I have to admit that I’m not really a New Years resolutions sort of person, but I do like aiming to try new things , and developing habits and processes (which are often more effective than goals).
The beginning of a new year is as good a time as any to make some changes, so if you’re still shopping around for something new to try, here are 10 to choose from (otherwise known as 2014’s most read posts).
#1 – Practice better (by
stealing adopting effective practicers’ top practice strategies)
We all have the same 24 hours and a finite amount of energy at our disposal, so it behooves us to utilize the most effective practice strategies we can.
The amount of time we spend, and the number of repetitions we get in aren’t the key factors. Here are eight things that do seem to matter:
8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently
#2 – Make time for the fundamentals
Scales and etudes are boring (or at least seem that way at first glance). Yet a solid grounding in the fundamentals is essential for mastery. Embrace the boring-ness, we must!
Why I’d Be a Lot More Diligent About Practicing Scales if I Could Do It All Over Again
#3 – Be less judgmental; go beyond praise and criticism
From the “Wooden” to a 5-second behavior modeling technique, there is much musicians can learn from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s teaching methods.
What is More Effective? Praise or Criticism?
#4 – Improvise more! (Or learn how, if that seems totally foreign)
Improvising is not just for jazz or non-classical musicians. And it’s more than just making up notes or rhythms on the spot. It’s a mindset. Learn more about the neuroscience of improv:
Why Improvisation Should Be Part of Every Young Musician’s Training
#5 – Pay more attention in theory class (or rediscover your inner musicologist and music theory geek)
I didn’t see the point of music theory for years. If you’ve been wondering the same thing yourself, read this:
Why I Should Have Paid More Attention in Music Theory Class
#6 – Form good habits, but avoid getting too comfortable
Whether it’s ordering the same pizza toppings, sitting in the same seat in class, or using the same few practice rooms, we are creatures of habit.
But there are indications that this can leave us more vulnerable to glitches and memory slips in performances.
Learn why throwing everyone for a loop and regularly rotating amongst a different set of practice rooms/spaces may be better not just for you, but your fellow students as well.
Evidence That Pianists Might Have It Tougher Than the Rest of Us When It Comes to Performing From Memory
#7 – Don’t worry about finishing; just get started instead
It’s not easy to be totally enthused about practicing all the time. But on those days when you’re really dragging your feet, a curious phenomenon observed in restaurants almost 100 years ago could help you get yourself more in the mood.
How to Get Yourself to Practice When You Don’t Feel Like It
#8 – Practice teaching practicing (or just practice practicing)
In much the same way that effective study skills can make a significant difference in the performance of two otherwise evenly matched individuals, good practice skills can help us make the most of our time, and minimize those soul-sucking practice plateaus where it feels like nothing is happening.
To that end, two Australian researchers did a 3-year study tracking the practice habits of young musicians, and found that while many had the desire to practice, they lacked the skills required to do so effectively.
Read their two recommendations for teachers: Why Practicing Practicing From An Early Age Is So Important
#9 – Reduce caffeine intake to maximize learning
Coffee can certainly make us feel more alert, but it actually seems to impair learning. What?!
Naps vs. Coffee – Which is a Better Choice For the Sleep-Deprived Musician?
More detailed info on caffeine and its impact on our mind/body: The Caffeine Controversy
#10 – Get in shape, and gain an edge in beating on-stage jitters
Turns out that exercise may reduce our sensitivity to anxiety. Which is a good thing.
The Impact of Exercise and Physical Fitness on Performance Under Pressure
fun 7-minute workout routine you can do anywhere: The 7-minute workout
Need some helping making habits stick? Try BJ Fogg's (free) Tiny Habits course: Tiny Habits
Want to read the book on proven tweaks for more effective study and practice habits? Try my favorite book of 2014: Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and productive 2015!
Mainly a New Year great big “Thank You,” Dr. Kageyama, for your diligence in searching out and personally writing thought-provoking, inspirational, practical comments for performing musicians. There’s always more to learn, raise consciousness, be reminded of, in our unending pursuit of doing well in this multi-faceted life commitment. Intensely grateful!!
Thank you Mary – and for sharing your comments and insights on the blog as well!
P.S.: A brief look at the “Tiny Habits” page is enlightening. I’d add a fourth step (without knowing any research behind it – just my own experience)
4. Where possible, change (vary) your daily schedule: the part of the day when you practice, or work on a musical project. Give it the priority it deserves, rather than “fit it in when other ‘essentials’ are completed.” Make you musical commitment THE essential prime element of the day.
Very true about practicing scales. I was stuck on the pentatonic scale for years. Last year I revisited the major scale and practiced, practiced, practiced. It really opened up my playing in all areas.
I totally agree about the scales and arpeggios…etc. Once i thought they were no good, but afterstudying them everyday for 4 months, i have seen the huuuuuge change, now i am more confident in the intonation and helps eith agility.
Final thought: scales ARE important.
Ps. I am very grateful and i wantes tu thank you Dr. Noa for the time you spend helping others
“Good intentions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific lws. Thei origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil.” –Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
ood intentions have a bad reputation. People who
form New Year’s resolutions earn at best a sympathetic
smile when they announce their heroic
intentions (e.g., exercising regularly, avoiding unhealthy
foods). Though the audience may concede that such resolutions
are made with good will (Oscar Wilde is less
trusting), they doubt their effectiveness. This suspicion is
deeply rooted. Folklore tells us that “the road to hell is
paved with good intentions.”
Do good intentions deserve this bad reputation? As the
many empirical studies based on Ajzen’s (1985) theory of
planned behavior demonstrate, there is no reason to assume
that good intentions have nil effects or even negative effects
on behavior. Quite to the contrary
For more information, you can read :
Strong Effects of Simple Plans
Peter M. Gollwitzer