Starting with a question: Have you ever sat in or participated in a musical instrument practice session before? If yes, then how long did you fare before numbness kicks in or, distracted to ‘get on’ with other tasks of the day, left the practice earlier than intended?
As a classically trained piano and violin player, I endured hours of practice just so that I can play, in a blip second, a minor fragment of, for example a two-bar swift cadenza from one of Chopin’s Etudes. While some pianist would require less practice hours, I knew my nimbleness wouldn’t get me anywhere close to perfecting these parts. And would normally take me two days spanning just over eight hours of practice.
What does it feel like in a 60-minute warm up rehearsal? Take a detour and watch Hong Kong Ballet’s FULL warm up rehearsal — in conjunction with World Ballet Day (March) — watch artistic director Septime Webre host short discussions with Singapore Ballet Academy Principal Kee Juan Han, Ballet Mistress Tangmin, Ballet Master Yuh Egami and dancers including Matthew Golding, Chun Wai Chan, Ye Feifei, Li Jiabo and Yang Ruiqi.
As I watch these dancers perfecting their moves for Swan Lake, one of Tchaikovsky’s most brilliant musical works, I can’t help but wonder where we’re spending our hours perfecting these days. Being locked out from vacation spots we’d postponed or locked in our homes because of the pandemic, we should have plenty of hours to spare.
Watching these dancers start: from the easiest routine, a plie, to the most exhilarating Grand Jete, reminded me of the challenging journeys of a music artist today. Barred from performing LIVE, artists are now, more than ever before, facing a tougher ascend in their creative careers. Gone are the LIVE days where a stark stage presence would get your audience screaming in exhilaration — a fun part of a developing music career.
And while some may say that it’s good time to filter out the good cheese from the bad, creative entities are forced to make swift managerial adaptations to a new way of life. The pandemic has changed our lives forever and will continue to do so. So what if you can’t perform before a live audience? While you are preparing for the reopening of borders and live event spaces, now would be the best time to brush up those tight musical segments on your drum or guitar you’ve been trying so hard to perfect. Assuming you work as hard as a ballet dancer, here’s what you could do to start living creatively, productively and ambitiously an artistic life.
Practice Makes Perfect
In 2006, Sunday Times ranked Vanessa Mae, a prominent pop classical violinist as the wealthiest entertainer under 30 with an estimated fortune of £32 million. She appeared in a BBC science documentary ‘The Making of Me’ investigating whether she was born a musical prodigy or did the powerful influence of her mother shape her talent. Explaining the relationship she had with her tiger mother and how proud she felt having practiced 10 hours.
We are nowhere near condoning the fact that great music-playing comes after 10 hours of practice. But adhering to a great deal of passion and love is already half the battle fought.
Discipline Takes You Far
Setting a routine to achieve short, brief goals are not less important than larger ones. If you’re still in the process of recording your first single, than make sure you allocate a few hours each day to check in with your producer, talent manager, sound engineer or even songwriter on your progress. Any ideas or criticism are meant to be taken lightly and progressively at this stage. If you have a full working team, then discipline to set short-term, quarterly goals is a great way to check with everyone’s progress. A great team is a team that protects and respects each others interest, non-hypocritical and embracing a learn-by-mistake culture.
Travel (locally) or Play
Yes, by all means travel, if the country where you reside allows some way, or rather, even limited, duration of sightseeing activities. Creativity is a lively and long-term endeavor greatly enlightened by experience of sight, smell and touch. And so, don’t ever think that taking a day off, away from the recording studio, could waste time or hinder the progress of an album in the making. A 30-minute stroll or hike, or walking on the beach has proven to enhance your brainpower and creativity. If you’re feeling ever increasingly adventurous, pick up a new sport.
“If you’re feeling ever increasingly adventurous, pick up a new sport.” — Music Press Asia’s Head of Editorial, Monica Tong
Live & Eat Well
Having enough sleep (at least 8 hours a day) is a vital sport in your day-to-day life as a songwriter or musician. Let inspiration for the next album be spurred by your favorite food, pet or even relationships experienced during this stay-at-home period. You can never have enough of exercise or good food. And by the way, there is nothing wrong about enduring a two-hour drive to find your favorite dish — in our case, a bowl of hot Laksa, a Malaysian delicacy made up of sardines, prawn paste, mint leaves and chilies served with long Udon-like rice noodles.
About the author: Music Press Asia’s head of editorial, Monica Tong, works out a short list to stay inspired, healthy and even more creative while working from home. She is an avid health advocate and finds time in her busy lifestyle to stop and smell the roses — in this case, great food, worthwhile friendships and alone time.
Do you have tips on how to keep busy and creative specifically for musician, artists and music executive? Send us your version of a productive and creative day to Letters@MusicPressAsia.com. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium. We regret that owing to the volume of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter.