Can you learn (music) efficiently by grinding?
An hour-long experiment, in three twenty-minute chunks.
Yesterday, I began a series of videos on how to learn music more efficiently.
Today, I ran an hour-long experiment on the relationship between grinding (in the video-game sense, translated in this case as “repeating a 12-measure sequence 20 times in a row”) and learning.
Basically, I was asking myself whether I was confused about what “deliberate practice” meant. Somewhere in all of this I got stuck on the idea that to practice deliberately, you had to deliberate between each repetition. You had to ask yourself “how did that last pass go, and what can I do differently on this next pass?”
This time, I asked myself what would happen if I simply ran the pass over and over, twenty times in a row.
This is both “how I used to practice” and “completely different from how I used to practice.” As I note in the video, I learned a lot of piano repertoire by grinding my way through it — but as a younger and less disciplined pianist, I doubt I ever committed to grinding a single passage 20 times in a row. I gave up as soon as the grinding got repetitive and/or I got distracted, which meant that I never got to the point where I knew the passage well enough for the repetitions to become interesting again.
Younger!Nicole (and I include 2021!Nicole in that designation) also left out the key step that I discovered in yesterday’s video and re-integrated at the beginning of today’s video: before you begin the 20 repetitions, make sure you have the skills/understanding required to play the passage perfectly. It’s no good to grind until you know what you’re grinding, after all.
I think this is the most important thing I’ve learned about learning this year. 😉