Laura's Word and Music

Laura's Word and Music

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

How did you learn to play so well? It's been said that success at playing a musical instrument is 10% talent and 90 percent hard work. Most musicians will have spent a lot of time alone, practicing, learning, honing their skills. Many are labeled as obsessive about their instrument and music by others who do not share the passion or the skill. This is partly because in some cultures learning to play music (or becoming a professional musician) is not considered a legitamate pass-time or legitimate education. The "hard work" part is the practical side of learning. It means you would be sure to devote time to learning, memorizing and putting into practice any new methods or new theory you've learned. It's called hard work even though it's fun. Hard work merely means developing the skills that won't just come to you without effort and attention to what you're doing. In other words, you would want the results so much that you would give yourself time to learn. You might feel frustrated that you're not progressing as quickly as you'd hoped. Don't give up. You are progressing even if only a little at a time. The time spent will pay off. You cannot get worse. You can only get better.
It takes time and repetition to remember the hand movements, the sounds of each note and the harmonies. You look at your instrument and your hands, remembering your positions, which strings, which keys and which "shapes" you've formed with your fingers. Time and repetition are needed to develope these skills. It takes time to memorize these things, and then, to memorize the tunes. Memorizing is another skill that many have to learn. Some people are born with the "knack" of memorizing. My first music teacher taught me how to memorize and how to play by ear. In order to memorize, you have to rely on what the music "sounds" like, not memorizing the written musical notation. Some musicians do memorize the "look" of the written music, and, even I have put to memory specific measures or notated chords or phrases which proved particularly difficult. But, I almost exclusivly memorize by what I hear and then by what I "feel" with my fingers. It is muscle memory. Your hands get used to going on a certain path and they will take that path from memory.
"Practice make Perfect" almost
Someone asked me how often I practiced. Did I practice 2 or 3 times a week. To be successful and to play like a pro or to play proficiently or to play a wide variety or a large repertoire, you need to practice every day. It's been found that the more often you call up a memory, the more likely you'll remember it. The more often you practice, or play, a tune, the more likely you'll remember it. This works better than practicing for an hour on a tune. The more often your brain goes down that path, the easier it is to go down that path the next time, instead of practicing for an hour at a time on the same tune. How often: You might miss one day a week, but no more. Practice sessions don't always have to be the same length each time. You might not be able to work-in the 1/2 to 1 hour (or more) every day. If you can't, then at least, practice 10-15 minutes on those days, but make those days the exception. That might be your 1 day a week that you can't put in your usual length of time. Two or three sessions a day will go further than once a day.
A beginner young child might do best to practice only 5 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day for a period of time so as not to get overwhelmed or frustrated. The attention span must be considered for the age group as well as the individual.
Playing should most of all be "fun"! No hard-hitting practice or schedule that takes the fun out of it. But if you get started with a good and rewarding program, you will WANT to practice every day.
On my days off from other work and obligations, I sometimes played violin 8 hours a day. I'd take a few minutes here and there to eat, to give attention to other chores, but for the most part I was playing music, improving my skills, learning new tunes for up to 8 hours. I was alone in the house for that time. Other days, if I'd been too busy or away from home all day, I would still make sure I played violin for even 5 minutes before going to bed.
Learning to play a musical instrument does not have to be something only for the young. You can begin at any age and have fun with it.

1 comment:

  1. The 10,000-HOUR THEORY: Author Malcolm Gladwell explained the 10,000-hour theory that in order to excel and be successful beyond the average, you have to devote 10,000 hours to your skill. That's the advantage of starting while young. Those 10,000 hours give you time to learn from repitition, discovering, relating, muscle memory and mental memory. As you "practice", other related skill are revealed naturally, discovering the musical mathmatics of the process to be applied in all settings.