Recently, Berklee College of Music had a ‘takeover’ across all JMC Academy campuses.
As Berklee’s only Australasian Institutional Partner School since 2013, we were all eager and enthusiastic to hear from the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world and see what they had to offer us.
Writing from the Melbourne campus, songwriting student Jacky Chen attended the Practice Techniques workshop. Here’s what he learned…
Initially, the Berklee professors discussed general practice routines, receiving an idea of how current musicians in the audience practice. This included customary practice techniques, such as exercises, breathing, covering songs/repertoire, new material vocabulary, listening, reading, ear training, improvisation, scales and transcription. Upon creating this large list, they elaborated upon this.
The first key point provided from Berklee is to pay attention to ‘being healthy’ when you practice. The professors offered a quote from English guitarist and composer, Robert Fripp: “Relaxation is necessary tension”.
For singers, we must warm up in a particular, comfortable way and stay hydrated. For instrumentalists, repetitive motion can develop joint issues. Although we must plan consistent, reliable practice routines, often to overcome performance anxiety, we have to ensure we do not over-practice or hurt ourselves as it is imperative to our careers.
Suggested by Berklee, when we practice we must have:
• One point of concentrative attention
• Exclusion of everything else
This is apparently the best form of practicing and also divides practicing and performing, which musicians often tend to overlap. When we perform, we have the ability of open awareness (i.e. listening to every part of the ensemble on an often open and expansive stage).
However, practicing is quite personal. It is significant to develop discipline as musicians because once we commit to this discipline, it will allow us to bring about a desired artistry that allows us to succeed. Additionally, Berklee notes that teachers are valuable to saving developing musicians time (and whilst you may rely on them, it is ultimately your responsibility to learn and practice).
Along with Berklee’s takeover at JMC, they offered opportunities for students to audition for Berklee. Often, auditions can go terribly due to fear of failure, only having ‘one-shot’, people staring/glazing and using space/gear that is different (and most of the time, not yours).
To counter this, they were able to offer practice technique alternatives to help us prepare for an audition or overcome performance anxiety, such as:
• Attempting to play someone else’s instrument to put you an unfamiliar situation and feel unsettled prior to actually doing that at an audition
• Practicing vocals with/without a microphone
• Practicing vocals with/without a backing track, instrument or accompanyists
Overall, the Practice Techniques session provided great insight for us as musicians, how we practice and what we should change. Berklee was able to expand upon real music student’s practice techniques and guide us towards specific techniques and simple ideas that we may not think of doing during our own individual general practice sessions.
Berklee left us with one piece of advice that all young, keen and prospective musicians should follow: now is the time to practice while we are young, keen and prospective. If we learn to practice the right way now, while we are younger, it will better us as future musicians out in the world.