Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.
Ahhh, all of those words of wisdom about practice! Practice is defined as follows:
- perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.
- carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.
What old habits are you continuing to do that are preventing you from accomplishing your dreams? Do you put off doing the important, in favor of placating the urgent? Many years ago, this sign hung at the entrance of my work cubicle:
Many times others “require” emergency action from us. Or, maybe it is our own lack of planning that finds us in emergency mode.
For our young children, it is our job to help them to create balance in their schedules so that they may accomplish the important, instead of merely chasing the urgent. Chasing the urgent in piano might mean putting off practice every day until the night before a lesson and then cramming.
I’ll never forget the year that one of my high school students, Derrick, neglected to practice “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” before the annual Christmas Recital. His mom told me later that Derrick was up all night “cramming” for the performance. Needless to say, he did not give a stellar performance that year! (All was not lost, however; Derrick went on to graduate from a prestigious Naval Academy and served our country as an officer in the armed services.) Perhaps this was a valuable learning experience for him!
Just last week, my “Practice Wall of Fame” made it’s debut. This showcases my outstanding practice sheets for the week on a bulletin board in my studio. Practice sheets are the greenish-yellow ½ page sheets that come home with your students’ piano books. I strongly encourage your student to record their practice on them. Nothing is quite so rewarding (or enlightening, as the case may be) as seeing your practice progress. If you’ve ever kept a diet log, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
To make a change, we must first recognize your habits, and then take steps to correct the course. Oftentimes, this is a painful process. But, how rewarding, even “freeing” it is when we make and plan and then put it into action!
As I was growing up, I often heard, “Practice makes Perfect.” However, I think it is better said that “Practice makes Permanent.” If you were a fly on the wall in my studio, you’d often hear me say, “When you practice, do __________”. Not if you practice, but when.
I am very careful to give students ( each and every lesson) specific tasks that they need to work toward mastery each week. For the little ones, I may expect correct notes and rhythms in their songs. For more advanced students, they may be mastering anything from notes/rhythms to dynamics, pedaling, phrasing or technique in just a few measures of a piece.
If I could re-do my kid’s elementary years, I would be more strategic in helping them organize their time. I would have started earlier, and I would have helped them more often.