What to do...ohhhh, what to do!?
We often ask our teachers and our selves this question. What do I play to learn this? What should I do to learn that?
What we do matters. I think why we do matters more.
There might be 50 different etudes or exercises that could help someone learn what they need to learn, but optimal growth only happens if the performer approaches them with a clear idea of what they're wanting to learn. If the performer approaches the exercise with hopes that the learning will magically happen simply by doing, massive amounts of learning will be missed. When learning is missed, time is being wasted... We don't want to do that, do we!?
Solution : Don't just do what you need to learn, learn what you need to do.
Of course, there exists a healthy middle ground where 'doing' and 'learning' get combined well in the practice room. Unfortunately, practice room time-wasting quickly increases when "doing what you need to learn" results in a repetition-heavy approach to learning.
Repetition is not a bad thing. Repetition without clear purpose for why you're repeating things can be a very bad thing! We are surrounded by this message. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about reaching our human potential in his book Outliers
. He wrote that experts must spend 10,000 hours in order to become one, but the value of deliberate time spent is an important part of the mix. In his book Talent Code
, Daniel Doyle writes about "deep practice" and the scientific connection of the myelin in our body to how we approach our learning.
We lose out in two important ways when we practice with hopes that repetition will get us there. Repetition will get us there, just not where we want to be. Here's why:
1. We don't learn as much as we could have if we practiced with great clarity on our purpose. We don't build the best habits we possible can with each precious minute.
2. We end up reinforcing our bad habits of playing notes without our absolute best approach and music making.
That's the theory. Here's a graphic that helps illustrate the worst-case scenario. Doing more Repetition practicing than Thoughtful Research practicing can take us to what I call...
I've shared the above graphic before. Ironic that I'm being repetitive with this! Ha!
Task for this week - Less is More.
Play less notes at a higher level in the practice room. Focus on what you need to learn, and pick your exercises and repertoire around fundamental growth goals. Before you begin to play, speak or write down why you're playing.
Maybe make one of the big things you're focusing on your Timing. Then count deafeningly loudly, in your piece's musical style, for a full bar before you make a sound....every time. Be developing great timing-filled habits out of the gate, before every note.
Learn more and Do less.
Less quantity...more quality.
All the best, (literally...all notes your best)
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