on jazz drumming

How your body and brain learns during practicing

by Tim Lake

How your body and brain learns during practicing

All musicians struggle with practice and how to practice effectively. What to practice is very much dependent on your level and your playing goals. How to practice usually means focusing on what you can't do, or at least on what you can't do well enough. But few of us know why practising works and what is going on in the body and brain.

This excellent video from TED-Ed explains how practice works as well as giving you a few general practice tips.

As you can see, a large part of improving is consistency and focused time-on-task. There is no shortcut to strengthening those neural pathways, which means you can't download a new skill into your brain like Neo. It takes hours of slow and deliberate practice to achieve a respectable level of mastery, at anything, including, and especially, jazz drumming.

Although it's not mentioned in the video, the 10,000-hour-rule has become a popular rule of thumb for how many hours it takes to reach a professional level. It is, however, wrong and actually, it doesn't matter. As you will know by now, there truly is no end to practice - we can always improve, we can always learn more, especially as musicians. Moreover, the quality of practice matters as much as the quantity. You need to put in the hours, but they need to be good hours.

This is something to inspire you.

Be humble and "do the work" - day in, day out.

Keep trying to get better.

That is the way forward.

Practice, practice, practice.

For as long as it takes.

If you want some basic tips on how to practice, have a look at this post on how to practice jazz drums, and in a future post, I will summarise Anders Ericsson's idea of deliberate practice, which will help make your practice time more effective.

  • Anders Ericsson, in his book Peak, is at pains to explain that Malcolm Gladwell massively simplified his research. 10,000 hours did seem to be a minimum for violinists who gained entry to top music conservatory. But by the time they had completed their course of study and embarked on professional careers, they had done many more than 10,000 hours!

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