Perfect Shmerfect. The Stage of Practicing When More “Mistakes” Is Better for Learning.

I tried to teach my kids how to play Mario Kart when they were 1 and 3. You can probably imagine how it went. They spent most of their time swerving all over the road, falling off the track into water, getting completely turned around and going the wrong direction, or stuck in a corner (which kind of makes me cringe in anticipation of real driving lessons when they’re 16…). Of course, such errors and mistakes are to be expected anytime we learn a new skill. At first, our performance is...


The Most Important Part of a Performance That We Forget to Practice

The Most Important Part of a Performance (Which We Usually Forget to Practice)

For family movie night a couple weeks ago, I picked out a movie called Rookie of the Year about a kid, who in a freak accident, develops a rocket arm and gets signed by the Chicago Cubs as a 12-year old. If you don’t remember this movie, it’s because it was released back in 1993. Which of course, means that as far as my kids are concerned, the movie is “old.” It’s got those black bars on the sides, it’s not in HD, and the fonts in the opening credits look totally dated (as in,...


for more perfect practice, try...longer...pauses

For More Perfect Practice, Try…Longer…Pauses

In theory, piñatas are terrific fun. I mean, what’s not to like? A hanging cornucopia of sweets, opened in spectacular fashion by smashing with a stick while blindfolded? Good times! Of course, the reality of piñatas is never quite as exciting as one might hope. First off, there are tons of complete misses, glancing blows, and weak hits. Then the older siblings get into the act, but to no avail. And eventually, the host parent, with growing impatience and frustration starts whack, whack,...


upside of failure, downside of success, and how to keep improving no matter what

The Upside of Failure, the Downside of Success, and How to Keep Improving No Matter What

Nobody likes to make mistakes. And outright failure feels even worse. Like someone has shoved their fist inside our chest, Mortal Kombat-style, and twisted everything up inside. So when we have the opportunity to spare our kids, students, or colleagues this pain that we know only too well, it’s kind of a no-brainer, right? Whether it’s correcting their homework to make sure they get A’s, or telling them exactly what fingering to use to solve a tricky shift, it’s tempting to leverage...


What Comes First the Notes or the Music? A Chicken/Egg Problem for the Practice Room.

What Comes First - the Notes or the Music? A Chicken/Egg Problem in the Practice Room.

Once upon a time, my teacher put a few strips of colored tape on the fingerboard of my little 1/16th sized violin. A well-intentioned move, but one which led to some mother-son conflict in the ensuing week of practice. My mom noticed that I kept putting my finger slightly off the line of tape. My mom got increasingly frustrated, insisting that I put my finger ON THE TAPE. But, stubborn little kid I was, apparently I didn’t budge, saying that it wasn’t the right place. So, my mom asked my...