Monday, February 2, 2015

Some Great Advice from Joey Tartel

I subscribe to a number of music and music practice related websites. Occasionally I'll post a "re-blog" of content that I think relates particularly well to Dr. Flegg's Structured Practice Method. This is one of those occasions!

Joey Tartel is a Trumpeter on the faculty of the Indiana School of Music. He has a great blog with the tag line "Trying to Rid the World of Bad Trumpet Playing." I would argue that his posts easily apply to any musical instrument. I highly recommend checking out his entire blog, but first I want to point out a particular post.

In a recent post, titled "Level of Expectation,"  Tartel gives some great advice regarding the idea of "good enough." He also talks a little bit about practicing. Here's a snippet of what he says:

If you truly want to raise your level of performance, it starts with how you are practicing.  Here are some guidelines to help you get started:
  • Before you start practicing, have a idea of what that session will accomplish.
    • It could be as simple as figuring out where you’re going to breathe, or increasing the tempo by 5 beats per minute on a particular piece or passage.
  • When you have accomplished what you set out to do, move on.
    • If you finish quickly, set another goal and continue.
    • If it takes a while, then it’s time for a break.
This is fantastic advice, and Dr. Flegg's Structured Practice Method was designed with this kind of deliberate practice in mind. In SPM, the "idea of what that session will accomplish" is what you put in the "Goal or instructions for next session" field.

We add an extra step for when you've accomplished what you set out to do that I think is very important and adds to the effectiveness of starting with a plan. That is, before you move on, reflect on what you've just done. Write something about what you just accomplished that you think might be useful the next time you practice this item. What is still challenging you? What worked in improving it? What will help you practice it more effectively next time? Let me say that again for emphasis:

What will help you practice it more effectively next time?

Then, when you've put down a couple of notes to help out for next time, think about what your next step should be. Put that in the "Goal or Instructions for Next Session" field.

The advantage to setting your plan (your intention) for the next session up now is that right now is when you remember this practice session the best. It's when you have the best knowledge of where you stand and when you're in the best position to assess what should happen next. Even if you revisit this same item again in another session later the same day, your memory will fade. It's just how we work. Let the SPM take some of the load off your memory!

Until next time...

See you in the practice room!

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