Perfect is the enemy of the good
Many music students have a keen ear for detail and a strong desire to achieve perfection. Those are valuable traits, but often the ‘inner critic’ can become a destructive force. Learning a piece can be a long process involving many performances. Don’t expect progress to be instant, and avoid comparisons with others (this one can take awhile to learn.) Accept criticism humbly.
A good habit to develop is to arrive at the rehearsal venue at least twenty minutes before the rehearsal is scheduled to begin. This allows time for a late bus, a missed train, or traffic. It also allows for set-up time, tuning up, a warm-up, and minor emergencies such as sourcing music stands and purchasing coffee.
Have clear priorities during practise time
Sometimes, a music student’s time is under pressure. When there is more music to learn than there is practise time, focus on the music you know you can’t ‘wing’ or ‘fake’. Break that music down into smaller sections according to urgency. Try not to panic when doing so.
It’s time-consuming, but taking notes after (or during) lessons, masterclasses, workshops and rehearsals allows you to form a clear idea of which sections of music need the most attention. It’s also a great way to retain useful insights from teachers.
Assess practise room traffic
Free practise rooms are often at a premium. Make an effort to notice when they are most in demand, and don’t rely on getting practise done during those times. The hour between a midday lesson and a tutorial can be spent more productively than by wandering up and down flights of stairs looking for a free room and getting annoyed at whoever it is who’s left an instrument in an otherwise empty room for your last twenty laps of the building.
Two out of three ain’t bad
I once heard someone say that tertiary students can choose to have time for two out of the three following pursuits: study, sleep, and social life. Sadly there’s some truth to that. Some superhumans can manage all three, but mere mortals often need to accept their limitations humbly. Which brings us to…
Know your limits
Learn to recognise your own particular symptoms of stress, overwork, burnout or RSI. Then make a conscious effort to scale back to the bare minimum. At a certain point in my Honours year, I stood staring at myself in a practise room mirror trying to spot the violent eyebrow twitch I was experiencing. Thankfully, it was invisible. I know now that my ‘tell’ is the Eyebrow Twitch.