As a follow up to last week’s review of Ricardo Iznaola’s On Practicing: A manual for students of guitar performance, I came across a checklist including a statement called “Emotional Detachment”. Here is what Iznaola states:
a. Emotional Detachment from the material being practiced. We are dispassionate and, therefore, emotionally unaffected by the natural ups-and-downs which happen in the course of practicing. We do not condemn ourselves for the mistakes, although we realistically take notice of them. We behave, and feel, like scientists in a lab. We observe, dispassionately, the results of our experiments.
In terms of practicing everyday in a constructive and efficient way, Izanola is absolutely correct. We can’t invest our emotions too much in our practice sessions or we loose focus and get crushed by our inadequacies. Don’t misunderstand the quote, however, I don’t believe he is suggesting to be dispassionate about the music itself. Rather, it is the art of practicing that needs to be observed by the practicer in a realistic and objective way. Like a scientist, one needs to identify the problem and find a viable solution while not letting emotions cloud our judgement.
The classic example of this would be when students say “I can’t do this.” All that is needed is for the student to identify the problem, make a small adjustment to technique or a musical element, play slower, and give it time. The following week I always end up reminding them that “see? You CAN do it.” It is often easier for a teacher to be objective about these situation but students have to learn that they can not let their emotions dictate their practicing sessions.