02. June 2005 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

While exercising today I was watching the National Spelling Bee. Man, can those kids spell! (But I would have nailed “dolcissimo” so I felt fine about that word. I could also spell “jabot”. I think those were the only two I knew I could have done accurately. Sigh.)

The ads during the show were frequently educational ads. One was for Kumon, an after school learning program. They had something there about “We all know practice makes perfect.” And that got me to thinking. Because practice does not necessarily make perfect.

GOOD practice can make perfect. But poor practice can make imperfect. I can’t tell you how many students say, when reaching a certain point in a piece, “I always make that mistake!”

Most of the time, that means that the practicing has been the problem. When a student “always” makes a certain mistake, the brain is probably accepting that mistake in some way, and the fingers are well trained to go there. The student needs to slow down, do the “dissection method” (my students all know what that one means!), and focus. To dissect the problem area the student may need to single out only two notes to begin with. Maybe a few more, but rarely is that the case. Then when those notes can be played perfectly, five times in a row, using a metronome, the student might add the notes on both sides of the perfect portion. Then, to add another metaphor, the student can “open the curtain” gradually, so that he or she ties in all the other notes. (Sometimes we work on only the problem notes and forget to connect them to the notes around that portion and when we go back to playing the whole piece we go back to the same problem we had in the first place.) The student should alternate between moving the metronome up in tempo and adding notes. I try to encourage sticking to the five times in a row rule as well. Fixing the problem usually takes more than one practice session because if you’ve practiced it for a time while “always making that mistake” you are having to retrain your brain and fingers. Patience is a good thing.

So practice might make perfect … but perfecting practice is more likely to result in perfection! :-)

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