The Practice of Practice by Jonathan Harnum

Rating: 5 out of 5.

At the recommendation of a fellow violin student, I picked up The Practice of Practice by musician Jonathan Harnum. Admittedly, I was initially skeptical of the rave reviews my fellow violinists gave the book, but it absolutely lived up to the hype with delightful anecdotes, eye-opening data, practical mindset tips, and widely applicable practice strategies.

hand holding a Kindle with the book cover for The Practice of Practice on the screen

Harnum’s warm personality and dedication to his craft and teaching shine through his advice and storytelling. Throughout the book, he speaks to the reader like I imagine he would talk to a friend or student.

Rather than using vague metaphors, Harnum uses real-world examples and analogies that you can sink your teeth into. The outcome for any reader who pays attention is a more focused, more disciplined, and somehow more relaxed approach to personal development. What you’ll take away from this book can help you whether you’re learning an instrument or working toward an improvement in some other, non-musical pursuit.

Harnum supplements each chapter with links to other content that goes into more depth about the content he’s introduced, including research, articles, and notable musical performances. For those looking for even more, the book’s official website is a robust repository of extras related to the topic of practice and music learning in general.

I wholeheartedly recommend this read to anyone, musician or not, who could use a meaningful and pragmatic push to practice a skill. While geared toward musicians (of any skill level), the specificity of the audience it’s intended for makes the advice much more impactful.

I promise you the actual content is far more compelling than I could do justice in this quick summary! Long story short: mindset matters, and so does the work, so if the work’s got you stuck, think about or approach it differently.

I also published a version of this post to my bookstagram here.

Where to find The Practice of Practice