Alisa Weilerstein - On Practicing

Matthew Janszen: Were there times when you got frustrated when you practiced?

Alisa Weilerstein: Oh yeah!

Matthew: How did you overcome that or how do you get through that?

Alisa: Using the phrase “this too shall pass!” (laughing hysterically). No, there's no getting around the fact that there's a lot of blood, sweat and tears involved. Maybe not blood, but tears involved in you know becoming the musician, the artist that you really want to become. And of course there are setbacks, and you know good days and bad days and just kind of have to take a step back I think. To always have perspective and there is also such a thing as over practicing. You can kill something, kind of vibe by doing it the wrong way too many times or by being...or by using negative psychology on oneself.

One thing that I noticed when I gave master classes is once when...this is not to say that everyone does this but very often I see - if something goes wrong like a student play something they play something out of tune or they miss the shift, they will go back and sort of go you know just play the note you know several times like having a stutter, like say I can't say “absolutely” (stuttering) trying to get this word out. It's very important, I think that kind of practice is very counterproductive.

I've discovered for myself and for students - it's very important to practice in a complete sentence. Because that way with the stuttering you actually learn the mistake, you teach yourself the mistake whereas if you stop, you calmly put your bow down, take a breath and then go back to the beginning of the phrase - you say, “Okay I did something and now I know what I did, I'm going to fix it.”

Matthew: So it's a much more positive approach to a mistake or a frustrating part of a piece instead of approaching it from the negative aspect.

Alisa: Right. Well, because then you become irrational and panicked and that creates all sorts of problems. So it's better to say...

Matthew: It sort of snowballs at that point.

Alisa: Yeah, totally snowballs. So just you know take a step back, take your breath and then do it again until you get it I mean of course until you get it right, but in a complete sentence.

Matthew: Yeah.

Team Compassalisa