Why should we practice? Does it really make any difference? Is it important to carve out time for daily music ‘workouts’? How should we practice?
The brain is comparable to a muscle, which develops and strengthens with workout. As we practice — review and seek to improve our mastery of specific music — neurons (brain cells) become more efficient, fire more quickly, and have stronger connections.
Because our neural pathways can be strengthened, we can have a ‘growth-mindset’ (a new term by educator Carol Dweck). So rather than thinking with a fixed mindset: we can’t play that piece of music any better, it’s as good as it’s going to get, so there’s not much point in practicing … instead realize that we actually can increase our musical capabilities, even our very intelligence. We can approach the piece with various creative strategies to conquer its challenges. Then daily music workouts will show measurable improvement and success.
This kind of practicing is mindful and purposeful. In fact, when we find ourselves daydreaming, playing carelessly without focusing, it’s time for a break. After all, it’s not that practice makes perfect, but…perfect practice makes perfect.