Deliberate Practice: A Primer For Musicians

Deliberate Practice for Musicians

Everyone agrees that learning any skill or gaining expertise requires as much practice as you can possibly get. However, research has shown that it’s not just the frequency of practice that matters, but the quality of practice as well. This same study by K. Ericsson, a psychologist from Florida State University, has led to the strong belief that an expert performance is mainly due to expert practice and not “natural talent.” This view is called Deliberate Practice and it is steadily gaining fans of all ages and skill levels.

What is Deliberate Practice?

If you’ve ever felt discouraged because you felt that you’re not “talented” enough to play the piano or sing, deliberate practice dismisses the idea of innate talent. Musical experts aren’t professionals with unnatural abilities–they’re experts at maintaining intense levels of practice that aims to improve performance.

Deliberate practice is a structured act that is performed with the exact goal of improving performance. This is very different from regular task repetition or going through the motions. With deliberate practice, your main motivation and goal is to improve your performance over time. One great benefit is that with this concept, personal “limits” can be overcome. Instance with one-on-one lessons have shown to greatly boost the achievement of students who previously had late cognitive abilities.

The Essential Componoents of Deliberate Practice

When it’s time for your next practice session, do your best to meet these four conditions. Doing so will improve the accuracy of your performances and how you handle motor, perceptual and cognitive activities.

1. How the practice session is designed should take into account your already existing knowledge so that the activity can be understood after quick and simple instruction.

2. You need to be motivated enough to focus on the task completely and exert enough effort to improve your performance.

3. You have to perform similar tasks repeatedly.

4. You should get immediate helpful feedback about your performance.

Without informative feedback during practice, expect minimal improvement. This is a great benefit of taking private lessons because simple practice isn’t enough to gain the right skills quickly.

Make every practice session intentional and deliberate!