Take Charge of your Practice!
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Attributed to Albert Einstein.
When it comes to working hard, most Humans are lazy Creatures of Comfort. Given the choice of watching “Stranger Things” or taking out the violin to Practice—or checking Facebook or walking the dogs—Practice loses out every time.
No, I’m not talking about my students right now, I’m talking about myself! I can often think of many activities that I’d rather do, or even things I really need to do—but I also have commitments to performances that I can’t blow off. Even without a deadline, I feel lousy if I don’t take my violin out every day and get some kind of exercise.
Yes, I want to be lazy about physical exercise too, but I also try to do some form of it every day, in at least 2 or 3 shapes and forms. Some yoga in the morning (just to function); some cardio, some kind of weight or resistance work—but I’m not kidding myself into thinking that I’m making real progress in my shape or strength with the current routine. I do pretty much the same routines all the time, kind of a “maintenance plan” that keeps me feeling good, not falling apart, or turning into a Jabba Hut blob.
A fitness trainer will tell you, that if you want to really improve your shape, or build your muscles, then you need to shake up your exercise routine every few weeks, because your muscles, and even your metabolism quickly adjust to the exercises that you do day after day. And yes, your Brain, as well as your muscles also go on an auto-pilot when you continue the same routines as well, I’m going to do a scale, (once or twice). Warmed up! Now on to my piece. Played through that one. (Now what?) I have had students do exactly this, week after week after week. I won’t say that they have Insanity, but they sure don’t get much better.
When you keep your practice routine on the same pattern, whether your Warm-up is Tuning and a 1 Octave Scale—or a 30 minute lengthy set routine—you are pretty much on a Maintenance Plan. Of course that is better than not doing it and letting the technique slip, but your actual Improvements will be minimal. If you do the same routines and exercises , use the same thought patterns—or NO thought patterns—in your practice routine every time you take out the instrument, then you are going to get the same sounds out of your instrument at every lesson and every performance.
It doesn’t take a drastic change; only in your thinking. What is your current goal? Make it something you can reach for NOW! Want to play in some kind of an orchestra when you get out of school in four years? Great—but that long range goal is too vague, not specific, like, I want to lose 50 pounds someday!
Figure out what you need to learn right now, and give yourself a deadline for your goal: A performance, a piece, or even next week’s lesson. Then guild your current Exercise Routine around that short term goal. Even if your goal changes, at least you have taken Active Steps and taken charge with moving in a direction that will see Success for the future. Improvements that You alone can make, success that you alone will own.
It's not about Practice makes Perfect, but Practice makes Improvement, and that's Practice that makes Sense!