Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thoughts on practicing: "The Talent Code"

One of my students parents recently recommended this book about how to develop a talent based on a conversation we were having.  Although I was initially skeptical of this book for its self-help trappings, I have been impressed and inspired by its content.  

This book is full of observations about how to practice that musicians will intuitively feel  are true, but it provides the additional insight of why these techniques work in terms of mechanisms in the brain.  The explanation of how these mechanisms of the brain work (to the extent that they are currently understood) in turn provides more insight into the process. 

The thing that really resonated with me was Daniel Coyle's insistence on the importance of slow, careful, and repetitive practice at the edge of a particular ability.  Coyle refers to this type of powerful, focused practice as "deep practice".  As it turns out, deep practice works so well because it produces a chemical called myelin in the brain.  This chemical essentially makes it so that connections between particular neurons work faster/more efficiently, which in turn results in better control of a particular action. 

As I was just observing in my post about struggling with uptempo playing, the real roadblock to my playing was not having a way to slow down uptempo ideas and then translate them back to my uptempo playing.  Although this is something that I have thought about before, reading this passage about deep practice made me re-approach the issue, ultimately resulting in my personal breakthrough about how to practice uptempo ideas slowly.  

Any time a book helps me see some aspect of my own life in a new and useful way, I always want to pass it on.  So there you go, check it out for yourself and see if it inspires you to approach some musical obstacle differently.  Here is a link to get the book: