Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How much practice? Just Do It!

I'm going to let someone else do the writing today. This essay was written by Randy Marchany, originally posted to the hammered dulcimer listserv on 2/15/2008, reprinted on Randy's blog on 8/14/2011, and used here by permission. It was a response to the question, "How much should one practice?"

Randy Marchany's self-described interests are cyber-security, music, and volleyball. I'm not sure in which order he would prioritize the three! He's a great teacher, a fabulous musician, and an awesome entertainer. You may find him at dulcimer gatherings as part of the dynamic dulcimer teaching duo, "Randy & Wes" (Chappell).  They, in turn, are both part of the award winning quartet "No Strings Attached". See links at the end of this post. And now, without further ado ...

Just do it!
Can't tell you how many times we've seen our students hover over the correct note to hit but they can't bring themselves to hit it. We whisper in their ear "just hit it" and magically it happens.

For those book learners, there is a great book called "This is Your Brain on Music" by D.J. Levitin. There's a great section that deals with talent and being a virtuoso. The author claims that research studies show it's 10,000 hours of practice makes a virtuoso and not talent. Studies maintain that 10K hours of practice are required to become a 'world class expert in anything'. 10K hours of practice is the equivalent of 3 hours/day of practice for at least 10 years. After playing with a bunch of yang-qin players, I'm convinced this is true.

One cohort of HD player/festival instructors (Ken, Linda, Rick, Karen, Nick, Dan, Russell, Dana, John, myself, Wes, etc.) is at a certain skill level simply because of the number of years we've played the HD. The more senior cohort of Sam, Malcolm, Walt, Paul simply have more hours than we do. The younger player/instructors like the Tinas, Brenda, Sam, and others are at another "practice" level. In other words, the 3 cohorts I mentioned (and there are a ton more) are at different spots in the 10K practice cycle.

I personally believe that PRACTICE gives you the skill set you need to be creative. TALENT is how you put everything together. The less you have to think about HOW to do something, the more you can think about WHAT to do. Bottom line is that to become a better player, you must practice.

The amount of practice depends on what else is going on in your life and your motivation to become a better player. Play to enjoy the music, practice appropriately. Play to become a performer, practice accordingly. Play to match the international players, start now because 10 years is a long time!  ~ Randy Marchany

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