Pianists, produce 3x more with these tips!

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I was recently involved in 6 shows (musicals, major concerts) that overlapped production schedules.  In each case the directors/producers were kind and flexible enough with my part of the show to make it work— awesome — now to manage my own sanity!  While my role for each of these shows varied – Music Director, Accompanist, Orchestrator…, the amount of musical material to learn was vast (over 250 songs to perform) .  I was determined not only to have the correct music on my stand come show time (ha ha!), but to produce the highest level of musical performance with each group possible.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned that have helped me produce more in less time, with greater confidence:

 
1) Have consistent predetermined times where you can be uninterrupted by distractions, phone calls, email, Facebook, etc… (seems obvious, right?) —my best and most productive time is first thing in the morning.  My new routine is to wake up at 5am, have coffee and read until 5:30.  Then I go to work with intense focus on one priority or musical endeavor for 90 minutes (this could be a set of songs from one musical, say Act 1, or it could be a smaller set of songs or even 1 difficult song).  I learned this tip from productivity expert, Darren Hardy.  He recommends using a count-down timer, setting it for 45 minutes, work like a mad dog, take a stretch break when the timer goes off, set it again and work another 45.  I have found this to be extremely helpful, and I’m confident that I’ve accomplished more in a shorter amount of time by using the countdown timer found here.

2) Actively listen to the music you’re working on.  I listen to recordings in my car, sure, but I know that the most productive listening comes when I actually have the music in front of me with a pencil in hand and a notebook to capture ideas that pop up, or reminders of things to practice.  Repeat the listening process at least 5-6 times for each show to let the songs settle into your head.

3)  Use a metronome!  The biggest benefit of using a metronome for me is not that it keeps me honest with my timing (although that certainly is a great benefit).  I love being able to track my progress with a particular song and a metronome helps me do that by running (working) difficult musical passages through a process of repetition from slow sight-readability to performance tempo.

4)  Have a written list of songs that you’re practicing for a particular show/event.  Check off the ones that are easy enough to sight-read or that need minimum practice.  Make notes on the ones that need more work (specific measures to spot practice, areas to clean, review, repeat).  The benefit of having this written list in front of you is that it’s visual, rather than simply in your mind.  You can easily glance at the entire list, see what needs most attention, and get to work at it quickly.

Happy practicing!

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