Learning to practice practice

When you practice the fiddle, what do you practice? Scales, bowing and tunes. But you also practice something else, something more powerful. You practice practice itself.

The practice of practice can carry over to all other parts of your life. You can apply the principles to any habit or skill: losing weight, meditation, learning to cook, starting a business. The basic principles:

  • Start small, but start now.
  • Do it every day.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
  • One thing at a time.

Start small, but start now

You can’t fully predict how things will go, you can’t plan everything out. If you try to understand and figure out everything you need to know before beginning, you will never take the first step. So you just have to start. And you have to do it now. It won’t happen tomorrow, it can only happen now.

When you play a new tune, you don’t know what the hard parts are until you play it through. In the same way, when you start a new business you might try to solve all the conceivable problems before they crop up. Or, when you form a new relationship, you might live a full imaginary life with that person before the first date. But you won’t know what the actual problems are until you start, so it stands to reason that you won’t be able to solve all everything until you get going.

Start with something small. Learn the first phrase of a tune. Write a simple business plan. Set up a fun first date to your local miniature golf course (wait, I’m no longer in junior high). Answers and solutions will come naturally once you are involved with the process of doing.

How can you start now?

Do it every day

Habit is not a bad word. And it’s not necessarily a good word. It’s simply  a feature that has evolved in our brains to make decision-making more efficient. Repeated behaviors become automatic so you don’t have to waste time thinking about how to act.

If you’re in the habit of brushing your teeth before bed, then you don’t have to have a debate with yourself about whether or not you should do it. This habit has freed up time and mental energy to focus on other things. In the same way, if practicing is a habit that happens at the same time and place, then you don’t have to devote mental resources to planning your next session.

How do you establish a habit of practicing fiddle? Habits are cued by context which means that you do it at the same time in the same place every day, this action is more likely to become a routine. Soon, you won’t have to plan it; you’ll just do it.

Learn more here: How to practice consistently

Learn from your mistakes

In the course of learning anything, mistakes are necessary and helpful events. If you pay attention, then you can leverage your mistakes to improve whatever you’re trying to learn. Ask yourself, “what is the exact thing I need to focus on to not make this mistake again.” Then just try to find a way to practice that precise thing.

This is the core teaching of FiddleHed. All I do is look at what’s hard in tunes and then make up exercises from that to help students. Once you learn how to make up exercises, you can do it on your own with any tune, any instrument or really any new skill you are learning.

Another great tool for learning from mistakes is journaling. This brings awareness to the process of practice. Find some way to keep track of what you’ve done and what was hard. That way you can return to it the next day. Instead doing a bunch of different things, you’ll make solid progress on one thing which will improve other aspects of your playing and give you confidence.

Learn more about practice journaling here: How To Track Your Practice

One thing at a time

Don’t try to add a whole bunch of new positive habits all at once, or else you’ll wind up giving up on all of them. Once music is established as a daily habit, then you can move on to eating less sugar, working out more or whatever good habit you want to do more of.

The cool thing: music is a fun way to practice practice.

The challenging thing: when the music gets hard you may say, “but music is supposed to be fun. Instead of doing this super-hard thing, I’m just going to go back to this easier tune because it’s easy and fun.”

The magic attitude: practicing the hard stuff is fun because if you stick with it, you eventually get it, gain confidence and become inspired to do more challenging things. Try to develop and nurture a growth mindset as you learn the fiddle.

OK! Now go fiddle with it…

One response to “Learning to practice practice

  1. You are a natural encourager!!! SO VERY GRATEFUL for you!!!
    You cause me to stick with it and celebrate any results as progress……and it works!
    Just a passing note of thanks…….. gotta go bow up on my swallowtail jig now 🙂 #proudMama #proudfiddler

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