The Practice Notebook

flutist Zara Lawler shares tips on learning music

Why bother with good practice, anyway? Part 2


I recently had the chance to attend a master class by the wonderful French flutist, Jean Ferrandis. It was at the New York Flute Club’s Flute Fair (yes, all you non-flutists, there is a New York Flute Club and they do host a Flute Fair!), on March 28.

Jean Ferrandis

I only got to see the last student play, and over the course of his coaching, Ferrandis said a very inspiring thing:

“Most musicians settle for how they can play, not how they want to play.”

Actually, now that I see it written out, it’s kind of a depressing statement on the world of music. But if you tweak it so that it’s about practicing, which I think was Ferrandis’ implication, it can be quite inspiring:

Why do we practice? So that we can play how we want to play


Why do we practice? To transform how we can play into how we want to play


Why do we practice? So that our musical abilities need not be limited by our physical abilities

OR, more how Jean Ferrandis might put it:

Why do we practice? So that the audience can hear our music, and get to know us

In fact, he also said,

Music is not about doing a good job, it’s about sharing yourself.


The problem is never technical, it is always musical.

When you open your mind to greater possibilities, not just how you can play something, but how you want to play it, your body finds the way to achieve it.

That’s a good practice principle that is also a reason to bother with good practice.

Try it in your own practice in the next week or so. Begin every session with the question:

How do I want this to sound?

See if it brings up anything new or interesting for you, and please share your experiences as comments below. My next post will detail some of the ways this approach has affected my practicing in the last few weeks.

(And if you need more inspiration, check out Why bother with good practice? Part 1)

posted under Inspiration Gallery
2 Comments to

“Why bother with good practice, anyway? Part 2”

  1. On May 12th, 2010 at 6:44 am Helen Bledsoe Says:

    Zara, thanks for sharing the ideas, I really like this guy’s approach. Also I read recently Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit” where she says “Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect”. Just that thought keeps me focused. Not that I have a hope in hades of ever playing perfectly, but now I can better manage what I want to say musically.

  2. On May 12th, 2010 at 8:37 am admin Says:

    I think Julius Baker also said that about perfect practice. I like the idea from Ferrandis, though, that getting your musical ideas across is a good definition of “perfect.”

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