Keeping up as a musician – 5 everyday tips!

Hello everyone,

It’s been a while, but we’re back! It’s true what they say: the longer you wait and don’t write anything, the harder it gets to start again. Just now I was checking the date of the last blog and to my astonishment, it was published on the 8th of October. OCTOBER! Can you imagine? Now it’s almost Christmas, the holiday season is coming.

I have to say I had some difficulties finding something nice and inspiring to write about. Somehow I couldn’t come up with a good idea. During Halloween, I was writing an article about classical music that has something to do with the feast (for example ‘Die Erlkönig’ and ‘Der Tod und das Mädchen’ by Schubert), but I deleted the whole article the morning after, after having a horrible night with a storm that caused the walls in my room to creak. So that was bye-bye to my Halloween-inspired article, as I didn’t want to be reminded of that night again. After that, I tried to write about something else, but again I didn’t succeed because I thought it was too boring (even I got bored while writing it). Now I may have found something nice to write about!

As some of you may know already, I’m in my final master’s year and graduating soon. Next to this, I teach and work as a freelancer in orchestras. As a lot of you can understand, the combination can be very demanding. Let me rephrase that: being a professional musician can be demanding, as you are busy with your job most of the time. Irregularity in working hours is also one of the things we have to deal with and in some periods you’re busy with your profession 24/7. I don’t know about the rest of the music world,  but I can go crazy when I don’t have enough of my own private time, even though I love making music very much. Some weeks ago I was feeling very down and stressed about literally everything, I felt like I had too much on my plate. Now I’m in a more peaceful state and I try to keep it that way. There are a few things that help me get through my day and I’d like to share those things, as they might be helpful and useful for you too!

1. Get enough sleep
I can’t stress it enough, even to myself! I’ve had such a bad sleeping pattern for the last year that I kind of got used to it and thought it was normal to feel tired the whole day long. I would go to sleep after twelve ‘o clock in the night and wake up at eight in the morning. After a point, I felt like I could not do it anymore and tried not to make appointments too early in the morning. Recently I tried to sleep earlier (at eleven) to see if it would have an impact or not. I didn’t think it would make such a big difference, but it actually did. Now I really try to be in bed at ten thirty, so that I can really go to sleep at eleven. I don’t always succeed, but when I do, I feel the benefit of it immediately. Instead of watching a Youtube-video or reading something on your phone (yes, I am indeed talking to myself) read a book, as it calms you down and prepares you to go to sleep.

2. Be careful with scheduling too many things on one day
And that is where I was messing up. If I look at my diary of several weeks ago I had appointments, rehearsals, lessons, planned practice moments from morning till evening. I felt like a zombie during the day and it was driving me nuts. No room for rest is no good for your mental health. Always make sure that you have room for yourself, preferably every day. Is there an opportunity to have a free evening? Take it. A free hour in the morning somewhere? Take it. Do other things that don’t involve your work or study. I used to watch Netflix series last school year, which I really love (I was really into Daredevil, Thirteen Reasons Why, Who’s that Girl, Black Sails and many more). The only problem is that it can be super addictive to watch series, so don’t disappear in the same rabbit hole as I did ;) Other than that, read a book, draw, have a walk outside, meet a friend or just simply lay down and do nothing.

3. Do stretching exercises before you start practising
Every time I start with stretching exercises I think ‘I don’t have time for this’. I have to convince myself – every time again –  to really do it. And you know what? Every time I do it is it so incredibly clear to me that it is necessary to do it, especially as a musician. Not only do you stretch your muscles, but you’re able to focus much longer while you’re practising. On top of that, you feel much better when your body is relaxed, rather than being tense.

4. Look for recordings that inspire you or can give you new ideas 
I have to be completely honest: I usually don’t listen to pieces that I play myself, but I have been trying to do it more often now. It is so interesting to see how different performers can play one piece. Everyone has his own interpretation of the piece. Even listening to very early recordings can be inspirational. Why is this performer playing the piece in this manner and why is the other one doing it in a completely opposite way? What can I learn from it? What do I like, what do I like less?

5. Read books on the repertoire you play 
Have you ever read a book that contains information about historical performance practice? This domain is so interesting for me and I feel I will be occupied with this the rest of my life. Currently, I am reading Classical and Romantic Performing Practice by Clive Brown. There are so many things that they used to do differently, different from what we are taught now. That makes me wonder: why do we do the things we do in this way? Currently, I am also working on Mozart’s violin concerto in A again and alongside reading The Art of the Violin, written by the father of Mozart, Leopold Mozart, which was gifted to me by my sister. Even though it’s not a primary source, it can still give you some information about the performance practice back then which might inspire you to play the concerto in a different way.

Last but not least.

6. Get a cat
Just kidding – but they say they are beneficial for your health!

See you next time!


Author: Nino Natroshvili

Violinist and student at the Utrecht Conservatory, the Netherlands.

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