Author: Gerald Klickstein
Summary: This is a comprehensive guide for all practicing and professional musicians. In this complete treatise, the author gives detailed instruction on not only how to develop into a technically facile musician but also into an interpretive performing artist. The book is divided into three main sections.
- Part I: Artful Practice – In this section he breaks down all the organizational aspects of the art of practicing. He gives specific instructions on how to organize and plan your practice sessions, create the proper practice environment, memorization techniques, break down technically difficult passages, develop artistic interpretation, collaborate with other musicians and find the motivation to keep going.
- Part II: Fearless Performance – In this section, the author addresses performance related issues such as performance anxiety, dealing with errors in performance, creating pre- and post- performance routines as well as how to craft concert programs and prepare for auditions, competitions and recordings.
- Part III: Lifelong Creativity – This final section deals with the wellness issues of the musician – both mental and physical. He has practical advice for preventing injury, succeeding as a student and developing a career path.
The Pros: This book is so much more than just learning how to practice. This book is about developing the performing artist, step by step. The author guides the reader through all of the left brain activities of organizing your practice time, organizing the steps it takes from starting a new piece to getting that piece performance ready, coming up with a plan for not only your practice but also your career, putting action steps into place to achieve your technical, musical and performance goals. But he also ties those left brain activities into the creative right brain activities like imaging, exploring the emotional connection that a musician has with a piece and how to commit to the creative process when the motivation seems to wane.
There are lots of action steps to take along the way for each concept he introduces. For instance, when he describes how to start a new piece there are four steps the musician should follow:
- Get an overview (which includes establishing an aural model, research background information and prepare the score)
- Map an interpretation (analyze and mark the score, vocalize the rhythm, etc.)
- Map the technique (speak the text in rhythm for singers, image and vocalize, etc.)
- Execute your map (work with digestible portions, manage the tempo, image ahead, be artistic yet detached, execute three times, link sections together)
The author focuses on the importance of total preparation and through that preparation, one can navigate through the pitfalls of the performing career. He gives practical advice on performance anxiety, what the roots of the affliction are and how to counteract it. He addresses stage deportment, presence and connecting with the audience. He also gives practical advice to music students on how to make the most of their lessons by engaging with their teacher, actively listening, recording themselves and more.
The tone of the book is intelligent and professional. He is very detailed but provides ordered lists when he is breaking down points which make for very logical reading. His examples also cover a variety of instruments (piano, voice, woodwinds, brass and strings) so that no instrumental or vocal group feel left out.
The Cons: This is not a book for beginning music students. This is definitely geared toward students that are on the performance track.
Recommendation: I truly believe this is a must-have for those students who want a career in music and their teachers. There is so much material covered in here that their applied teacher may not have the time to explain. The detail and action steps the author provides are excellent for the student to set goals and attain them.