Not all practice is born equal

by | Feb 17, 2020 | Uncategorized

We often encourage our youngsters to improve skill in something through regular practice. We are often advised that regular practice is the key to improvement.

We encourage our children to repeat and repeat and repeat, over and over and over, in the belief that their skills will improve. However, regular repetition does not necessarily mean that improvement will be made.

Simply repeating actions over and over and over again becomes mindless repetition. We can be fooled into thinking that there must be improvement of the hours that have been put in. In fact, making poor, ineffectual skills and experience habitual, through repetition, leaves youngsters (and adults alike) stagnant, demotivated and potentially slipping backwards.

Instead, encourage practice to be deliberate. Rather than mindless repetition, deliberate practice maintains a focus on a specific goal for each practice session. Secondly, deliberate practice focuses on improving the gaps in our skills or experience.

I remember, as a teenager in orchestral rehearsals, that we would focus in on specific sections of a piece that wasn’t going so well. We didn’t simply keep on playing the sections that we could do well, struggle through the sections that were poor and repeat.

The tricky sections would be broken down. We would analyse them, discussing where the pitfalls were. And, we would play them slowly and with various rhythms, until we had them sorted. If a mistake happened, we stopped immediately and started again so that mistakes didn’t become part of the muscle memory. We would even play such sections faster than they needed to be. Only then did we play the section before, the section itself and the section after; placing that tricky section back within the piece as a whole.

So, what ever your children (or you) are practicing, how are you now changing the practice to be deliberate?

To your success
Hil