(Im)Perfect Practicing

Patty at oboeinsight has a nice post on practicing, written from a teacher's perspective. She writes that "GOOD practice can make perfect. But poor practice can make imperfect."

Indeed. I have more poor practice sessions under my fingers than I'd like to admit. But I'm also (thankfully) somewhat familiar with the "dissection method" (of fixing chronically occurring mistakes) that she writes about. (I've never called it that, but it's a great word! And I can spell it, too!)

I like "dissecting." Oh, I hate to start the process because it means interrupting what I perceive as the "flow" of my playing. Of course, if I'm repeatedly making the same mistake in a piece, there's no flow at all, other than my wistfully perceived one.

But once I get into the "dissection," practice gets interesting. One little measure, or a half a measure, or a quarter of a measure, become the object of focus under the musical microscope. The brain must relearn something that it mis-learned the first time around. Or it simply has to learn what it never quite learned in the first place.

For all my hemming and hawing and putting-off the dissection process in my practicing, I've found that a little bit of effort goes a long way. It may only take 15 minutes to rectify a problem, even though, as Patti notes, it can take a few practice session for your brain to completely unlearn the mistake. Still, with a bit of intense work, you can correct, in just a few days, a mistake that you've learned to live with for weeks or months (or years).

Funny how that happens. Read more of Patty's post here.

6/5 Update: Tonight I applied this technique to a section of the Dett that I've never quite seemed to assimilate. It'll be a while before I finally get it right, but I definitely made some headway tonight.


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