About strategy changes

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… Read More

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About muscular tension and movements

I was already aware that the focus on muscular relaxation is very important to my practice. My experience is that greater relaxation results in greater control. This is also confirmed by results from sports research[1]. Therefore, I knew that I was aware of not building up tension during my work on a difficult passage, for instance by pushing the tempo too early. For myself and my students, I am also focused on having “free” movements, that is, continuous rather than jerky movements. My experience is that they are more relaxed and use less energy. But when I watched the videos, I was surprised to see that when I focused on… Read More

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About interpretation

Many non-musicians, and even some music students, have the idea that the learning of a musical piece happens something like this: First, we decode the notes in an exact way (there is only one option) Then we encode this in our motor skills. Our body is considered an empty shell which we fill up with the exact understanding of the notation of the musical piece. Finally, we can choose an interpretation freely and without constraints, which will be both our conscious and personal choice of exactly how to play this piece. However, as my videos show, many of these choices occur throughout the course of the practice process, already from… Read More

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About memorizing and playing concerts

Because of my good ability to sight-read music, I have often begun too late to memorize the music in a deliberate way. Instead, I have continuously automated it, so that after a while I will start playing from memory, but without being aware of it. I have then actually already come far in a wholeness-understanding of the piece. But the moment when I then become consciously aware of my automated movements, I suddenly can’t remember the music. In connection with the intensification of my process with the camera, it became clear that a more effective strategy for me was to memorize smaller sections, already the first time I work with… Read More

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About tickling yourself

It’s impossible to tickle yourself – try! This is probably due to a cognitive phenomenon, called “efference copy” or “corollary discharge”. Initially, it covers the fact that, when performing an action, our nervous system sends messages to the senses influenced by it and makes them respond in a different way than usual. For example, this is one of the reasons why we do not experience the world turning when we turn our heads. The phenomenon also applies to the auditory system: Neural activity in the areas responsible for hearing is diminished when a sound occurs because of our own activity, as opposed to when it comes from other sources[1]. If… Read More

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About (self)imitation

A central aspect of learning a musical instrument is imitation. Traditionally, it has taken place as the mirroring of the teacher in the student: By his mere example, the teacher shows the student the way into his own developmental process. Today, there is a more nuanced picture of the teacher’s role: The good teacher must also be able to develop students with other types of prerequisites than their own, so a deep understanding of the student’s individual composition and competencies in both physical and mental areas play a big role. It also requires a lot of learning tools to support the student with the right feedback at the right time.… Read More

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About reaching out for your full potential

One of the reasons for starting a project like this, with its focus on understanding and optimizing our practice processes, was the idea that potentially we can develop much faster than we normally do. As an example, I often feel that I play far better when I, unprepared, demonstrate a segment to my students than if I had begun to “normally” practise the same music. So once in a while, we are able to skip stages in the process. Likewise, there are individuals who are obviously able to progress very quickly and learn things in an incredibly short time – what we call musical “prodigies”. There are probably two ways… Read More

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About free will

When my strategy changes often happen faster than I’m aware of, it’s actually a very basic feature of our motor skills. We know that, if we drive a car and have to avoid something at high speed. We react first and only afterwards “discover” what happened. This means that automated movements are far more effective than conscious movements. Yes, in fact, most of the time consciousness ought not to play a decisive role in performing an act simply because it sets in too late. And even more interesting, it turns out that we, in a certain sense, begin to act before we become aware that we make the decision about… Read More

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About action representation and motor cognition

In Marc Jeannerod‘s book “Motor Cognition” from 2006, “action representation” is a very central concept, which I find it very interesting to connect with my reflections on practising. The term covers a hypothesis about motor actions that say, that the same neural mechanism is active whether we imagine an act, perform an act or observe an action. The term is related to the idea of mirror systems, since imitation is a basic element. Action representation, however, has more far-reaching implications, as the term includes a completely basic overlay of three phenomena, normally perceived as separate in relation to a motor action: 1) the mental imagining 2) the muscular performance and… Read More

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About scientific research

Who knows what? There are obviously relevant research findings and theories in the fields of neuroscience and psychology which may help us describe the phenomena that emerge when we investigate our practice processes. Our practice is an extremely complex and refined interaction between conscious and automated actions, where the goal is strong communication between people. At the same time, we have probably the most abstract system of mediation of all art forms, namely the musical notation, which is basically built up mathematically with halving and doubling as the formal basis. Therefore, we have the opportunity to draw on a great many types of knowledge if we want to put other… Read More

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