Mikko Raasakka


Exposition: Deliberately Practicing the Saxophone (22/03/2017) by Per Anders Nilsson
Mikko Raasakka 04/06/2017 at 23:25

Per Anders Nilsson’s exposition Deliberately Practicing the Saxophone is a well written, thoroughly researched and clearly structured text that offers important insights to the process of practicing a musical instrument. The author’s experience in playing the saxophone for more than 30 years is tangible. Nilsson bases his exposition firmly on numerous reliable sources. The title itself is not perhaps very idiomatic English: I would have recommended something like Deliberate practicing on the saxophone.


                  Nilsson has divided his exposition into four chapters and a conclusion. In the first chapter he explains the main concepts of his text and tells about his own personal history as a musician, first saxophone player and later as a digital music instrument player. In the core of Nilsson’s exposition is the concept of deliberate practice, which means to be able to ”design challenging exercises that improve skills with respect to specific conditions and skills necessary to master within a certain field”. The arrested development, or stagnation, is the opposite of the latter. It is “generalized automated behaviour, a habit of only practicing and performing the already known.” 


                  In the second chapter, Nilsson describes the conceptual methodological framework of his study. He presents the idea about two modes of music making: design time and play time. I find the similarities with the design process particularly interesting. Nilsson sees both as spiral-like, three-stage processes: “to know is to understand the relation between doing and caused effect, to do is about bodily activity and to feel is to perceive effects of doing.”


                  The third chapter is about practicing the saxophone in general and the chapter four, which is perhaps mainly targeted for jazz musicians, he presents a detailed example how he himself prepared for a performance. The provided sound example (writer’s own version of a jazz-standard) demonstrates the text nicely.


                  I can warmly recommend Nilsson’s exposition not only for researchers but also for everybody interested in the process of practicing an instrument. Nilsson’s style is accessible also for readers not accustomed to scientific writing.