5 Other Ways to Practice for When You Have No Concerts to Practice for

The Covid-19 Panademic has brought with it a worldwide cancellation of concerts for months to come. The shock of suddenly having empty calendars and zero concerts to prepare for is overwhelming. But if there are no deadlines to meet, no auditions to practice for, no new repertoire to memorise and no gigs to stay fit for, we might as well open our chakras and practice differently, as if there is no tomorrow. Here are 5 ways to practice when you have too much time on your hands and nobody who’s listening; no judgement, no strings attached. 



1. Improvise

There are so many techniques to get you going, and plenty of information available online. You could try improvising to a piece you love while listening to a good recording. You could pre-record or loop a sequence of cords (or ask a friend to do so) while you work on finding lines that fit. Or take a different direction all together: Use something that tickles your imagination, for example a passage from a text, a painting, photos from your phone, or you could even record noises on the street. Use these materials as inspiration to dive into the unknown. 


2. Play along recordings

Here is your moment to go through all of Haydn’s Quartets, Bruckner’s Symphonies, or any other yet to be discovered masterpieces. Find your part at the local music library or on IMSLP, choose a fabulous recording (or even use this practice to compare different recordings) and play along! This will train your sight-reading skills and introduce you to some of the most beautiful and important works in the literature. Bonus: you finally get to play with your idols! 


3. Transcribe 

While you can do it with any style of music, we recommend practicing transcribing with anything else then classical music. Pick up your favourite jazz, pop or rock albums, and transcribe different parts. Find the chords, find the melodies, try playing those on your instrument or on any instrument lying around. Besides the obvious benefits to your ears playing a different styles on your instrument will push you to extend your technics, plus we know you always wanted to be Jamiroquai’s backup band!


4. Mimicking 

Find a recording of someone speaking. A Ted Talk, a speech you love, a poem recitation, a lecture. Choose a section of the recording and listen to it again and again. Take you instrument and try to mimic different aspects of the speech. Work with the melody of the spoken words, with their intonation, with the rhythm, the dynamics and phrasings.  


5. Hold long tones and meditate 

Play long and sustained notes in a steady dynamic. Listen carefully. Immerse yourself in the sonic sensation of your tone. Focus only on the sound. If your mind strolls away to other thoughts try to bring it back gently into the centre of the sound. Meditate. 

1 thought on “5 Other Ways to Practice for When You Have No Concerts to Practice for

  1. Hello all,

    Thank you so much for the article. These are all brilliant ideas to fill our time and boost self-motivation during these days.

    Just wanted to share some general thoughts on this subject.
    I find the positive aspects of these times in terms of our relationship with music and our instrument to be dominant to the negative aspects.
    Sure, not having any concerts, recording sessions, projects, tours etc might bring us down a bit because of obvious reasons (most critically financially), just sitting there and doing nothing will not improve the situation for sure.
    I was excited to read the 5 ways of practice that you shared! Some i already do, some I’ve thought of, some i never imagined! I’ll give each one a go.
    Let’s talk about the positive aspects that i was talking about earlier:
    I think the scenarios where a musician is running from gig to gig, have many services in their regular orchestra position, practicing like crazy in their school days, being on the road for most of the year, etc may be true for many of us on our normal days. In short, being very busy.

    And now we’re not.
    Now, we have the chance to go back and restore our relationship with music/our instrument more intimate. While running around like a crazy chicken, we start an inevitable automation which is often confused with professionalism. Instrument becomes a tool. The whole thing might get a bit more materialistic, too practical, like something you execute.
    But now is a great chance to “feel” our instrument, our sound, our creation, to remember why we do what we do. With no strings attached. I often think about this, about how precious and important this relationship is. But i often don’t have the time to stop and smell the roses if you know what i mean.
    Here’s a very simple and silly question we might all ask ourselves : when is the last time you played just for fun?
    I think it could be surprising to find that for many it’s been a long time.

    There is, of course, the concept of missing your instrument too. It’s a relationship, right? Like any relationship, it needs to have balance. But in the mist of busy schedules, you don’t ever get the time to “miss” your instrument. Time is relative so i won’t state a definite length of time. For some it could be hours. For others it could be weeks. But i believe there is value in that. That you don’t feel trapped or prisoned. That you protect that beautiful relationship and it doesn’t become an obligation or duty psychologically.

    Think of our preparation. On our regular schedules. Next concert, next project. Orchestra, solo, chamber, studio etc.
    What we prepare is “chosen” for us. But now, there is the chance to play, learn, improve without having to “prepare”. No time line.
    I think it’s an amazing opportunity to learn repertoire we never touched before. Or, finally go back to some pieces we couldn’t revisit for years. And play them as the new “us”. With new sound, personality, fantasy, philosophy, understanding, etc.

    We also have more time to listen to music. Just to listen to music. Going back to favorite recordings. Checking out some recordings that we always wanted to but somehow never found the time. Regardless of genre.

    I’d like to say so much more but i think I’ve already said too much. Thank you for always providing very stimulating context and also for the chance to share our thoughts.
    Wishing everyone joyful, health and loving days.
    If you made it to the end of this comment, thank you very much for reading.

    O. C.