Deliberate Practice


My summer holiday reading this year centered on a book called Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin. The really positive revelation in this book is that the ‘most talented’ people in the world in any pursuit only get there by masses of hard work and careful, tedious, repetitive Deliberate Practice. Research shows it is not just because they were amazingly ‘talented’ from birth.

I believe this is a really self-affirming finding for any aspiring musician as it means that with the right mentoring and lots and lots of deliberate practice, anything is possible. The only stumbling block for most people is that this kind of practice is HARD WORK, it takes LOTS OF TIME, it’s probably NOT MUCH FUN, and it generally DOESN’T SOUND VERY GOOD because students are trying to do things they can’t already do. There will be lots of mistakes and lots of frustration at first, but the final outcome will be worth it.

On the flip-side, I think a lot of students think that practice is simply a matter of playing through some things they know, doing a few scales and maybe trying a bit of something new before it gets too hard. If you can at least ensure your child’s practice is focused on the goals set (hence reading through my notes each week) and ensure you are hearing some scales, preferably in rhythms, and that you aren’t just hearing things your child already knows how to play, their skills will develop exponentially.

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Tim Topham

Lead blogger and coffee snob
Best-known for his blogging and teaching, Tim is also a well-respected presenter, performer and accompanist based in Melbourne, Australia. You can check him out on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
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