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 to consider these exceptional cases:

1) They are basically constituted in a different way than the rest of us.

2) They have the same starting point as the rest of us, but have – either by their own or others’ help – been able to remove some learning barriers that we all share.

I find it fruitful to investigate whether or not 2) could be the case. Not only because of my above-mentioned experience, but also because I have often encountered students who suddenly develop very quickly. It is not hard to imagine that if these developmental leaps were the rule instead of the exception, most musicians would be able to go very far.

So maybe one could discover these barriers by setting up a mirror in front of our own practice? I was enthusiastic about it.

Basically, my experience turned out to be, as I mentioned earlier, that I quickly accelerated my learning process, simply by setting up a camera. (See About recording yourself) Likewise, another effect, which has an important potential for me, is to increase my awareness towards the end result. (See About tickling yourself)

Here it is appropriate to spend a little time on why it is really desirable to speed up the process of learning a musical work. For other art forms – especially those who create new art works – it’s almost absurd to imagine that it could be quality parameter in itself to finish quickly.

But as musicians, we have to deal with large amounts of music in order to be able to get a performing or teaching career:

As a performing artist, with the exception of some international stars, you have to be a part of many different projects, as the market is not big enough to play the same works over a long period of time. Typically, you have two to three concerts with the same works, and then you have to learn something new (realistically, you have to work simultaneously on many musical pieces at the same time). Accordingly, the sooner you can learn things, the more different professional constellations you have the opportunity to participate in.

As a teacher, you have to be able to demonstrate part elements of the work you teach. The amount of piano repertoire is absolutely incredible, so if you have to spend a lot of time preparing each lesson, basically you can’t have so many students.

Therefore, one should therefore expect, that the musicians who are able to learn quickly, also do well professionally. And this is certainly the case. The problem is that we have an unfortunate tendency to assume that our preconditions for learning are constant – that some individuals are “better” learners I hope this premise has been challenged with this project.

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