The Fractal Nature of Goals and Music Practice

Setting goals is one of the most powerful things you can do to get better at music or anything else. Some people write them down, some just have a vague idea of what they are, but we all have goals for nearly everything we do. Goals are covered in more detail in The Practice of Practice, but here’s a quick run-down. Goals are like the cool animated GIF of a Sierpinsky fractal above: there are goals within goals within goals. It’s goals all the way down. The usual advice is to break goals down into long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals, but you can and should dive deeper, and consider smaller goals.

Goals as Fractals and Guerrilla Practice

Hans Jørgen Jensen is an affable cello teacher from whose studio have come cello players who win in international cello competitions and garner spots in top orchestras around the world. He’s a wonderful teacher and an interesting, busy man. There were many gems to admire when he spoke with me about practice, but the one that sticks in my mind, the one that was powerful enough to make it a chapter in The Practice of Practice was the power of goals. Another chapter covers what I’ve called Guerrilla Practice: snatching a tiny fragment of practice when you can, either once a day or, ideally, throughout the day. Both are covered briefly below.

Score Study 2.0: Stravinsky’s “Petrushka”

This interactive score of Petrushka is a gold mine for anyone interested in the piece. Stravinsky wrote Petrushka when he was 28 years old, in 1910-11. It’s a wonderful piece of music, and even if you’re not a classical musician, this site is a feast for the mind and the ears. Follow along in the highly interactive score, learn about what the different parts represent, learn about the historical context, and listen to commentary from music luminaries on the piece. There is something for everyone here: players, teachers, and even young children.