Friday, March 23, 2012

Igniting the Desire For "Deep Practice"

   In the last post I wrote about the book "The Talent Code" and explored the concept of "deep practice".

   How do we as teachers ignite that desire to practice deeply?  I'll start with my own life and draw on the events that pushed me into desiring a higher level of practice. The first reason I can think of that started my relentless pursuit of competence was when I started singing the pop hits on the radio. I wanted to be able to accompany myself on the piano and I needed better skills to make that flow. I think that made me count out loud for the first time. My teacher had asked me to do this with every piece but I did not do it until I played songs with intricate rhythms.
   I saw another ignition when I was asked to accompanying the children in my church. I was too ashamed to show up and flounder at the keyboard, so I practiced and practiced. The adults gave me so much praise for my efforts that the desire sustained itself.  Ignition is cued by primal instincts, to be part of something big, to be included in a desirable group, or to be well thought of and brought into the fold. Ignition does not follow rules so, as a teacher, I may not be able to control it but it works as energy to get the task moving.
   What do teacher's do to spark ignition? The most important events in my studio are group lessons. When I take a small group of students and we work together on improving a skill I see more progress in that skill in private lessons. Yes, it is the power of peer pressure or peer approval, but in a positive environment it is a spark. Recitals can also be a spark. In the last recital I played a Beethoven Bagatelle which is featured in "My First Piano Adventures Book B". I asked the audience to sing the simple words every time I played that part. I have never had to ask any student in that age group to practice "Beethoven's Door". They can't wait to learn it because of the group experience at the recital.
   Lastly, I've captured a few images of "deep practice" on my piano bench.

However fleeting the moment is, it is precious to behold. Here also is a U-Tube video of "deep practice"

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