Children and Musical Practice

When children practise music, they usually play straight through a piece without stopping to correct mistakes. Correction attempts, if any, are usually superficial and ineffectual. As children become metacognitive, they learn to identify errors and engage in the deliberate practice strategies of repetition, chunking, and slow play. Deliberate practice is not only confined to the development of expertise in music, but also appears in sports. Children who are unable to apply these learning strategies will lack progress. When individuals do not make progress, they usually give up.
Achieving high levels of musical expertise requires considerable practice. The figure of 10 000 to reach expertise in any domain puts the quantitative time requirement into perspective, and ‘deliberate practice’ refers to the qualitative requirement. Experts know how to practise, not just how much. The efficient use of practice time requires intense and thoughtful practice techniques. The good news is there is nothing magical about being a successful “practiser.” This is a learned skill.
All musicians get physically and mentally tired, but older children can practise longer than younger children can. The amount one should practise depends on the goal. Essentially one should practise as much as necessary to correct and stabilise a targeted passage. If, at the next practice session, the error still exists, one should repeat the process. Learning requires patience because it takes as long as it takes. Effective practice methods result in effective learning. So sure of this was American educational psychologist Barry Zimmerman that he performed a fascinating experiment. Zimmerman wanted to find out whether the way people described their practice habits could predict their actual ability. Therefore, Zimmerman did not observe actual skills but examined the way the players spoke about their practice methods. Working with a multilevel group of volleyball players, Zimmerman accurately predicted skill 90% of the time.

from ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin
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Public speaker, music education trainer, conductor and pianist. Author of 'Learning Strategies for Musical Success', 'Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs', and 'Modern Harmony Method'.

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