Printer-friendly version weekend vote: How often do you set a specific goal for a practice session?

The Weekend Vote

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Published: December 6, 2013 at 5:43 PM [UTC]

Am I supposed to go for high-quality practice, or am I supposed to practice things 10,000 times?

These can seem like conflicting goals, because thoughtful practice surely takes less time, and wouldn't 10,000 times turns someone into a zombie?

A good practice, however, will include both, simultaneously. I would call "10,000 repetitions" a tool that you use in order to turn thoughtful work on musical ideas into something that you can DO, consistently and with ease.

Without good goals, all those repetitions will fail, or worse, reinforce bad habits.

The wonderful Canadian violinist James Ehnes has recommended said it well when he spoke about practice several years ago: "If people can have a particular goal in mind, and if reaching that goal can take on more importance than just logging the hours, then I think real progress can start to happen."

It's pretty easy to step onto the treadmill and go forward, not realizing that the thing is actually standing still and you have no destination!

Do you set goals for your practice? And how often?

(P.S. Thanks to Buri for this vote idea!)

From Karen Collins
Posted on December 6, 2013 at 5:51 PM
between 75% and 95% of the time.
From Steve Reizes
Posted on December 6, 2013 at 6:11 PM
Not often enough!
From marjory lange
Posted on December 6, 2013 at 7:04 PM
With limited time for practice, I have to make sure I don't waste any of it, so I do. Didn't use to, but time changes the way I use time.

From Christina C.
Posted on December 6, 2013 at 8:36 PM
quality over quantity and focus on small achievable objectives.
From Kate Little
Posted on December 6, 2013 at 8:53 PM
Quality and quantity are not mutually exclusive. Go for both. If time is available, why choose between them?

Inherent in practice is the attempt to improve or maintain one's proficiency. On the violin, this can only happen if one is paying attention to what one is are doing, and is actively working to improve or maintain skills. Such active attention and work requires some sort of goal, specific or general, immediate or long term. Otherwise the repetition is just mindless repetition and risks being counter-productive.

Go ahead and do the 10,000 repetitions. But pay attention to each stroke and the sound it produces. With each repetition, make adjustments to bring the sound closer to the ideal in your imagination. This is the refinement that the 10,000 repetitions is meant to bring.

From Kate Little
Posted on December 6, 2013 at 11:28 PM
Another way to think of practice and goals is in terms of intention and purpose. If you work at the violin with intention and purpose, than you are practicing and you do have goals. If you do not, in the moment, have intention and purpose, than you might be making sound and you might be making music, but you definitely are not practicing, regardless of the number of repetitions.

In other (purely logical) words:

Intention = goal;
No intention = no practice;

Therefore, no goal = no practice.

From sharelle taylor
Posted on December 6, 2013 at 11:39 PM
Sometimes my goal IS to practise the section I can't play well enough, 20 times, or 50 times, every session. Never 10,0000. I will admit to not being that good.
Other times its to achieve a better bowing or better transition with position change. Or just play through from beginning to end and ignore the stuff ups.
Its always a goal.
From Anne Horvath
Posted on December 7, 2013 at 12:03 AM
"Always", although sometimes other stuff happens.

From Mark Roberts
Posted on December 7, 2013 at 2:06 AM
depends what is meant by "goal", whatever it is I never seem to have enough tme to achieve it...
From Jayanthi Joseph
Posted on December 7, 2013 at 7:04 AM
I've been making increasingly specific goals for each practice session this term and it's helped a lot. Especially when I don't have large blocks of time to practice. I found that I could accomplish a lot, even in a quick 20 minutes practice session. However, I do allow myself to break away from my practice plans from time to time. I rarely accomplish 100% of my goals and if I didn't have that flexibility, it would be very stressful.

In general, a mixture of very targeted goals and goals with a larger focus is ideal. For example, a larger goal could be: Work on repertoire, scales, etudes and orchestra music. Since fitting all of it in can be a challenge in itself, it is a very worthy practice goal to aim to practice everything on your list. A more targeted goal could be to speed up the tempo of a particular bar or fix a slippery shift in one piece. It's helpful to think laterally- find similarities between the problem spots in different pieces and work on the overall skill.

And now this extremely long comment it finished. Phew!

From Kim Vawter
Posted on December 7, 2013 at 2:22 PM
Always. Set a goal. Write it down. Read it after the lesson and then execute the plan. It is the only to chip away at a difficult task.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on December 7, 2013 at 7:57 PM
my voting section is not working.
anybody else?

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