The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

A guide to practice and preparation

So often in the Performing Arts, we're asked the question about practice and preparation. How many times have we as educators, musicians, actors, practitioners, parents and as students of the art forms heard these sorts of lines  uttered:

"Practice makes perfect".

Of course , in reality, we  know this phrase to be completely untrue. Yet we also know, practice and preparation are two critical elements to seeing any sort of progress. Perhaps it would be more helpful to consider changing the phrase to:

"Practice makes progress".

When considering practice as a performing artist, practice should never be measured in minutes. Measuring practice in minutes won't set anyone up for success because the initial motivation is wrong. Everything one does in this session, seems like a chore.

From the minds of some of our faculty team, here are some hints for practice and preparation:

  • Every practice session should have a set goal and that goal should be explicit. Students should ask themselves "by the end of this practice session, what do I want to be able to do?" Writing it down somewhere prominent can help. Parents or practice supervisors may need to assist some of our youngest artists with this.
  • Practice as many days as you eat!
  • Look at practice as trying to find and solve problems in your pieces of music or drama texts.
  • Divide practice into bite sized chunks. It's far easier to learn two lines of a script or two bars of a piece at a time. That way, all aspects of performance can be incorporated into the small chunk being focused on at the time and the chunk is able to be committed to memory.
  • Playing in band, blocking a scene in rehearsal or going to your music lesson is  not  practice.
  • Students who are acting, playing music or dancing at higher standards or levels should set more challenging goals that will require more intense focus and time.
  • Never watch the clock.   
  • Enjoy the practice time. If you wander off on a tangent, don't worry. Students attempting to improvise, ad-lib, play their piece in a different key, use different character voices etc. should be encouraged. Just make sure you do the set work as well.

In a highly competitive environment, such as we see among boys, one of the most relatable quotes regarding practice comes from basketballer Ed Macauley:

"When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him, he will win".

Scott Loveday
Head of Performing Arts