Making Slow Practice Meaningful

Is it just me? Or am I being haunted by slow practice?




Tons of articles are popping up about slow practice. A stranger visited and discussed it with me in my kitchen. People discuss practicing golf slowly at work. I swear I saw a commercial about it:
Erica Sipes from Beyond the Notes graciously shared these quotes on her Facebook page:

"One must practice slowly, then more slowly, and finally slowly.
-- Camille Saint-Saens

"....You cannot achieve speed by speedy practice. The only way to get fast is to be deep, wide awake, and slow. When you habitually zip through your music, your ears are crystallizing in sloppiness." ....Pray for the patience of a stonecutter. ....Pray to understand that speed is one of those things you have to give up - like love - before it comes flying to you through the back window."
-- The Listening Book by W.A. Mathieu, p. 101.


Slow practice is consuming my thoughts. So how has this influenced my most recent practice sessions?

A quote from Bill Plake sums it up nicely: "The main aim of slow practice: to learn how to move from note to note through release and balance."
Slow practice has become a wonderful opportunity for me to really integrate body mapping techniques. I've become aware of how I change from note to note. I find that I tense my neck at certain moments, my arms at others. It's like turning a microscope on: bad habits jump right out.

It is important to practice with intention. Therefore, a high level of awareness is necessary to observe, experiment, discover, and memorize healthy performance habits. And there are many things to become consciously aware of when practicing. 

When I practice slowly, I'm memorizing how it feels to play with... inclusive awareness, balance, freedom at the joints, awareness of spinal movements, a grounded feeling/equal contact of feet on the floor, freedom of the jaw and face, space between the teeth, freedom of the tongue, effective volume of the oral cavity, ease of vision, a feeling of release in the arm structures, awareness of rib movement, inhibition of my habit to maintain expansion by tensing...

And I used to think slow practice was boring.

While practicing with physical awareness, I'm naturally finding a greater musical awareness.

I continuously find that performing with ease of the body leads to easy, natural expression. Logical phrases feel intuitive. Interpretations become more compelling. Breathing is not a concern. All of it feels easy. 

That's why I'm practicing slowly.