Athletes, even non-professional ones, all follow a strict training guide to get ready for marathons, triathlons, etc. Actors end up having one, called rehearsal process! As musicians we are not surrounded like actors and we don't have anybody telling us what to do. That can be great, but often times when getting ready for a recital we do more guessing each day than planning ahead of time where we need to be with everything in order to be ready for the performance.
Here is what we can learn from athlete's training guides.
- How many weeks does your plan go for? Marathon training guides are usually built for either 18 or 22 weeks. This helps you keep focused and avoid procrastinating, and keeps you moving forward. It also guarantees that you keep on improving on all of your pieces at the same time, without becoming so centered on one hard piece or on specific musical details of another one.
- How much to rest? In marathon training, there tends to be a full day off a week to recover, or a comparative rest day, which is when you do some work but a lot less than the other days. As musicians we are hard workers, and for many of us it seems to be counter-productive not to practice. Rest is important for your body, your mind and your soul. With a plan, you can see your daily and weekly improvements, which makes it easier for you to feel good about time off instead of feeling guilty about it.
- What is your pace? The pace of runners is one the most important thing to them, and tempo is a very big part of what we do as well. Indicating on your plan when you should be able to run the piece at half tempo, at intermediary tempo and finally up tempo guarantees a comfortable process which will lead to a secure performance. No more rushing to play up to speed when it's too early, or realizing too late that we're not playing that section up to tempo.
- Are you building up stamina? Marathoners will run a different amount of miles per day, from 3 on Monday, to 5 on Wednesday to 10 on Sunday for example. This translates for musicians as memorized practicing. A few weeks before the performance, you want to have it in your plan that you play this one movement from memory on Tuesday, these two pieces on Thursday and the first half of your program on Friday, all from memory and in a row. By the last weeks, add more and more pieces to your program until you run it entirely through at least a few times before the performance.
"Training works best if you start easy and build up gradually"