The Musician’s Way – A Guide to Practice, Performance and Wellness

“…when you perform, the music and the audience are what count. Whether you’re cruising effortlessly or working through every phrase isn’t relevant to the music’s impact of the audience’s experience. An analogous example would be the athlete who scores a winning goal. The team is victorious and no one cares whether the scorer was in the zone or whether she wrestled with a throbbing headache or a loosely tied shoe. Correspondingly, when an audience is transported by beautifully presented music, it’s unimportant whether the musician performed with ease or had to contend with distracting thoughts and a stubborn itch. Of course, every performer wants to be as free as possible on stage. But if you can’t perform well unless you’re in a peak state, then you can’t function as a professional musician.”

Gerald Klickstein – The Musician’s Way
Chapter 11 – Performing like a Pro

At its heart, music is the communication and sharing of emotion. Any successful performance involves both artist and audience finding or building a rapport between them where emotion and experience, harmony and dissonance, lyrics and melody create a musical bond.

None of this happens, of course, without practice. And this is where Gerald Klickstein’s book, “The Musician’s Way – A Guide to Practice, Performance and Wellness,” steps up to help guide the musician to make the most of his or her practice in order to be the best possible performer.

“The Musician’s Way” is wonderfully thought-out and organized. It is arranged in three parts – “Artful Practice,” which deals with just about every conceivable aspect of practice you can think of; “Fearless Performance,” which uses many of the earlier practice ideas to help the musician create his or her best possible performance; and “Lifelong Creativity,” which explores the ways of growing the mind (maintaining and evolving one’s musical creative side) as well as keeping the body fit and ready to play music for as long as one lives.

As with most books of this nature, you can read it from cover to cover (and you will!) and take in more information and ideas than you might think possible (and you will!) but you will also find it a book to keep around and to constantly refer back to as you develop as a musician. Moreover, the concept that Mr. Klickstein sets forth can apply to so much of your life, you’ll find yourself using his ideas for a lot more than just practicing and performing music.

The third chapter (“Practicing Deeply, II”) alone is worth about five times the cost of the book itself! While every musician understands the need to practice, few understand how to practice in such a manner that progress is being made. Many will go about their practicing duties – for example, repeating a musical phrase that’s giving them trouble – without taking into account how best to learn from the repetition. Mr. Klickstein spells out his “Principles of Artistic Repetition: Insisting on Excellence; Rejecting Mindless Repetition; Aiming for Growth Rather than Sameness; and Evaluating Continuously” in such plain and useful language that the reader both grasps the concepts and finds himself eager to begin a new practice session in order to try them out!

This enthusiastic encouragement lies at the heart of Mr. Klickstein’s writing. Whether he is outlining how to draw up a personal practice plan, discussing the roots of stage freight, or cautioning on playing position, you feel that he truly both wants you to succeed as a musician and believes that you can. Using research and study as well as personal anecdotes, he serves as your willing guide through the tangled mess one can easily make of one’s practice and performing habits. He brings you to a place where you can be your best, but (even more importantly) he also demonstrates how to achieve your best on those occasions you don’t have your best with you.

While Mr. Klickstein is a renowned classical guitarist, “The Musician’s Way” is a book that will benefit any musician. He touches on aspects of all performers, from guitarists to violinists to drummers to vocalists, and has plenty of tips for everyone.

Ultimately, he understands that it’s the musician’s mindset that often dictates the success a performer will have. In his section on “problem solving” in the aforementioned Chapter 3, he gets that “divergent thinking is more about asking question than finding answers. With clever questioning, solutions to problems reveal themselves. In the midst of a predicament, the inspired notion that you seek aren’t marked with signs; they’re hidden, so you just can’t ask how to reach them…To question your way to gold, you have to concoct pointed queries that illuminate subtle distinctions. The more incisively you probe, the more likely it is that you’ll score a triumph.”

Regardless of what instrument you play or how long you’ve been playing or what level of musician you consider yourself to be, you will find a tremendous amount of beneficial material in this book. I can’t recommend it enough.

You can buy “The Musician’s Way” at your local bookstore, or order it through the Guitar Noise Reccomended Reading Book Carousel, on our “News Page.” Just click on the picture of the book cover!

And you can also keep up with more information and tips from Gerald Klickstein at his Musician’s Way Website.