• Dr. Guy Whatley

Does Practice Make Perfect?

Sometimes we can feel especially virtuous when we practice for hours, but the reality is that short bursts of practice are far more efficient and effective. Practicing music is taking something extremely self-conscious and turning it into something entirely subconscious.

When we first play a piece of music we are aware of every element as our brains are trying to figure out the music. However, when we perform a piece of music the music needs to flow out of us effortlessly in a very subconscious and effortless way. The journey from one to the other is practice.

Unlike tasks such as writing an essay, or painting a wall, practice is entirely dependent on our state of mind. No matter how long or hard we practice, if the music and technique don’t sink into our brains we simply wasted our time. Our brains fatigue and bore easily, and so short, regular bursts of practice are ideal. Music is best learned with much repetition, but such repetition can also switch off our brains when we need to be absorbing the music. So not only short regular practice sessions, but also adding in as much variety as possible is ideal. One way to do this is to vary the rhythms of what you are practicing, so although you are always playing the same notes, you are also adding in changes to keep your brain engaged.

"If you want to succeed in learning to play an instrument your should practice at least once a day."

If you want to succeed in learning to play an instrument your should practice at least once a day. Seven short daily practice sessions a week will lead to great success in learning music, and one long session a week will lead to total failure! Try and calendar your practice time so you never miss it. And schedule your practice time for when you are alert and not preoccupied. Following this simple advice should lead to more progress in making music.