Let’s get this straight. This isn’t a book about practice. It won’t tell you how to get be better or how to play your instrument. It doesn’t contain tips and techniques for learning. It’s not specific and it doesn’t grab you with it’s design and layout. It’s just brilliant!
That’s right. One of the best books a practising musician could possibly read.
Whilst not specifically about practice Ristad’s effortless style contains many examples that we can use to change the way we think about music and practice.
From the opening the book feels like it is coming from an old friend. Ristad talks about her ‘Soprano’ – a typical musician trying to improve. This Soprano is full of the same doubts, questions and thoughts as we all are and via the easy style of writing Ristad offers ways in which we can look at things from a different perspective.
The opening chapters deal with those inner voices that we all have. Some are critical of us whilst others may mock or laugh at us. Ristad also highlights the effect that these can have on us such as over or unthinking practice. Whilst not explicit there are many thoughts and suggestions as to how you might over come these.
One of my favourite sections is about childhood lessons. A vivd picture of these is painted and the fears around practice clarified. Simple explanations as to why this should be so offer reassurance to current learners and a useful perspective for teachers.
The book goes on to cover topics such as mistakes, nerves, fear of failure, creativity and visualisation before giving a glimpse of what our ‘cured’ Soprano might look like.
There are a couple of sections in the book dedicated to pianists. Whilst I found the novel presentation of the stave against the keyboard interesting it may not be to everyone’s taste. This is but one minor criticism of an otherwise excellent book.
I’ll close by simply saying buy this book. Borrow it from a library, a friend, your teacher, whatever. Just read it. It is that good.
A Soprano On Her Head by Eloise Ristad, (1982, Real People Press, ISBN: 978-0911226214) is available from:[amazon asin=0911226214&template=htp price]