Practice part 1: Task = Time?

First up, the common but inaccurate assumption that task equals time. In other words, as long as we do the required amount of practice each week, we are on track. But if the amount is measured in time alone, the pupil has entirely missed the point.

Practice without objective is unlikely to be effective.

For example, it is relatively simple to practice for, say, twenty minutes. I open the music to my ‘best’ piece and play it through. Sounds great. Now I move on to the other piece, a more recent acquisition, and start at the beginning – which is the bit that I know best. I carry on and wade through the tricky bit, which is still not very fluent, and although it’s beginning to sound a little more familiar, there are still lots of things going wrong. Watching the clock though, I only have a few minutes left of my allotted time. I ought to do a couple of scales, so let’s start with the ones I know… Nineteen minutes, that’s near enough, and I can tell my teacher/parents, with honesty, that I have practised today. But what did I achieve? Probably very little actually – but if my principal objective was to spend twenty minutes practising, I have succeeded in the task which I set myself.

If a pupil has few objectives beyond fulfilling the allotted time quota, the chances are that their practice time will seem like a pretty futile exercise. With no specific strategies in place to focus on, their practice is unlikely to be effective, and this alone will ensure that being made to spend time practising every day is all the more frustrating.

Practice part 2: It’s not personal!
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