The Practice of Practice by Jonathan Harnum
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“It’s witty, well-organized, and fun to read (and I usually don’t like reading).” (5 stars)
Talent means nothing when it comes to getting better. Practice is everything. But exactly what is good practice? How does good practice create talent? And what in the world does a pinwheel have to do with practice? The focus of this book is music practice, but these techniques and mindsets can be applied to any skill you want to improve.
“Many useful insights, not only for music practice, but for general use.” (5 stars)
This book covers essential practice strategies and mindsets you won’t find in any other book. You’ll learn the What, Why, When, Where, Who, and especially the How of great music practice. You’ll learn what research tells us about practice, but more importantly, you’ll learn how great musicians in many genres of music think about practice, and you’ll learn the strategies and techniques they use to improve. This book will help you get better faster, whether you play rock, Bach, or any other kind of music.
“The book is as valuable neural-psychologically, as it is musically.” (5 stars)
Whatever instrument you want to play, The Practice of Practice will help you get the most out of your practice. This book will help you become more savvy about getting better. It will also help you be a more informed teacher or a more effective parent of a young learner.
Don’t practice longer, practice smarter.
“A breath of fresh air into the age-old, practice, practice, practice.” (5 stars)
What’s in the Book
What (6 chapters): Definitions of what music practice is (and isn’t). Also learn about the neural mechanisms of learning and what music practice does to your brain.
Why (5 chapters): Motivation is crucial. Learn ways of keeping the flame lit in this section.
Who (5 chapters): A lot of people (including yourself) will impact your practice. Learn about who they (and you) are, and how they’ll help your practice.
When (6 chapters): This section covers how much, and what times of the day are best for practice, as well as the development of practice skill over time.
Where (5 chapters): Where you practice affects how well you practice. Learn to harness the place of your practice.
How (18 chapters): Three times longer than the next longest section of the book, this section includes information about goals, structuring your practice, as well as specific strategies pros use to get better and effective practice techniques tested by researchers.
QR Codes and Web Links: Nearly every chapter contains links to carefully selected extra content online, rich content that will extend and reinforce what you’ve learned in each chapter. With a smart phone and a QR code reader, you can access If you’re reading on a Web-connected e-book, you can click on the link and go to the extra online goodies.
video/audio of great performances
interesting and useful talks
interviews on practice
great books and recordings
helpful practice gadgets
many useful practice tools
More About the Book
A lot of attention has been given lately to how world-class experts get to be so good. Researchers are interested in this, too. I’ve personally read hundreds of research studies published in esteemed journals and conducted by trained researchers. These research reports are dense with great information. One of my goals is to translate this information into a form that is more easily (and quickly) digestible for those of us who have neither the time nor inclination nor access to this broad array of research.
I’m interested in actually talking to the experts, too; those whose lives are an example of practice that works, and what works might surprise you.
I’ve talked with phenomenal jazz musicians, internationally touring singer-songwriters, members of major symphony orchestras (NYP, CSO, etc.), professional drummers, didgeridoo players, bluegrass players, studio musicians, and many other professional musicians. I encourage you to check out some of them below. You won’t be disappointed:
Nicholas Barron, voice, guitar, songwriter (vid)
Ethan Bensdorf, NY Phil trumpeter (vid)
Bobby Broom, jazz guitar (vid)
Avishai Cohen, jazz trumpet (vid)
Sidiki Dembele, djembe (vid–Sidiki plays first)
Adrian Holovaty, guitar, programming (vid)
Hans Jørgen Jensen, cello (vid)
Ingrid Jensen, jazz trumpet (vid)
Sona Jobarteh, kora, guitar, voice, composition/songwriting (vid)
Om Johari, rock singer, guitar, (vid)
Rupesh Kotecha, Indian classical tabla (vid)
Rex Martin, tuba (vid)
Chad McCullough, jazz trumpet (vid)
Erin McKeown, voice, guitar, bass, piano, drumset, songwriter (vid)
Allison Miller, multi-genre drummer (vid)
Peter Mulvey, voice, guitar, songwriting (vid)
Colin Oldberg, classical trumpet (vid–Colin’s on the left)
Nick Phillips, jazz trumpet (vid)
Michael Taylor, djembe (vid)
Prasad Upasani, Indian classical vocalist, programmer (vid)
Serge van der Voo, upright bass, vocals, foot percussion (vid)
Stephane Wrembel, gypsy jazz guitar, songwriter/composer(vid)
My name is Jonathan Harnum, and I’m so lucky to have met and learned from some incredible musicians, and I’m stoked to share the best of what I’ve learned with you.
I’m professional writer and a practicing musician (30+ years on trumpet, 15 years on guitar, and a smattering of other instruments like didgeridoo, djembe, and conga).
I’ve earned a PhD in music education at Northwestern University with a dissertation presenting my research on music practice, and I’ve published 5 music-related books (details).