Learning Music Like Learning Language: Victor Wooten

ABSOLUTELY! Victor Wooten speaks wisdom. Our approach to teaching music (often sight before sound) is backwards. Listen to Victor! Wooten’s book, The Music Lesson is pretty good, too. Like if Carlos Casteneda learned music from Don Juan instead of magic.

The 10,000-hour Red Herring

You’ve all heard it by now: all the talk and focus on the 10,000 hour “rule,” from people like Malcolm Gladwell, and the researcher who originally published the study with the finding, Anders Ericsson, whose theories are not without opposition in the academic world. If you haven’t heard of this finding by researchers Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer yet, it goes like this: it takes 10,000 hours of practice to reach expert-level performance, whether it’s in sports, music, chess, or x-ray diagnostics. But the 10,000-hour rule is a red herring for several reasons.

Nap Your Way to Excellence

Set aside half an hour every day to do all your worrying; then take a nap during this period.

There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than in all the alcohol ever distilled.
~Publius Ovidius Naso (Ovid: 43 BC – 18 AD)


Sleep is one of the key strategies the brain uses for learning. It’s called consolidation in the research literature. Basically put, your brain needs down time in order to process all that you’ve taken in during the day. Naps can perform the same function.

Talent No Existe!

“A genius! For 37 years I’ve practiced fourteen hours a day, and now they call me a genius!” –Pablo Sarasate (Spanish violinist)
Anders Ericsson’s fantastic work on deliberate practice, as well as the work of many other researchers (see below), has shown that talent is merely disguised practice. In the following video, listen closely to how the teacher frames the girl’s typing skill, and how Makensie herself does. The teacher is flabbergasted, but Makensie gives us a lot more information: she practices, has goals, receives support and encouragement from family and friends, and gets self-esteem from the skill she’s acquired.

Your Plastic Brain (redux)

Learning changes your brain structure. My neurons underwent some serious alteration this weekend, all naturally induced, thank you very much. One of the world’s foremost grand masters of the djembe, Mamady Keita (vid to follow), was in Chicago to give beginning-, intermediate-, and advanced drum workshops. I’ve never had a djembe lesson before. I signed up for the beginner session and would learn very quickly what “beginner” actually meant to this crowd. Good thing I didn’t know that Keita’s definition of “beginner” is most people’s definition of, “I know what I’m doing.” If I’d known this, my stomach would’ve been in even more of a knot about showing up with little to no real djembe experience. Nothing like a good challenge to get you to really pay attention.

When in Doubt, Leave it Out

Try to put well into practice what you already know. In so doing, you will, in good time, discover the hidden things you now inquire about. —Remy de Gourmont (French novelist/poet/playwright/philosopher, 1858-1915) ________________ It seems that I tend to write and think about abstract notions of practice and discipline and motivation and these don’t easily…

Signal to Noise

This–among other things–helps the brain grow myelin, the substance that helps neurons fire more efficiently, making you better at whatever it is you’re practicing. The best example Coyle gives is futsal, a game very much like futbol (American soccer), but in a smaller field, with a smaller and heavier ball, and much quicker. Major players in world soccer (esp. if they’re Brazilian), have used the greater intensity of the signal in futsal to improve their soccer skills. It’s also a great example of how playing a game might actually be furthering your goals. Some think playing games are a waste of time, and video games can be a great example. But what is time-wasting, really? It’s noise. And noise depends on your definitions, your context.

Book Review: Talent is Overrated

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book. ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero, statesman, orator and writer (106-43 BCE) Wear the old coat and buy the new book. ~ Austin Phelps Book Review Colvin, Geoff (2008). Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World Class Performers from Everybody Else. Portfolio/Penguin:…