When friends say – you should practice the …
How often have you heard from a friend colleague, or parent that you should try working with some method, technique, or way of doing something?
They all seem to have the cure for your woes. Yet none of them really know what we are struggling to achieve, although they may be close. They have no real way of directing us right to the heart of the matter. What they do have is their experience that they went through to overcome a similar issue.
Notice how I left out our teachers in that last consideration? I do that because it’s their advice that we actually respect more than others. In most cases that’s the way it should be regarded. They work to program the what and how things should be practiced.
A Challenge on Method
I’m going to challenge a vast majority of their practice directions today.
I don’t believe that all teachers, and especially all our friends, know what is good practice technique. When I hear things like practice this 20 times in a row, blood starts to shoot out of my eyes. Rote practicing is, in my mind, the best proven slow method to mediocrity and boredom.
Repetition as the standard
The concept of repeating an exercise or playing a song you are learning over and over until it becomes better and better is not a natural part of the process. It has been my experience that practicing by repeating for the sake of repeating simple takes a long, long time to get any better let alone master a musical element.
I am not saying you shouldn’t be repeating exercises and songs, I’m saying you need to do it in a different manner and mind set. I have experienced this and believe there is a better way.
The effective key to practicing
The most effective concept and my key to practicing is focusing your attention to very specific improvement in small steps. This means you will repeat a small amount of practice effort and focus on making it better with each attempt. As it becomes better you widen the scope of your focus to include more. Sometimes referred to as adding on.
But this effective focus is more than just adding on. It’s about grouping a set of notes and improving the way it sounds each time you play it. You’re not just running through it 10 times; you’re engaged with how it sounds different every time you play it.
Next time you sit down to practice a piece of music or do a scale take notice of how you are approaching it.