As mentioned in the About practice section, repetition is a central aspect of most musicians’ practice. Immediately after reviewing my exercise videos, questions emerged that I had not expected:
When and why do I interrupt myself in order to repeat a passage?
What do I choose to focus on when I repeat?
For this reason, it was apparently interesting to look at the places where my practice processes broke off and took a different direction. It turned out to be a very central element in my reflection, which I chose to call “strategy change” in the videos.
If we begin with the first question, the reasons for my strategy changes typically are, when I
Have a motorical feeling that is not optimal
Experience a sound quality that I’m not satisfied with
Experience that a process does not move in the right direction
The above reasons do not exclude each other, on the contrary, several of them usually happen at the same time: “I play wrong notes and I have an unsatisfactory feeling in my arm” or “I’m experiencing an unsatisfactory sound and I have a bad posture”.
This has not really surprised me. I have become a lot more surprised at how quickly I often decide to abort a process and almost in the same movement have decided both what to repeat and how my new focus should be. Viewed from the outside, it’s so fast that it seems likely that the choice often has been taken “for me”. (See About free will)
Gradually, I’ve become better at utilizing these strategy changes and allowing them to arise when I encounter resistance in my practice. Thus, they can be used as a tool to optimize my practice process. It is hard to say whether it is the conscious or unconscious part of the brain that is enhanced – probably it is some form of fine-tuning of both cognitive aspects.
It took some time before the changes started to materialize. Comparing this video from an early stage, with this video from a later date, shows that my process has become more focused and my strategy changes have become more conscious.
There is also a change in the methods I’m testing. In an early video, I use mental practice several times as a method. I later abandon this method, and it is also clearly seen in the early video that the method does not have a particularly big effect on me. I probably do not have enough experience with this type of practice.
A rather significant example of a strategy change that makes a difference are these two videos. The first video is an example of an exercise process that is not optimal. (Watch until the end). I experience a gradual decline in the quality of my practice, which causes more and more errors, so I have to slow down the pace. But after I turn off the camera, my frustration leads me to try something new – to play the section much faster (in fact faster than it is intended from Klenau) and with more energy in my articulation. Immediately, I experience a big improvement in my proficiency of playing the passage. It was obviously possible to skip some stages of the process by switching to the right focus at the right time. It is experienced as a “controlled loss of control”. (See About the control paradox)
However, there was also an opposite reaction to my success experiences of being open to the many strategy changes. Occasionally, I experienced that I was trying to get further than I was ready for, and that the quality was actually getting worse.
Thus, it is also important to take a step back mentally and evaluate the process from the outside. Becoming aware of exactly when a “saturation point” occurs and we should go on to work on other things is a fairly central competence, also related to the mastery of learning works as quickly as possible without unnecessary detours. (See About memorizing and playing concerts).
There are two different things happening here:
Strategy interruptions on a detail level. Relates to the detailed control of security, sound, bodily sensations, etc. Unconscious strategy changes are appropriate.
Strategy interruptions on an overall level. Relates to the general structure of the practice, eg. when to move on to a new section. Conscious strategy changes are appropriate.
In addition, the piano concerto by Paul von Klenau proved to be a very suitable piece of music to work with. The many unfamiliar figurations often provoked resistance, and therefore the number of strategy changes were probably greater than usual.
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