As musicians, we all know we have to practice. Most of us hate it. But regardless of our attitudes toward it, we all know that we have to do it. It's nonegotiable and inevitable. Like the changing of the tides or Donald Trump's hair being funny, practice is just something that has to happen. If we want to get better, we practice.
Generally, practice usually centers around 'getting it right'. We try so hard to make whatever we're learning perfect that practicing becomes stressful and soon playing music just isn't as fun as it used to be. All because we had to practice.
Much of the problem with practicing is this attitude that we have to 'get it right'. Nothing was ever so damaging to learning music as the saying "Practice makes Perfect". Three words that tell us we have to do something and that it will make us perfect at what we play. It just isn't true.
Sometimes, we get worse when we practice. We have a bad day. We get frustrated. We make just a few too many mistakes to be happy with ourselves. Some days, it just doesn't work. That's because, practice does not make perfect, Practice makes Practice. And what exactly do I mean by that?
Practice doesn't make us better unless we're constantly pushing ourselves past the limits of our abilities. We learn more effectively when doing more than simply drilling the same scales or songs over and over and over... In his book The Talent Code, investigative journalist Daniel Coyle noted that the best musicians, best athletes, best at anything accomplished their expertise by always trying to go further past what they had already achieved.
He noticed that what separated great musicians from simply good musicians was the habit of practicing a piece by breaking it down in to chunks and mastering each chunk by itself before putting it together with the rest. Coyle called this process Deep Practice. Another way to put it could be practicing with a purpose.
Too many of us try to learn a new piece of music all at once, and then get upset when we just can't seem to get it right. It's not that 'getting it right' isn't what we should be focusing on, it's just that it isn't the point of practicing. Performing is where we should be concerned with getting it right. When we practice, we should be focused on learning because practice does not make perfect...
Practice makes practice.