Take time to look at your successes and celebrate what you’ve accomplished. (If you’re doing the 30 days in order: Congratulations. You made it!) Today is a play day – take another day “off duty” and just make music in a way that’s fun for you.
Play or sing through one piece or song without stopping, no matter how many mistakes you might make. If you’re a beginner and you don’t have a whole piece yet, just play through everything you have learnt so far. Focus on connecting the dots to a whole. Keep the flow going.
We’ve looked at beginnings and endings. What happens in between? Try different ways of building up and reducing tension in a phrase. Pick a passage from your repertoire. Where are the peak points? Where does energy build up and where does it dissipate? Play around with that. Look at tempo, dynamics, articulation, phrasing.
How do you join phrases or musical parts together? How do you contrast them? Take a look at a passage that consists of two or more phrases, and pay special attention to the transition. If you’re a singer, that could mean looking at how you hold tension across a breath between two adjoined phrases or prepare in time for the transition into a new musical part.
Play something as expressively as you can today. Put in all the emotion you can. Get messy in the process. Let it be raw and immediate. Then take a step back and reflect: Are you so absorbed in your emotion that your musicianship is actually impeded? Does your experience hamper your connection to your audience, or does it give your music life and meaning? Or does your performance usually lack expressivity? What level of emotional intensity is appropriate in your musical practice? Do you connect with your audience on a direct, authentic and intense level of emotion? Or do you interact with listeners on a more abstract and intellectual level? There is no right or wrong answer for that – a Bach concerto is not a Hardcore song! What is your appropriate balance between emotional expression on one hand and musical and technical accuracy on the other hand?
Read up on a piece you’re practicing. Which period is it from? Where does it fall in its creator’s oevre? What’s the genre? In what setting did it used to be performed? Is there anything noteworthy about the genesis or the context of the work?
If it’s your own work, answer those questions for yourself. Write your own concert guide entry.
Pay attention to phrasing and similar subdivisions. Where are sensible subdivisions in a passage? How do they connect, and how are they divided from each other? If you’re a singer or wind player, see if you can try out different places to breathe.
Today, play around with tempo. Play your piece faster than you normally would, or slow it all the way down. How does a passage sound in different tempi?
Take some risks. Your practice is the place to make mistakes, too. Let go of the fear of playing something wrong today. How does your practice go when you allow yourself to make mistakes in your quest for expression?
Rhythmic accuracy is important, but does your music have the right kind of life and flow? Try to get groovy without losing precision. Can you feel the rhythm?