I read this great article today and thought you all might enjoy reading it as well. Puts a new spin on my "Do It Again" philosophy.
Reprinted with permission from the author.
Music performance is a complex series of neurophyical events. When I first began my site, I wrote a series of featured articles about the neurology of music learning and music performance. In a nutshell, a musician reaches the point of mastery of a skill when they have done enough successful repetitions of the skill that the sequence of neurons needed to execute the skill have fired together enough times to create a neural network capable of producing that sequence at a high rate of speed. It's what a lot of musicians (and dancers and athletes) refer to as muscle memory.
So literally, if you want to master a skill, you have to successfully repeat it thousands of times until the neural pathways that execute that skill have built to the point of autonomy. It literally is a game of "how many successful repetitions you can accomplish" rather than "how much time do you spend on it".
It follows, therefore, that the more efficient your practice sessions are, the more successful repetitions you can accomplish in a session, and the more rapid your attainment of mastery will be.
The challenge, however, is that we as musicians (and human beings) are highly distractable and desire to be entertained. It is challenging to stay focused on rehearsal and not allow distractions to pull us off-task. This is particularly important when a repetition ends, as that is usually the point where the average musician "goes out for a mental cheeseburger" as I like to say to my students.
The most accomplished live performers I have ever seen are amazing rehearsers. When I marched with The Cadets drum and bugle corps, I was indoctrinated to a work ethic and rehearsal systems second to none. The Cadets are consistently producing cutting-edge performances of excellent quality season after season because they get more successful repetitions done in an hour than most groups accomplish in three. Their rehearsal technique minimizes all wasted time, including the time needed to transition from the end of one repetition to the beginning of the next (literally running from the end of one set to the starting point of the next repetition on the field).
I recently had the pleasure of watching professional jazz vocalists Groove for Thought run a private rehearsal while attending the VoCALnation a cappella festival. They as well had an effecient method of ending a repetition, giving brief feedback on the quality of the last rep, then getting their starting pitch and beginning the next repetition.
So, do you want to be a great musical performer? You want your band/choir/orchestra/rock band/a cappella group to be excellent? Rehearse like a champ and minimize off-task time. Develop a system that executes a repetition, gives brief feedback for adjustments, and begins the next repetition. The best performers in the land develop the strongest work ethic and the most efficient rehearsals. If you ever get a chance to observe one of these groups in rehearsal, take notes. It is an education in excellence.
This article (c) 2013 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.