Learning a piece of music: four stages.
this is the initial phase of encountering a piece of music: hearing it, sightreading, noticing moments of beauty, confusion, or interesting character. getting a sense for the challenges that lie ahead in the learning process, finding commonalities with other music, identifying personal technical difficulties and areas of incomprehension.
the practical phase. making sure you are playing all the correct pitches and rhythms. working out articulation. developing technical skills necessary to serving the specific piece. finding the right tone of voice to convey the character of the music. crafting phrases and seeking to create the right texture of sound.
this is the deep emotional work. memorizing not only the sequence of notes but also the dramatic landscape of the music. this work may be done away from the instrument, visualizing the unfolding of the score. it may occur while doing a run-through of a section of the work. this is when the musician makes the piece a part of his or her own being. listening to other recordings may be helpful, but forgetting recordings may also be necessary, so as to cultivate the musician’s own voice. this is when all the carefully worked out details coalesce into a larger whole, and the music seems to become “of a piece”, or singularly cohesive. this work can be done alone, with a teacher, and/or with colleagues.
this is when you get to share this new part of your being with your lucky listeners! you have done all the hard work of studying the score, teaching yourself new ways of listening, moving and being, and you are now an authentic agent of this particular work. as you stand (or sit) before your audience, trust yourself and focus on the moment. you don’t need to worry about that hard part coming up: you’ve put in the work and internalized what you need to do to be able to execute that difficult passage. allow irrelevant thoughts or nervous mental chatter to fall by the wayside and just play your instrument. and don’t forget to smile at the audience when they reward your great work with enthusiastic applause!
What would you add? It seems to me that too much of the teaching process focuses on stage II.