Lately, cyberspace has been full of posts and articles dealing with practice and perfection. Together, they have all got me thinking hard about both myself and my students. We can all get so involved in our beloved work that we don’t notice when we begin to merely walk the walk or talk the talk.

When I was a kid, my Dad would just tell me to practice longer or harder if I wasn’t getting results. It was only when I got to college that I learned that I had to have practice strategies and correct technique for repetition to work. Otherwise, I was just doing the wrong thing over and over even when the notes were perfect.

The Myth of Practice Makes Perfect      Perfect Practice

When Perfection Paralyzes      The Problem with Perfect Practice

Assessing Your Practice Habits      A Coach’s Pep Talk      Working Out Life While Working Out

Here are a few of my questions and thoughts after reading the above:

  1. If the elements of deliberate practice are different depending on the task at hand (say learning a Beethoven sonata vs. improvising over a given progression), can they be defined for a student? How would I change my practice forms to reflect this?
  2. Is perfectionism nature or nurture? Is there hope that such a person can be helped to consider the listener’s experience? It’s interesting that Maestra Kim has noticed that many such performers “find their niche in modern repertoire where a correct performance tends to require a literal reproduction of the notated instructions.” I find that “modern” works require much more thought and work, on my part, to create an expressive performance.
  3. How can I help my students accept that they are experts at some things, novices at some things, and someplace in between on other things? I always include “What did I do well?” in my self evaluation sheets. We talk about time management in terms of how much time should be spent on that which we do well vs. that which needs attention. Is this enough?
  4. Music students learn the same life lessons as put forward by Coach Walsh. How can I best help a student focus on the beauty of even the simplest piece, continual improvement, and lifelong learning, rather than on the student in their class who plays Liszt’s Rigoletto Paraphrase at age 15 when they are still playing early intermediate level pieces?
  5. How can I continue to help my students deal with inevitable human mistakes in performance by moving forward so that the musical idea is undisturbed. Those who have achieved mastery level in anything still make mistakes. They just deal with those mistakes differently.

Please feel free to add your own questions & thoughts in the comment section below.

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