a playful practice

by Bernard De Koven on May 20, 2013

Musicians, actors, and athletes have developed unique uses for the words “play” and “practice.”  For them, play means performance. Actors don’t practice, they rehearse. Musicians and athletes practice more than they play. Children and people of my ilk think that play means fun, and practice is as much play as play is practice.

In this post, musician Gerald Klickstein shares some redefining insights about what he calls his “playful practice.”

I quote:

To keep the creative juices flowing in my practice, I toy with problems. I’ll try one solution, then another, learning and laughing as ideas hit dead ends. I enjoy the process because I know that I’ll find rewarding solutions in the end.

With every repetition of a phrase, I create something new – a subtler dynamic curve, a smoother legato, a creamier tone. My ears are wide with wonder at the possibilities that each musical gesture contains.

Of course, we rely on repetition to instill mental maps of pieces, but with a playful approach, we can navigate those maps in near-infinite ways. Then, even the titles we’ve performed for years stay fresh.

I’ve made countless such errors, and I find them quite funny, almost refreshing. Not that I like messing up. What I mean is that when I miss something, the error helps me recalibrate my playing.

Transcendence is a core feature of deep practice, and I think it’s a pillar of playfulness.

When I practice, I imagine dramatic scenes, dancers moving through space, whatever. I feel an irrepressible flow of imagination no matter what I work on, be it a scale or a masterpiece.

That playfulness begins as soon as I unlatch a case and lift a guitar in my hands because I never know what I might conjure up.


A Playful Path photoA playful path is the shortest road to happiness.
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