Book Review: The Art and Technique of Practice, by Richard Provost

Technique isn’t enough on its own – emotion has to come through – but when you’ve got the technique sewn up, that’s one thing you don’t have to worry about. ~ Zoe Benbow, visual artist

Without Unceasing Practice nothing can be done.  Practice is Art.  If you leave off you are lost. ~William Blake (1757 – 1827) from The Poetical Works of William Blake


Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

The Art and Technique of Practice, Richard Provost (1992): 56 pages

Provost’s take on practice is simple and easily digested. Lots of white space on the 56 pages, and that’s a good thing, especially if you’re starting out. The book is an excellent primer for those new to practice and contains a wealth of basic information. The book’s got 6 chapters:

  1. General Guidelines: Goals, Productivity Techniques, Scheduling, Practice (7 pages)
  2. Preparation & Technique (2 pages)
  3. Memorization & Visualization (9 pages)
  4. Note-Reading and Interpretive Practice (3 pages)
  5. Probelm-Solving & Repertoire Maintenance (3 pages)
  6. Developing Reading and Listening Skills (7 pages)
  7. Appendices: Practice Schedules, Practice Outline, Bibliography, About the Author (8 pages)

In general, because Provost is a classical guitarist, this is where his practice approach is coming from. Nothing wrong with that, of course, because there are basic skills like planning, goal-setting, assessment, and maintenance that are part of any practice, whether it’s music (say, hang drum), or curling, or chess. A very tiny bit of the material is specific to the guitar (or other string instruments) in that it talks of hand positions. Otherwise all the information is perfectly adaptable to any instrument or voice. Or curling. 🙂

Especially useful are the bibliography (tho it’s a little outdated since the book came out 18 years ago), and the Practice Outline in the book’s Appendix. The practice outline is a great thing to stick in your case or on the wall of your practice room to remind you of all the great information in the book. In fact, I think I’ll tear my pages out right now and do just that so I think about these things while I compose my own take on these ideas.

At a little over $11, this is a great and inexpensive way to get a little jolt of solid practice tips under your belt, or give that jolt to a musician you know who could use the structure. For people who have been playing and practicing for a while, however, most of this information will not be all that revelatory, though I was glad to be reminded of all this information when I read it. In fact, after reading it again, I’ve resolved to make goal-setting more explicit and frequent in my own practice. It’s a great little book. Get one.

If you’re further along in your practice expertise and need something with more substance, consider checking out the next book I’ll review. It’s an excellent new title by Gerald Klickstein (another classical guitarist), called The Musician’s Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness. It’s a much more comprehensive book, though still focused on Western classical music. Stay tuned.

Have fun and good luck with your practice.

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Mike Saville says:

    Thanks Jonathan, that’s a title I’d not seen. I’ll be checking it out shortly.

  2. I just graduated the Hartt School from studying with Richard Provost. This book was the first thing he told me to read. I did, and all of the concepts I pass down to my own students. Nice review!

    1. Hi Nick-
      Thanks for the feedback! Very cool that you were able to study w/ Provost. I’d be interested to learn what he taught and whether it differed at all from his book. Any thoughts?

      1. Actually nothing was really any different, other then updating with some more relevant texts. That’s about it. Everything is still pretty much the same. As I said, this was a text that was required for me to read from my first week of studying with him.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.