Mastery: Getting a lot done (A little at a time)
Getting a lot done (A little at a time)
So much stuff! Where to start?
In earlier posts we discussed the “Forrest Gump” effect: Silencing the inner voice of judgment and simply ‘doing’. Here we’ll get in to a few specifics to help turn a self-defeating cycle of doubt into an invigorating cycle of positive feedback, and results!
So, here I am in the practice room: I have to learn everything in every key at every tempo. Simple right? No problem. Except that everything is so much stuff!
Here is exactly where we should catch ourselves. Musical practice is like exercise: it’s something that we decide is an ongoing part of us. Like meditation, yoga, running, golf, or anything that is part of a general wellness routine. Within this framework it’s easier to take the long view, and realize that every little goal is simply a step in a lifelong journey.
The Mastery Method
Put simply: it boils down to A, then B, then A and B. Then C. then A, B, and C. Then D, Then C and D, Then B, C and D, then A, B, C, and D… etc. Reinforcing material learned while gradually adding small increments of new material, both in and out of context.
This takes tremendous patience, but it really pays off. Musical performance relies heavily on muscle memory, which lives in a different and more ancient part of our brains then the part that understands and thinks about things. For this reason, it’s important to repeat things mindfully and copiously.
Bridging these two brain regions can feel like a T3 Connection trying to interface with a dialup line. (Think: slow!) But the good news is that it’s really hard to “unlearn what you have learned” (As Yoda would say). What you learn more or less stays forever. Like riding a bike.
t’s also the ‘bad’ news if we learn it wrong, so better get it right the first time. There’s no rush because as above, we’re in it for the long haul, right? It’s not a race. Removing the urgency allows us the space to be thorough and mindful.
While we’re immersed in deep focus solving a particular problem, it’s easy to lose track of very important things like: breathing, relaxing, smiling, and generally enjoying yourself. The beauty of the mastery method is that during repetitions, you can gradually look past the mechanics of the task at hand and move your consciousness to a more “universal” view. Am I relaxed? Is there tension in my wrist? Face? Back? Am I holding my breath? Am I having fun or torturing myself? These are all questions that we should be asking ourselves in action
Watch for future posts exploring more strategies to bolster performance and practice. In the meantime, check these articles out:
On getting your kids to practice:
More on effective practice methods:
Some practicing funnies:
Great book on mindful meditative practicing:
For more great stuff, visit our website where you can find links to articles, useful resources, sheet music, videos, and much more.