Want to Practice Better? Forget About “Natural” Ability.

One of the most important chapters in The Practice of Practice–chapter 6–has nothing to do with practice directly, it has to do with what you think about musical talent. Is musical ability “natural,” a gift of genetics? Is it something you’re born with? Something you either have or you don’t? Or is musical talent earned through exposure and effort? Your answer will have a profound impact on your practice: your motivation to practice, how you approach practice, whether you persist in the face of challenges, and how deeply you learn when you do practice.

Basic Practice Skills

It can be hard to know where to start with your practice, so here are a few quick, easy tips to keep it simple. Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the…

Learn While You Sleep

There are some really interesting research projects coming out of the neuroscience lab at Northwestern University. A couple years ago, I wrote a blog post about a
study that shows we continue to learn after a study session if the stimulus continues while we’re doing something else. Pretty cool, right? But maybe you prefer to catch up on your sleep and continue learning.

Mistakes are Opportunities

I’ve written often about how important mistakes are in the learning process. Not just mistakes, but what you do with them once you discover them. That “discover them” part is the most important. If you discover them in the practice room, you’ve just stumbled on a place that needs attention and focused effort. If you discover them in your jazz combo during a performance, they’re not mistakes any more, they’re opportunities for communication. Here’s a wonderful video by jazz vibraphonist Stefon Harris explaining and demonstrating this idea. Happy winter celebrations everyone!

When is Not-Practicing Practice?

A new piece of research shows that the “inherently unpleasant” idea about deliberate music practice may not be entirely true. In fact, we may continue to learn when we’re doing something completely different from that which we’re practicing.