8 things top practisers do differently

This article in Creativity Post comes up with some surprising and useful results for all who play an instrument.

The research led by Robert Duke at the University of Texas, Austin was done on pianists, but would equally apply to guitarists.

The researchers note that the most striking difference between the top three pianists and the rest, was how they handled mistakes. It’s not that the top pianists made fewer mistakes in the beginning and simply had an easier time learning the passage. The top pianists made mistakes too, but they managed to correct their errors in such a way that helped them avoid making the same mistakes over and over, leading to a higher proportion of correct trials overall. And one to rule them all The top performers utilized a variety of error-correction methods, such as playing with one hand alone, or playing just part of the excerpt, but there was one strategy that seemed to be the most impactful. Strategically slowing things down. After making a mistake, the top performers would play the passage again, but slow down or hesitate – without stopping – right before the place where they made a mistake the previous time. This seemed to allow them to play the challenging section more accurately, and presumably coordinate the correct motor movements at a tempo they could handle, rather than continuing to make mistakes and failing to identify the precise nature of the mistake, the underlying technical problem, and what they ought to do differently in the next trial. The one-sentence summary “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” -George Bernard Shaw

– See more at: http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/8_things_top_practicers_do_differently#sthash.6IBDmP3Y.dpuf

Slow down! Rachmaninoff’s Way

I have recently rediscovered the importance of having the right hand returning to a relaxed neutral position after each effort and also picked up Pepe Romero’s tips on playing picado, tremolo and rasgueado.
Very important information presented in a concise manner. (He is also sporting rather fetching shorts)

The following article in Practising the Piano really brings these ideas home. Extremely important for recovering focal dystonics who are retraining their hands!

If you’re serious about playing the piano, there’s no getting away from slow practice. It is a cornerstone of our work from the beginner stages right through to the advanced level, and a practice tool also used by professional pianists and seasoned virtuosos all the time. In this post, I aim to help you not only realise the importance of careful, accurate slow work but also to enjoy it fully!

I have noticed some folk think they should be beyond slow practice – that’s only something beginners do. Far from it! In Abram Chasins’ wonderful book Speaking of Pianists, the author describes a time he showed up for a lesson with Rachmaninov and overhead him practising – but so slowly that he didn’t recognise the piece at first. I know I have used this quotation before, but I am going to use it again because it speaks volumes about how a great pianist used ultra-slow practice for a work he was maintaining (not learning) to keep it spick and span:

Rachmaninov was a dedicated and driven perfectionist. He worked incessantly, with infinite patience. Once I had an appointment to spend an afternoon with him in Hollywood. Arriving at the designated hour of twelve, I heard an occasional piano sound as I approached the cottage. I stood outside the door, unable to believe my ears. Rachmaninov was practising Chopin’s etude in thirds, but at such a snail’s pace that it took me a while to recognise it be- cause so much time elapsed between one finger stroke and the next. Fascinated, I clocked this re- markable exhibition: twenty seconds per bar was his pace for almost an hour while I waited riveted to the spot, quite unable to ring the bell. Perhaps this way of developing and maintaining an unerring mechanism accounted for his bitter sarcasm toward colleagues who practised their programmes ‘once over lightly’ between concerts. (Chasins, Abram. 1967. Speaking of Pianists. New York: Knopf, 44.)”

Continue reading here….

Playing Tetris helps you reduce cravings for food, alcohol, and cigarettes

This is an interesting article which might have some bearing on the obsessive compulsive behaviour some guitarists have and the question of addiction in general.
I generally find that when I am engaged in practice, my cravings drop away (not that I drink, smoke or overeat…)

For years, those who battle addictions to alcohol, smoking, and overeating have been forced to rely on uncertain methods for curbing their cravings, such as counseling, hypnosis, or heroin. But a recent study by psychology researchers at Plymouth University suggests that playing Tetris for just three minutes can reduce those cravings in both strength and frequency.

Practise practising-more from Stephen Hough

Hough BBC

“There is a well-worn saying: practice makes perfect. I don’t believe this, at least in reference to playing the piano: abstract “perfection” is rarely what we seek; but good practising makes it more likely that we will give a good performance. Its attention, its concentration, its tightening of the screws enable the concert experience to take wing in freedom.”

The following article by Stephen Hough appears in the November/December issue of International Piano magazine. For full, free access to the other articles in that issue see here. It is reprinted in the Daily Telegraph’s music column.

More on the BBC website – Thanks to Oren Myers for this

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How to practise with a metronome – All that jazz – Wayne Krantz

Wayne says:
“The following content is related to the December 2012 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store

In this month’s column, I’d like to talk about practicing with a metronome. I’m sure most of you have read or been told at some point that practicing to a metronome is an important thing for guitar players to do on a regular basis. I think that practicing with a metronome can reap many benefits and have spent a lot of time doing it over the years.

Although I’ve always felt that my sense of “time”—my ability to play at a steady tempo and in a groove “pocket” without speeding up or slowing down—has been pretty good, I realized at one point that it was not quite as good as I wanted it to be. So I spent a considerable amount of effort really focusing on that aspect of my playing, and I think there are ways to practice with a metronome that are more beneficial than others.”

Brilliant advice

More on Metronome

Reflexive Speed – Jorge Caballero

At last, some hints from Jorge, whose ease of execution and acute analytical mind I have always admired. Quite difficult to understand this concept intellectually, but you will get it if you try it.
This has been around for a little while now and I am hoping for a new lesson soon!
Thank you Jorge.

In the meantime, there is an interesting excerpt here.

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Over-Practicing Makes Perfect | TIME.com

We don’t just need to learn a task in order to perform it well; we need to overlearn it. Sounds like a recipe for disaster? Depends on your approach. I have to constantly remind myself that practice is supposed to make performing a task easier, not more difficult!
Do read the whole article before jumping to conclusions!

Whenever we learn to make a new movement, we form and then update an internal model—a “sensorimotor map”—which our nervous system uses to predict our muscles’ motions and the resistance they will encounter. As that internal model is refined over time, we’re able to cut down on unnecessary movements and eliminate wasted energy.


Over-Practicing Makes Perfect | TIME.com.