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    Aaron CleggOffering private lessons in
    Santa Cruz, California
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    Can Practice Be Fun??? (Yes, and Effective!)
    Posted by Aaron Clegg - May 14, 2010 - 9:16 PM

    We've all run into the situation of not wanting to practice. But maybe that's because we're not practicing in the best way for our brain!

    Here are some practice techniques that bring some brain awareness.

    My rules for practice are:
    1) Music should be fun. If it stops being fun, set it aside and come back to it later. Frustration does not lead to success, in my experience.

    2) The LEFT hemisphere of the brain is responsible for the SEQUENCE of notes (or chords), which can be studied analytically with the mind, broken down and understood piece by piece. When learning a tricky passage of notes, play each note in sequence, completely ignoring the rhythm.

    3) The RIGHT hemisphere of the brain is responsible for RHYTHM, and as such rhythm is best learned in a holistic, auditory way. You can learn the rhythm by hearing a recording, or you can use your sheet music to break it down analytically and then CLAPPING it or HUMMING it to get it into your auditory memory.

    4) Now the magic happens! When learning, start with the note sequence and no rhythm to program the notes into the left brain. Then isolate the rhythm by humming the music, and get that rhythm deep into your soul. Finally play the notes in rhythm at a very slow pace. This programs the muscle memory. Gradually increase the tempo until you can play it at performance tempo. (This process will span minutes, days, or even weeks, depending on the piece.)

    5) If you have to work on a tricky spot in the music, do the same as in step 4 but focus on just the measures of music that need work. Gradually lengthen the stretch that you're working on, so that you start to learn the tricky spot in the context of the rest of the piece.

    6) Know when to stop practicing! When you work on a certain stretch for a while, it solidifies it by forming new connections in your brain. But once you've gone over it enough, you'll feel your brain start to fatigue or "zone out." That's a clear sign that it's time to move on to a different part of the music, or put the instrument down for a while. If you continue too much into that "zoned out" space, you won't be learning as much, and it probably will kill your fun, too.

    If, at any point, it stops being fun, set it aside and come back to it later. (I know I already said this, but it warrants a second mention.)

    I have many more precise and refined tips for effective practice, tailored to suit your individual needs.


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    4 postings total

    Slick way to learn tricky rhythms
    November 2, 2012
    Soul of the Music vs. Technical Circus
    May 14, 2010
    Can Practice Be Fun??? (Yes, and Effective!)
    May 14, 2010
    Amazing Student Recital Recording at UC Berkeley (Irish Wooden Flute)
    May 14, 2010
    View All Blog Postings