The following post is by Dr. Noa Kageyama who has dedicated much of his work to studying how top performers practice their craft. I’ve found his website The Bulletproof Musician to be a valuable resource for my students, my kids, and myself. I hope you find the following post and his other work as useful and insightful as I have….
8 Things Top Practicers do Differently
by Noa Kageyama Ph.D.
As my kids were (begrudgingly) practicing their Tae Kwon Do patterns the other night, I caught myself telling my oldest that he had to do his pattern five times before returning to his video game.
My goal, of course, was not for him to go through the motions of his pattern five times like a pouty zombie, but to do it one time with good form and authority. But the parent in me finds it very reassuring to know that a certain number of repetitions or time has gone into something. Beyond the (erroneous) assumption that this will automagically solidify his skills somehow, it feels like a path to greater discipline, and a way to instill within my kids some sort of work ethic that will serve them well in the future.
Some degree of time and repetition is necessary to develop and hone our skills, of course. But we also know on some intuitive level that to maximize gains, we ought to practice “smarter, not harder.”
But what the heck does that really mean anyway? What exactly do top practicers do differently?
“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi
Practice time is a sacred time. What we do in those minutes will make or break us. Those countless small moments add up to who we are as performers and musicians. In these moments we are slowly transformed.
How we approach and use this time is crucial in our development. We owe it to ourselves to make the best of it. The following are a few suggestions to consider before we next enter the practice room.
Make sure the place where we practice is free of things and people that will draw our attention away from the task at hand. Televisions, computers, brothers and sisters, and anything else that impedes our concentration should not be part of the practice environment.
Many students will usually start at the beginning of a piece, fly through the easier parts, struggle through the tough spots, push forward until they’ve reached the end, and then repeat the process. This isn’t the most productive method. Time would be better spent isolating the difficult portion and spending extra time on it. We should be doing far more repetitions on the difficult parts than the easy stuff.
Save The Fun for Last:
When there’s more than one practice item be strategic about the order in which we practice. Whatever you’re least excited about should be done first. Repeat this process until all that’s left is the most fun and exciting portion of the routine. If we do the hard stuff first and the fun stuff last we’ll be less likely to put it off til next time and may even spend more time than intended as we find ourselves inspired by our favorite music of the session.
As we’ve discussed in the past it’s okay to start small. Simply enacting one of the above suggestions will have a positive effect on the quality of our practice. You’ll be more productive and if done consistenly the results will pay off
As always if you have any thoughts or suggestions on the topic I’d love to hear them!
Looking forward to the music you’ll make!
Here’s hoping everyone had a great summer!
And with summer over the school year is upon us. I’d like to share with you a reminder as to why we all value a music education and how it can help us in the classroom this year.
The following is an excerpt from a PBS article highlighting the ways that a music education can help a student far beyond the notes, scales, chords, and melodies they’re learning. Find the full article here.
“A study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, revealed that students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored around 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to schools with low-quality music programs, regardless of socioeconomic disparities among the schools or school districts. Johnson compares the concentration that music training requires to the focus needed to perform well on a standardized test.
Aside from test score results, Johnson’s study highlights the positive effects that a quality music education can have on a young child’s success. Luehrisen explains this psychological phenomenon in two sentences: “Schools that have rigorous programs and high-quality music and arts teachers probably have high-quality teachers in other areas. If you have an environment where there are a lot of people doing creative, smart, great things, joyful things, even people who aren’t doing that have a tendency to go up and do better.”
And it doesn’t end there: along with better performance results on concentration-based tasks, music training can help with basic memory recall. “Formal training in music is also associated with other cognitive strengths such as verbal recall proficiency,” Pruett says. “People who have had formal musical training tend to be pretty good at remembering verbal information stored in memory.””
All of us here at Bridgewater School of Music are wishing you a fruitful and musical new school year.
See you all soon!
A key point we bring up early on with our students (and/or parents) is the importance of ritual. Learning an instrument can only be fruitfully accomplished if practice time becomes part of one’s daily routine. As routine as eating a meal or brushing one’s teeth. Like any of these things we should be acutely aware that we missed it. It can’t be something where we wait until the time is just right that we now have time for it.
In Mason Currey’s book “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” you’ll find a collection of short recordings of ritual from some of the great musicians, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians of the last few centuries. It’s an intriguing look into the routines of these titans, giving us a glimpse of the strategies and maneuvers that allowed them to produce their work.
While some of the examples may prove impractical, at the bare minimum one can surely pick up some ideas or inspiration. The importance of ritual is the common thread that runs through these achievers lives (also coffee, lots and lots of coffee) and we’re certain their example can help you and/or your loved ones achieve great things as well.
Spring Toddler Time music classes start March 22nd.
We’d love for you to join us for an interactive and enriching musical experience for you and your child. We meet 10:45 Wednesday mornings at the Martinsville Community Center.
It’s a great opportunity to get a valuable jumpstart on your children’s music education in a safe and fun environment while building bonds with your child and other music loving families.
I’ve attended class with my daughter Gianna and her cousin and they love it. We can’t stop singing the songs at home.
Our 8 class Spring session kicks off this Wednesday.
– $150 for all 8 classes – $100 for both of you if you sign up with a friend
– $120 for 6 classes (you choose the 6 you’d like to attend)
– $80 for 4 classes (you choose the 4 you’d like to attend)
Call, or email us for more info and to register.
Hope to see you there!
We’re so excited about our new program “Toddler Time”. It’s an interactive weekly class for your little ones to explore the exciting world of music through singing, dancing, and fun.
Our spring session starts soon. Contact us to register.