"Practice makes perfect."
The saying is meant to inspire us to practice more; unfortunately, it's a lie. A whopper!
"Practice makes permanent," a piano teacher once admonished my son, followed by: "...only 'perfect practice' makes perfect!"
One must practice, but one must practice with care. A mistake practiced many times over is a well-learned mistake, and un-learning it can be very difficult. But how can one avoid mistakes?
One cannot avoid all mistakes, but one can avoid practicing them.
The problem is that mistakes can be deceptive. One might think, "I'm correcting my mistakes as I practice."
I very often see a phenomenon in students that I call the "Built-in Boo-Boo." A student will be playing a piece, then he or she arrives at a certain difficult note, perhaps a note that requires a shift. The student misses the note, stops, plays it once or twice more until it is correct, and then moves on.
If the student were to play the entire passage again, the student would do the exact same thing the next time: play the wrong note, stop, play the right note, move on. It can happen in a flash. In the student's mind, the note has been corrected. In reality, the student has formed a strong habit of playing the note incorrectly, interrupting the music, noodling around a little, then playing the right note. It's a built-in mistake that will remain, unless the student's strategy changes.
Why? Because the strategy of "correcting mistakes" does not work. Certainly, one will make mistakes, and one will need to correct them. But you only need to make the mistake once to know you have a problem that needs solving. Here are a few effective steps to truly correct a mistake, instead of continuing to repeat it:
This way of practicing will require more thought and investigation. It will require being aware of what you are doing, and you may even need to record yourself in order to find those habitual mistakes. But once you start truly solving your mistakes, your overall practice will be far more effective.
Please feel free to share your strategies for correcting mistakes and practicing effectively.
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LOL Dimitri, to persist in playing the violin is indeed diabolical, we all can attest!
Oh, how true this is! Practice it more times right than wrong.
If you're playing in an orchestra or other ensemble and make a mistake you can't just stop, correct it, and carry on. You ignore it and continue, doubtless making a mental note to something about it in your next home practice session.
Last weekend I found myself sight-reading in the 1sts in an orchestral rehearsal where we were going through Dvorak's Carnival Overture and Brahms 2 at performance speed. Needless to say, I made mistakes by the dozen, but the crucial point is I didn't let them interfere with the flow of the music.
In a performance, if you make a small(ish) mistake try to keep any change of expression off your face, because such a change of expression will be a signal to the audience that something unintended has happened. If you keep a poker face then the chances are very high that 99% of the audience won't notice a glitch, and the other 1%, if they do notice, will understand (probably having been there themselves).
Hilary Hahn's advice about taking a deep breath before a difficult passage, so as to get more oxygen into the blood stream and into the muscles, is useful to bear in mind.
I find that isolating the passage; playing it slowly but correctly 10 times (if I make the same mistake I have to start over); then backing up a measure or two tto get the feel of the entrance to the passage before replaying it from the beginning is the most eeffective way to correct errors. If I play it the passage just once it I find that I'm likely to make the same mistake again.
Anyway, thats what works for me.
I think "10 times" works for a lot of people, as long as they are 10 correct times!
Actually, I do exactly that. I've been trying to re-work the practice as you suggest, and I'm making headway I think. But every now and then I catch myself falling on bad habits... since I am a stubborn sort, I'm sure I'll get past that silliness sooner or later- hopefully sooner.
The ideal is to practice not just 'until one gets it right', but until one cannot get it wrong.
Well said, Ramón! And Jim - stubbornness can work to your advantage if you can harness it in the right direction!
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