AdministratorNovember 22, 2016 at 3:27 pm
Going through the beginning stages of learning a complex skill – especially a musical instrument – is challenging indeed!
One thing to keep in mind, is that you are pushing yourself to your current limits from week to week, and are presumably playing something for your teacher from week to week that is at the edges of your current ability. So it’s probably going to feel quite a bit less natural and fluid and easy than if you were to prepare something that you played previously, that is easier to play and doesn’t stretch your current skill level quite so much. So sometimes, it can be helpful to go back and play things that you haven’t played for a while, to see how much easier it feels and how much better it sounds.
But when it comes to preparing for lessons, one of the problems we can run into, is the fact that the way we usually practice sets us up to expect a higher level of performance than we can actually deliver the first time. Meaning, when we practice, if we play through something, then again, and again, each time making further refinements and adjustments to each previous time, we can get to an increasingly higher level of performance – but it’s kind of an illusion. The “momentary” habit strength of our skills is not the same as our “underlying” habit strength, and the only way to gauge our true level of mastery of the passage/piece is to play it cold, only one time, just like we would for a lesson. That is actually what our current level is with that piece. Random or interleaved practice is one way of maximizing actual learning on our instrument, rather than the blocked style of practice we typically engage in which maximizes the momentary strength, at the expense of underlying strength. You can read more about this in a blog post here – and also I recommend the book Make it stick: The science of successful learning, which gets into this and other very cool aspects of how to maximize learning.