It may seem odd to have a part four in a three part series, but there are a few things to add that we can think of as the “filling” for our triangle. These have more to do with the planning and organization that goes into musicianship, as well as the emotional issues that come up as we attempt to grow and learn.
So far, we have examined the concepts of repetition and reinforcement, which make learning possible by imprinting the knowledge and making it “stick.”
The third element of this triangle involves testing and experimenting with the things we have practiced. Learning the limits of our preparation is how we make our learning stronger and more useful. I call it Evaluation.
Last time we discussed repetition, the act of playing the same passage over and over in a short time-span. In this article, we will discuss the second element in successful practice.
As we learned in part 1, repetition is effective for a limited time; after this short period, continuing to repeat can waste time as well as lead to daydreaming and joint pain. Furthermore, we can only learn so much in one session, no matter how long we do our drills. How can we imprint the skills we want to have so they are consistent and available to us? Through what I call reinforcement, or the process of forgetting and re-learning.
Practicing is a personal activity; no two people are the same, and this also goes for practice. However, there are some fundamental forces that are part of the learning experience for all of us. Learning to use and balance these processes will lead to successful and efficient use of our precious time. In this series, we will discuss the three elements of successful practice.
The First Element: Repetition
This may seem obvious; everybody knows you have to repeat things to learn. However, what we are discussing here is a very specifically structured activity, geared toward building muscle memory. Here are my suggestions on how to optimize the use of repetition.
The following is an essay about dealing with career setbacks, based on my own experiences. As I continue to learn about the artist’s journey, I will share my discoveries and thoughts with you.