Practice - getting it more effective

Practice - getting it more effective

We’ve all been there, trying to get a tricky bit in a tune to work properly, or learn an important bit of technique, and it can so often be a long, hard slog. So, what’s happening? You practice that tricky bit or technique a dozen times in quick succession and then get it right. But you don’t really know why, so you try it again and it goes all wrong. Back to square one and another dozen reps before you get it right again. Eventually, after perhaps half an hour, or even hours, what you hope is permanent success is achieved, but you may not be quite sure what it is you have done right.

This phenomenon applies to the learning of any difficult motor skill and has been addressed by the music/sports psychologist Dr Noa Kageyama. Briefly, the root of the problem turns out to be in going from one rep to the next with no appreciable gap. Tests have been carried out on the learning of difficult motor skills and it has been established that if there is a pause of a few seconds between one rep and the next (say five seconds, at least - but one second is certainly too short) then that gives you a chance to think about the difficulty and for your brain to process it subconciously, thereby speeding up the learning process.

The full detail is in Kageyama’s blog http://www.bulletproofmusician.com/for-more-perfect-practice-trylongerpauses/

I recommend subscribing to Dr Kageyama’s blogs.

Re: Practice - getting it more effective

I’ve never had the experience you describe. When I learn to do something difficult, once I get it down, I’ve got it. Getting it, however, does not make it easier, so sometimes I do better than others. With repetition, it becomes more permanent, but since I don’t do this for a living, it doesn’t always become flawless. Still, once learned, always there.

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Re: Practice - getting it more effective

> I’ve never had the experience you describe.

Interestingly, I have, but *only* on certain instruments. On the pipes, either I can’t do something, or I can, and once I’ve worked out how to do it, I can do it. I might have good days and bad days, but it’s there.

On the fiddle, it starts out bad, stays bad, and six months later you notice it’s not quite as bad.

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Re: Practice - getting it more effective

I think it’s often a confidence thing. A lot of bowing techniques only work if you attack them with confidence. In the learning stages, when you’re not sure if it’s going to work or not, the temptation it to play too light and timidly, which is guaranteed to result in failure.

Re: Practice - getting it more effective

The target is to get a working tune, not to show off on the fiddly bits. Perhaps simplify - miss out a note or two - but without losing the rhythm and the sense of the piece. Get the tune working as well as you can and when it feels easy you can start thinking about the folderols?

Re: Practice - getting it more effective

But once you’ve started adding the fiddly bits to the basic tune you still have to make them sound good. You’ve got to make those sludgy rolls sound crisp, and then you’ve got to make them sound crisp when you haven’t played in two days and not just when you’ve been playing for two days straight.

Especially those damned third finger rolls!

Re: Practice - getting it more effective

it sounds like this is the classic "practicing a mistake" syndrome. The answer is strait forward, too. Take the hard part out and work it on its own. Remember to think, and play slowly enough that you can mentally prepare before each note in order to get any and all indecision out of the process.

remember music is in the mind, not the hands.

Re: Practice - getting it more effective

Realizing there are as many opinions as there are fiddlers and that each learner is unique and comes to the fiddle from very diverse backgrounds, here is what has worked for me. I have become as much a student of the learning process as the playing itself. For almost 7K hours now for 6 years and daily practice with total immersion into ITM and without so much as listening to anything but ITM, here is what has/is working the best:

Avoid written notation; Play along with a good recording preferably of solo fiddle (see Matt Cranitch, 1. "Red Book", 2: The Irish Fiddle Book" 3. Irish Fiddle Tunes - 62 Traditional Pieces for Violin")

Use a slow down app: Play along Begin very slowly - even at 30 percent. Play the short phrase until it you can play along without any mistakes. If you hit a snag over of just a few notes, then narrow the slow down app to that small area. Just don’t go on to hunt and peck for the right notes without playing along until you are pretty sure you’ve got the phase. Then alternate between playing along and playing alone. Don’t speed up until you have the phase as well while playing alone as while playing along. When the phrase is retrievable from memory and played perfectly (ornamentation included) that go to the next phase and on and on the end of part A. String the phrases together the same way until the entire Part A can be played. Then repeat for part B. Finally string Part A and B together alternatively playing along and then alone. Playing slowly enough to avoid mistakes is important and will prevent implanting stumbling blocks in your new neural pathways.

Here is a final tip for when you’re learning to play by ear and you can’t seem to "hear" and play the proper note sequence. Try playing along with another different tune at FULL speed by ear. Do this for about 10-15 minutes no matter how "off" you are with the note sequence. Then go back to the tune your learning. You will find that having to really listen attempting to play at speed for a few minutes will make your ability to hear and play the tune you’re learning slowing much easier to "hear" correctly.

And Interleaf often: Go to different things but keep coming back over the hours and days. It gets quicker and quicker. And your "ear" will get better and better even if you think you have no special skills for playing by ear or remembers.

That has been my experience during my many hours of this love affair with ITM.

Re: Practice - getting it more effective

Nate gets credit for being first to mention an invaluable maxim, "Don’t practice mistakes." If you take things slow and deliberately, and take your time to play a tricky phrase right over and over, you will burn the correct phrase into your muscles or synapses or memory, or whatever you call it. If you fluff your way through something before you really learn it, you will burn that fluff into memory, and fluff it forevermore.

Re: Practice - getting it more effective

Amen guys!

2 students today needed the "do no fluff" lecture. AGAIN. One is an adult. Really??

And it’s only Monday… sigh.

Re: Practice - getting it more effective

More from Perlman ~
Does someone with your experience still practice? Or do you rely on muscle memory and years of playing the fiddle?

IP: "I need to practice. Once we hang up I am picking up the fiddle and I’m going to start practicing.

The thing about practicing with me is that I know what needs to be done, so that’s what I do.

Some people feel that practicing — and I am not saying one is better than the other — reflects people’s attitudes towards working. I know some colleagues who feel that practicing is something you do, like having breakfast and lunch everyday. Everyday you practice. It’s a part of life.

Heifetz used to practice all the time. When he stopped playing concerts he would still pick up the fiddle and practice scales.

That was never the case with me; I never liked practicing. So what I do right now is practice when I feel that something needs it. Then, I do it."

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Re: Practice - getting it more effective

This thread made me recall a long time famous quote that I learned from one of my violin teachers, who learned it from his … and so on. Found lots of hits for it. Seems it’s been used by many, including Itzak of course. :) Google for some fun reading.

“If I miss one day of practice, I notice; if I miss two, the critics notice…
if I miss three, the audience notices!”

Famous pianists….violinists, dancers, so on.

Re: Practice - getting it more effective

I get asked to play a lot of classical guitar, especially around this time of year, and the version of that quote that I tell people is actually the truth when it comes to the classical guitar; " If I miss a day, I notice. If I miss two days, EVERYBODY notices"

Re: Practice - getting it more effective

I know this thread is about practice. A long time ago a guitar teacher said to me…….
"The audience isn’t there to evaluate your virtuosity on your instrument."
They are there to be entertained. Never forget you are an entertainer.