Re: Manic practice syndrome

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Posted by Roger Lewis on February 10, 1999 at 22:44:18:

In Reply to: Manic practice syndrome posted by Sean Chisham on February 10, 1999 at 17:10:10:

This is an example of what we in psychology call "mind set". Nothing has changed but your thought process is somewhat more critical and distracted by what you are doing. You have changed your viewpoint as to what is important and what you are listening for in relation to what you are actually playing.

When I work with students I make it a point to tell them early on that there are times when you feel as though your face belongs to Mr. Herseth and everything sounds incredible. Then there are other times you feel like your face belongs to a plumber from Cleveland and nothing works. This is a sign that your mind is not ready to practice. Your tapes demonstrate that your body IS ready to practice so it is an excellent measure.

Another aspect I discuss with them is the concept of peaks, valleys and flatlines. When we all first started playing an instrument, we made great strides in a very short time. As you improve you reach new plateaus in your playing and as you practice you move on to higher plateaus. The trend you will see is you wil accomplish something new, a major step up. Then, no matter how hard and frequently you practice you see no improvement. All of a sudden there is another step up and something new becomes easy and you are at a new peak. Then you stay there for a while until your mind figures out the next "gimmick" that you are working on and, after a while, hands it to you on a silver platter. It gets to the point where your improvements are so subtle that you often miss them. It may be something as small as a high note being just a tad easier, or a very slight change in the sensation of one note. You need to be very aware of these subtle changes or you give up hope, sell your horns and take piano tuning lessons.

Your mind is a very powerful tool and you have to let it tell you when it is ready for something new. If you try to hard, practicing becomes a chore not the fun that it really is. Step back, watch yourself grow, learn patience. I give my students small gifts that are intricately wrapped and the rule is that they have to unwrap it exactly the way it was wrapped, with patience, to get to keep the gift. I make my older students drive at the speed limit, not faster - to learn patience. Think about it and you'll understand.

Hope this isn't too boring to finish reading.

Don't worry - this too shall pass.

Roger Lewis

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