficult pieces is to take small “brain breaks”, usually 10-30 minutes, where I work on easy aspects of the harp or do something totally unrelated. I’ve found that it gives my brain the opportunity to process complex input as opposed to overloading it with too much information. And if I find that I’m suddenly “spinning my wheels” with minimal or no progress, I put the piece aside for a few days. Inevitably I find that my brain continues to work on the problems and solves them so that when I return to the piece it is almost as if I had been physically working on it all along!
One thing I also do something is to have sort of automatic things in my back pocket that I can do if I’m having a truly crappy day. I’m at too low a level on the harp at the moment to worry overmuch about that instrument, but on the piano for instance, if I’m having a really off day, I will often have some things that I can work on that don’t require a lot of top-level awareness — relatively simple etudes, or just reinforcing a particularly sticky part using glacially slow practice. Those are things that I can do decently even on an off day, so the time doesn’t go entirely to waste.
It’s similar to how I think of handcrafts. I like to have a variety of active projects around, maybe a lace project where I need to pay mind to what I’m doing, and another brainless things like a sweater in all stockinette or a garter stitch blanket, where I can just switch off my brain if I don’t feel like thinking too deeply that day.
Yes, this definitely happens! Practicing is subject to the same ebb and flow as the rest of life. I’m sure many factors play into it….how much and how well you’ve slept, what and when you’ve eaten, how hydrated you are, what’s on your mind, etc. One thing I’ve noticed is that often after a “bad” day, things make a sudden leap forward. Bad days are often followed by really good ones, and even if I think I’m not making progress or accomplishing anything on a particular day, the next day practicing often feels and sounds much, much better — so on some level, I was obviously learning, improving and consolidating knowledge. The learning process doesn’t always happen in a straight line; in fact, it hardly ever does. Plateaus and rough patches are part of it, and so are the wonderful experiences of something coming together suddenly, having an amazing burst of insight, or feeling “in the zone.”
Bad days are always going to happen. As musicians we are trained to be constantly working toward bettering ourselves, and our music. I’m not sure I have ever been 100% happy with a performance/recording… this is just the way life is. BUT! This doesn’t mean that we can’t use our “bad” days for something good!!!
On the days that my hands just aren’t working (you know, you go through that tricky fast passage and your fingers are literally falling off of the strings) I take that as a sign and an opportunity to do some good-ol’ metronome work! As terrible as it sounds I find working with a metronome on “bad” days to be almost like therapy. By taking things at half tempo (and sometimes even slower than that) you give your hands the time to move properly even when they aren’t cooperating!
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