Beethoven’s Routine

Long-time readers know that I love Beethoven (particularly his Sixth Symphony, the “Pastoral”).

Readers also might know that I keep a fairly busy schedule.  Doing so requires sticking to routine, but that’s not always my strong suit.  My mind tends to jump from one task to another, but I find that writing out a detailed “to-do” list and crossing it off helps me to focus in on a task for extended periods of time.

When I really get into something—working on a new collection of piano miniatures, grading papers, or writing blog posts—I can focus in for hours, and often do that.  But working into that flow state takes time and, more importantly, motivation.  It’s the latter that I have been lacking the past week, a combination of end-of-the-school-year exhaustion and a renewed interest in Civilization VI.

So I thought it’d be interesting during this winding down season—when my own routine is about to change to the more leisurely pace of summertime—to look at Beethoven’s daily routine, care of YouTube channel Inside the Score.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Beethoven’s routine is his meticulous approach to brewing coffee:  he would count out exactly sixty beans.  Inside the Score muses that this “was some kind of mental ‘ritual’ to warm up his brain.”  Maybe I’ll give it a try sometime!

Then, as he washed his hands, he’d sing “up and down the scale” and hum “tunes loudly to himself.”  After his coffee, a light breakfast, and lots of handwashing and humming, Beethoven would sit down to compose “until 2 or 3 PM, taking the occasional break to walk around outdoors,” before settling in to a large lunch.

After lunch, Beethoven “would take a long, vigorous walk” and bring along “a pencil and some manuscript paper” to jot down ideas.  Beethoven loved composing in nature, drinking in its inspiration.

He’d then read the newspaper at a local tavern, and spend his evenings with friends or at home with a book, usually eating leftovers, enjoying some beer, and smoking a pipe, before turning in by 10 PM.

It really sounds like a wonderful routine:  rise early, sharpen your mind, and set to work for a solid five or six hours.  Then enjoy some time outdoors and with friends, before retiring for a quiet evening.  It’s the life teaching promises on paper, but does not deliver in practice.

I don’t know that I’ll be waking up at 6 AM during the summer (my current wake-up time during the school year), but I hate to sleep in too late and burn up the morning, which is my favorite time of the day.  I would like to incorporate more walks into my summertime schedule, if I can get Murphy to break free from our usual pattern of circling the block in search of every spare bit of cat poop for her to devour (apologies if that’s gross, but that is what gets her moving—or just normal food).

Regardless, Beethoven was onto something good.  I don’t think a routine guarantees masterpieces, but it certainly gives one a sense of mental order, and time to sharpen one’s skills.

What’s your daily routine?  Did Beethoven have it right?

Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Wednesday!



4 thoughts on “Beethoven’s Routine

  1. Routines would have been easier to keep during Beethoven’s time. Whether rich or poor, they all had something to do and routine for many was Hobson’s Choice.

    We can’t keep a routine because of my job. The only thing that’s really routinous is how we wake in the morning – tea/coffee, cigarettes and The Drinker or the like, while I’m fiddling around with something I’m writing. Struggle to listen to the news nowadays. Too depressing.

    Has traffic picked up for yesterday’s piece yet?

    Liked by 1 person

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