Practicing is like circuit training
I have recently been going to a high intensity “boot camp” group fitness class. To my surprise, the trainer told us after class yesterday that we had done 35 minutes of high intensity exercise with only about 2 minutes of break. Wow, this is something I wouldn’t have thought myself capable of, and though it was hard, I was able make it through the whole class much easier than jumping on a single machine for 35 minutes.
I’m convinced my ability to successfully complete the class is because it’s set up like a circuit. There were three separate stations, each containing 3 separate exercises. You do each of the exercises for about 30 seconds and then move on to the next one.
How is this like practicing you might ask? Well, I think the mistake we all make with practicing is that we become overwhelmed by focusing on the large task at hand. Just like the gym. If someone told me to just do 35 minutes straight of high intensity exercise, that seems like an overwhelming task. However, it becomes manageable when you break it into small pieces. Practicing for an hour and trying to learn the whole piece by playing it from start to finish over and over will leave you feeling helpless and frustrated by your slow progress.
Approaching your practice by focusing on a series of small tasks is key. Don’t look for a single accomplishment in playing the whole piece. Look for multiple small accomplishments throughout your practice. Set up your practice like circuit training. Break that page your are tackling down by the systems on the page, and then by two measure groups. Don’t let your mind stray from trying to accomplish the small tasks one at a time. Practicing will quickly become much more efficient, and you will leave with a sense of accomplishment instead of wondering why you sat with your instrument for about an hour and feel like you can play no better than when you started.
And speaking of personal training, you can’t go to the gym once and walk out looking like a fitness model. The study of music is not different. The results you see come gradually after multiple sessions in training. Yes, it is hard work! But, hard work that is rewarding. So, practice personal training, and put personal training into your practice, and you won’t be disappointed.