People are surprised when I tell them I don’t practice the harp a lot. Allow me to introduce you to the art of musical bullshitting.
If you have a background in classical music (or perhaps music of any sort), you know the importance of practicing your instrument to improve and grow. When I first started playing the harp I hated practicing. I still do, actually. So I guess my brain developed a way to “cheat” a little.
Because I mostly play solo for small events, I have freedom to arrange and play music the way I want to. From little on up I always preferred learning music by ear instead of reading music. I learned how to improvise, and that has allowed me to pretend I know what I’m doing even when I don’t. However, that mainly works in a non-classical music setting. Put me in an orchestra and I’m lost.
While I don’t like practicing, I do like playing. Someone I know once told me he viewed the idea of playing music like you would play a game, and that perspective is what made it fun. So I play the harp somewhat regularly, and sometimes that will turn into practice – reviewing songs in my repertoire, or challenging myself to learn a new song I heard on the radio. If I have a performance to prepare for, I will brush up on specific songs. I have become familiar enough with my harp to rely on muscle memory and my ear.
Playing over practicing is a mindset I allow myself to have as a part-time musician. It is something I can do when I come home from a stressful day at work. And it is something that doesn’t have to feel like a chore, because it puts me in a semi-meditative state. When, as a musician, I allow the music to touch me similarly to how it touches others, that’s how I know I’ve achieved a healthy level of play.