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The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart
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The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,437 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
This landmark book enlightens amateur and professional musicians about a way of practicing that transforms a sometimes frustrating, monotonous, and overly strenuous labor into an exhilarating and rewarding experience. Acclaimed pianist and teacher Madeline Bruser combines physiological and meditative principles to help musicians release physical and mental tension and unle ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 2nd 1999 by Three Rivers Press (first published January 21st 1997)
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Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, music
This is a raw dump of the notes I took while reading the book:

Intro and Part 1

Regaining motivation
Remember the moment when you knew music would be a part of your life. Are there songs that bring that back?
Find the "unshakable confidence in your musicality"
"Passion, confidence and vulnerability are evidence of musical talent"
Are you repeating passages in your practice out of desperation to gain "technical security"? This can "destroy inspiration"
"the qualities of openness, uncertainty, freedom, a
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
Madeline Bruser's book is one that I refer to and return to at least once every semester. In a world of competition and high-stress productivity where musicians (and especially music students) have set the perfection of recordings as "par for the course," Bruser reminds all of us that in order to have a musically fulfilling life and career we must find fulfillment in practicing as well as in performing. Our society would like us to believe that success should be achieved with the minimum amount ...more
Oct 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: neurotic musicians
Certain aspect of this book were really helpful, others, not so much. coming from a yoga perspective, the "open heart" concept certainly resonated and it helps my clarinet playing, both posture-wise and musically. When I open my heart, my shoulder blades come down my back and my air pressure gets better. Bruser has lots of ideas to bring out the best, most musical playing in everyone, and how to effectively translate that into a performance situation. I liked how she said instead of pretending t ...more
Paul Williford
Jun 18, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is not always compellingly written, but the ideas presented can be liberating. For over 45 years, I've started every practice session with the tedium of scales, arpeggios and technical exercises, but Ms. Bruser encourages me to follow my curiosity and explore the music with my mind and heart - and to share that music with generosity and vulnerability. Sorry, Messrs. Hanon and Czerny, from now on I might warm up with a scale or two, but then it's right into the music ...
Feb 02, 2011 rated it liked it
I have been an amateur musician for years, mostly playing the guitar. A year ago I started taking piano lessons, which I love. I am "retired" now so have a little more time to devote to playing and am always thinking about how to "practice" both to feel more satisfied with the time I have spent as well as becoming a better musician. This book is oriented towards professional musicians who work under tremendous pressure and competition, something thankfully I don't live with-one of the many good ...more
Jun 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-music
The author emphasized relaxation and letting the heart take over. Kind of a Buddhist approach to practicing. I liked that.

The most immediately helpful suggestion she made was to train yourself to really hear what you're playing, by singing one line while playing another. I can see how helpful that would be in working on a Bach fugue or invention. Will have to try that. It seems funny to think that you don't HEAR what you're doing, when music is, after all, meant to be heard. But it's very easy a
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Madeline reveals one fundamental truth about practicing, that it is an art form by itself. This book doesn’t educate readers on “how” to practice, rather it introduced readers to “why” we practice, and the profound joy of good practices.

Madeline advocates that we approach practice with a sense of humor. All musicians across all levels go through a journey of musical mastery. All musicians are humans, who are full of flaws and who improve by learning.

Madeline advocates that we cultivate the art o
May 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Some nice anecdotes and a few good suggestions in here, but honestly I found most of this completely alien to my music-learning and -performing experiences and not helpful or relevant at all. The author seems like an awesome person who I would love to get a drink and talk with, but for me this particular book just wasn't what I needed.
Ryan Schmidt
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was an inspirational boost of morale, a collection of many new perspectives, and echoed much from my teacher. Exactly what I needed this summer!

The author is a pianist, and although some ideas are universally applicable, some sections get into the minutiae of piano playing that do not matter to me at all. My only complaint, such a good book!
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
As an adult learner, this was my first foray into reading about how to be a better pianist. What a great way to start! This is part-musical guide, part life-coaching guide! Many of the suggestions on how to become a better musician, can be directly applied to how to be a more authentic person. Having said that, there are lots of great practical lessons on how to approach your practice, eg. starting with stretching, which stretches are helpful etc.

What I found especially useful were the last sev
Oct 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is just a great book to read about music, creativity, and ergonomics, all in one. It was a pleasure to reread, and I highly recommend it.
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bruser does a great job describing all of the techniques that will help a musician become more in tune with themselves (pun intended). I think everything she talks about will be useful for musicians of different instruments and of different levels. Especially having recently gotten into meditation, I think everything she talks about is very useful and will help my growth as a musician.
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've come to know a few books on practices, but a chapter in this one made me want to own this for the family's musical journey. Far from just detailing the techniques to physically preparing the body for a practice, it sheds light on how to open up one's inner vulnerability to let the audience to listen one's music from his or her heart.
Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I think almost everyone will find something useful in this book.

The author approaches music making from a meditative/Zen viewpoint, but also includes a lot of practical ideas.
Jul 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a good one, but I think it caters more toward professional and aspiring concert musicians, rather than amateurs. I picked it up specifically because I've been struggling with my own practicing; I fall into the category of one who is uncomfortable with my instrument and frustrated by my inability to express myself. I think that some of Bruser's early "steps" in her process are more applicable here, but some of the later steps seem to be more concerned with drawing out nuance and subt ...more
Apr 11, 2008 rated it liked it
The most valuable concept I gained was the idea that as you practice you make yourself hyper-aware of your surroundings--instead of trying to tune them out completely. Usually we are told to "focus," or "concentrate" and ignore anything that might distract us. Her idea is to do the opposite as you practice. Notice the feel of the bench under your thighs, the quiet buzz of the light fixture, the draft coming from the hallway . . . When you become accustomed to noticing every minute detail that yo ...more
Amalie Simper
I really enjoyed that this book was geared towards multiple different instruments and all the points in her ten step practice plan in part 2 could be related to any musician. I enjoyed the Q&A at the end of each section. I had many of the questions in my mind and really appreciated her answers. The best, very best chapter of the whole book was the last chapter. It was a book that resonated with me and I considered my own teachers and which parts they instilled in me and our lessons, and the ...more
Shimin Li
Oct 31, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 9th-grade-adv
This book tells us how we should practice and what kind of thoughts we should have. It tells why we should relax and how we could do it. The book contains many differents ideas, things about piano, violin, viola, percussions and flutes,etc. Quotes from performers and teachers. Also there are questions from readers and answers to them.
One message it gave me is to remember to enjoy. Not thinking about how hard things are, just relax and enjoy what's in front of me. Try to not forget about the cur
Mikael Lind
Sep 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: music
Kind of repetitive, but it has some important points to make. The yoga/stretching section is important but kind of strange in that it doesn't really explain what you do if you can't even remotely reach a similar position as the author. Try your best, yes, but my god, I was stiff as a refrigerator before I started to practice yoga, and this book should have focused more on how you develop an agile body. I suggest you don't buy this book; borrow it at the library, read about her philosophy of prac ...more
Oct 18, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a good book to help me get spirit back into my music. Lately I have been so stressed about several different things. I was focusing on the technical aspect instead of playing/singing from the heart. I enjoyed the warm up suggestions, the sections specific to clarinet players and the memorization suggestions (playing by heart). I especially enjoyed the author's advise on allowing your feelings to happen and to effect you music. There were times when I thought she repeated herself within ...more
Michael Anderson
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very entertaining book, though a bit repetitive in places, the author describes attitude and practices that hopefully result in better, more enjoyable and effective musical practices and performances. These include meditation, breathing, posture, listening techniques, rhythmic balance, relaxation, and related methods. I may be able to apply some of them to chess playing, possibly. All in all, a good book.
Acer Pseudoplantatus
Dec 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: music, music-misc
This book contains quite a few useful ideas on practicing and performance and valuable concepts about and advice on posture and movement, but unfortunately it is repetative, filled with new-agey bullshit (mainly misconceptions about energy and resonance that the author is constantly refering to) and
fake/invented-seeming anecdotes.
The bulk of it unfortunately was tedious and annoying, even though there are some beautiful thoughts.
Aug 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all musicians!
A very good book for musicians of all stripes. It puts forth steps for starting your practice sessions, with breathing and stretching exercises, then moves on to tips for really expressing things with your music (yes, even while "just practicing"), outlines posture for various instruments, and has other extremely interesting tidbits and not so tid-bits having to do with all aspects of expression through music.

lovely and good to have on-hand as a reference even after you've read it all.
Nov 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This wasn't exactly what I expected. However, it contained some interesting suggestions and new perspectives. I found it to be moderately useful. I initially scoffed at the stretching idea. However, after trying them I actually like them quite a bit. It is doubtful I would go through the whole rigamarole before each practice session, though.
Jun 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Band Nerds :D
Recommended to Anne-Marie by: Ms. Kaiser (my flute/piano teacher :)
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was helpful. REALLY boring in some parts, but pretty interesting in others. The author has a lot of "revelations." For example, she talked about this one time when she was sitting at the piano bench and had an epiphany that changed her entire life. And she wants people to meditate before they play an instrument... sounds like Professor Trelawney to me.
Virginia Franklyn
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I skimmed the parts of this book that didn't apply to me. But stretching and relaxing before practice and performances, thorough memorizing as a tool to help you quickly recover when you make a mistake, finding something to love in each tune (even those you don't love - I'm looking at you, Loch Carron), and recognizing the bravery of performance and competitions resonated with me. A good read.
Jon Thysell
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
For an amateur musician like me, without the benefit of a formal musical education, this book has opened up a variety of avenues and expanded my appreciation for practicing and what it means to make music. Not to say this book is only for amateurs, given the amount of space she dedicates to the issues that professional, performing musicians face. A book I will read again and again.
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book strips you down to the core as a musician. You gain an insight into the things you thought you only struggled with.
I highly recommend it! It'll help you with practice and performance!

"Give this book to any musician you love and to any person who loves what music does for them and for the world." -Richard Stoltzman, Clarinetist
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Zen meets cello (or any other instrument) practice. This book is a good reminder not to let perfectionism suck the joy out of practicing. Her ideas may also apply to other areas of life that involve presence and discipline.
unfortunately i didn't get to finish this before handing it on to a good friend as a birthday gift. it seemed like a good read -- and the friend i gave it to is incredibly delighted with it (and neither of us are classical pianists; though i imagine it would be even better if we were).
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Author of the highly acclaimed book The Art of Practicing, pianist Madeline Bruser is a Juilliard graduate who has trained in mindfulness disciplines for 35 years. She has performed as soloist with the San Francisco and Denver Symphony Orchestras and has taught workshops at the Juilliard School and other conservatories throughout the U.S. and Canada. Her book has sold 75,000 copies and has been t ...more
More about Madeline Bruser
“Whether you are five years old and irresistibly drawn to the piano in your home, or you are an adult who suddenly falls in love with music and decides to take lessons, the knowledge that you belong in the world of music is deep and indestructible. It is part of your basic nature, as much as the color of your eyes or the sound of your voice. Even your choice of instrument might feel choiceless; you hear a piano or a cello and somehow know that that is the instrument you must play.” 3 likes
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