Showing posts from November, 2014

Getting Off the "OK Plateau" - Breaking Through Walls in Your Practice

Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein, gave a talk on 99u about the techniques that experts use to become great at what they do. As a martial artist and musician, I'm always looking for ways to improve and to practice more efficiently.

The OK Plateau
In 1967 a much-cited textbook was written about how people acquire skills. The authors said that we go through three phases. Think of the way we learn to ride a bicycle, learn to type, or drive:

Cognitive Phase - We devote a lot of mental energy to the skill, thinking about the tasks, discovering new ways to do betterAssociative Phase - We start to feel that we're improving, we make fewer errorsAutonomous Phase - This is when we decide we're competent. We "turn on autopilot," doing a lot of the tasks without a lot of cognitive thought. 
Foer calls the third phase "The OK Plateau." It's fine to reach a plateau when I'm OK at typing or driving, but not when I'm practicing something I want…

7 Ways for Musicians to Stay Positive about Your Progress

As we achieve a certain level of accomplishment, the details that we focus on in practice become more and more subtle. It can be hard to stay motivated to practice, because it's harder and harder to see results.

When I was a kid my piano teacher put gold stars on my music in every lesson. Where are my gold stars now???

I asked my piano teacher, Dave Leonhardt, about this. Here's a list of his ideas and mine.
Keep a note pad, and write down something you did well. Record/videotape yourself. Study your recording. After I get over the initial "cringe factor," recordings are some of my most valuable tools. And if you keep them organized, you can compare old and new, to get perfect snapshot of your progress.At the beginning of your practice session, make a point of noticing how you are playing something you set out to practice. Then notice how you do it at the end. Take notes of what you're working on every week. If you feel you're not making progress, going back …

How to Slow Down Your Practice For Big Improvements

I know that when I'm practicing and making mistakes I need to slow down. This is true for music, and it's true for aikido, so for how many other things must it also be true!

But we all know it's not that easy. How much should we slow down? How long should we slow down? When we speed up again, how fast should we go?

Here's a really helpful breakdown related to practicing piano, adapted from instructions from my teacher, the awesomely talented David Leonhardt. I apply the same general principles to my aikido practice.

When you detect a mistake you want to fix, get out your metronome. (You're using it already? Great!)Break down the problem section into small pieces - a couple of bars, a series of 3-4 chord changes.Set the metronome at a speed that you think you can play the section comfortably. Comfortably means not frantic, able to think ahead, with good posture and hand position.If you're still having trouble, you can either slow it down some more, or break it do…