This past week I read two different selections pertaining to practice and work ethics in order to further contemplate my own views and habits. The first was selections from Ken Bain’s book, What the Best College Students Do, and the second was from Patty O’Grady’s book, “The Twitter Generation: Teaching Deferred Gratification to College Students. Both of these selections highlighted some things that I already do in my everyday routine, but I was also introduced to a few new ideas that I will be utilizing in the future.
The first article discussed strategies to increase learning retention. This selection cited numerous studies that concluded that some of the more unorthodox learning techniques proved to be more effective. One study concluded that a student learns more when he is asked to perform, even if he isn’t properly prepared than the student who studies for a much longer period of time. As a musician I spend a fair amount of time in the practice room working out the nitty gritty techniques, but I also dedicate a large chunk of time everyday to running through excerpts and solos. Even if there is no one around I visualize myself in front of a panel at an audition or concert hall and performing for hundreds of people. This is the most valuable portion of my practice time because I get to examine if my time spent practicing is paying off. If it isn’t, I then get to troubleshoot and figure out the problem. Practicing for extremely long periods of time isn’t nearly as beneficial as practicing in several smaller, intense bursts. I will practice for a period of time and then go work out or work on my piano skills to give my lips a rest. When I return after a little bit of physical exercise, I feel invigorated and mentally prepared to focus in for some deep practice.
A typical day in the life of Luke Baker looks something like this. I’ll wake up around 6:30 to shower and get ready for the day. At 7:00 I grab a quick bite to eat and then go over to Meadows to practice for an hour before my 8:00 Music Theory class. Depending on the rest of my class schedule for the day I’ll spend another Half hour practicing before I go to another class and workout. At 12:00 I’ll gab some lunch and go to my Spanish class and any other afternoon music classes. Once I’m done with classes, I practice for a few more hours, stopping periodically to take a break and get some homework done. In the afternoon/evening I will typically have a wind ensemble or orchestra rehearsal. If not, I’ll get together with some of my fellow students just for the sake of making music together. As the time approaches 7:00pm I’ll finish and get ahead with any homework I may have left and possibly head back to Meadows for a late evening practice session.
One of the other studies suggested that you practice in different locations to increase stimulus and association. I had never considered this before, so I tend to practice in the same practice room day after day. In the future I will be implementing this technique into my practice regime. Rather than always practicing in the same practice room, I’ll spend time playing in my dorm, other classrooms, and the larger halls when they are available.
The second referenced a study where young children were put in an empty room with a marshmallow, and promised that they would receive a second marshmallow if they could wait for fifteen minutes without eating the marshmallow. This seems like a rather curious study but it truly measured each child’s determination and ability to manipulate their desires. Follow up studies with that same group of children concluded that those children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow scored on average, 210 points higher on the SAT. These children at an older age were also more responsible and more successful. As a musician, I believe that my intense determination is my greatest asset. I am very passionate about making music and believe that music deserves absolute excellence whether it is being played for a small audience in an informal setting or at Carnegie Hall in the presence of thousands. My determination drives me to practice for countless hours in order to master the skills needed to make beautiful music on the Horn.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I hope that it has given you interesting insight into the life of a passionate musician. If you have any questions about my work habits, feel free to comment below, and I will happily answer any questions you may have.