Applied Music

SCHOOL HAS STARTED. What a relief! 

Up until the last minute, my child was trudging through summer math homework. They resented it desperately but I had fun working on it with them!  

I used to love this kind of math. Arithmetic, really. Just a long list of problems with figure-outable solutions. Products, quotients, realize this fraction as a percent, etc.  None of these awful real-world story problems in which you have to spend all of your time parsing the language to figure out what math to solve. -6.7/0.2 is satisfyingly straightforward and I love me some long division.  In a minute or two I can figure out the answer and circle it in pencil and feel satisfied with my work. 

That kind of straightforward problem solving is what we practice when we practice our instruments, right?  How do I make this slur happen at this dynamic? Which fingering do I use for F in this run? What is the SOLUTION to this technical passage? Am I understanding the rhythm right? All of these questions, while requiring more creativity than long division, are essentially solvable. It is possible, in the practice room, to achieve perfection. You control the conditions, you can try it 20 times to get it right, you can slow it down and speed it up and get to the ANSWER. 

(FREE PDF download: My Favorite Metronome Games)

But APPLIED MUSIC is something different. Once you are in a performance situation – and even a rehearsal in front of your colleagues and a conductor might be considered performance for our purposes – you no longer control all of the conditions. Other humans might behave unpredictably. The environment might not suit you – too humid, too cold, too windy… The reeds, the instrument – SOMETHING will not be quite optimal. Your own nerves, anxieties, and imperfect humanity will play a role. Suddenly, the solutions you came to in your practice room are farther from reach. You have to react to your colleagues, to the audience, to the world around you. And you have to give a SHOW right here and now, no matter what is happening. 

This is applied music at its finest. It’s more creative, it’s more interesting, and it’s more DANGEROUS than practicing. The point of the list of fun arithmetic problems is to prepare you for real world math, and the point of practicing is to set you up to react in the moment to whatever else is going on. 

How is your applied music going?

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