100 Days—mm41-42

The start of a new little project.

100 days

I don’t have much playing on the schedule for the next month or so. And I have wanted to do this “100 days” thing for a while: Pick an endeavor, do it every day for 100 days, post to the world as you go. I think I have seen people do it with dancing and the results are a) entertaining and b) show how working on something small every day can make a real difference, an improvement.

My daughter’s first violin teacher challenged her with this once; the reward was to be that if she practiced 100 days in a row, he would take a horseback riding lesson!!

Here’s a link (which I hope works) to David Heyes announcing the start of his 100 day quest.

A Way to Practice Better?

One of the flaws I have in my practicing is that I often approach learning something new by just hacking through it over and over and over. And I think this means that what I really learn is all the wrong ways to play something. Then I spend a lot of time undoing all of that learning.

Noa Kagayema has written extensively about practice strategies (here’s one blog post for instance). One technique that I think must be great but always feel too impatient to do is to practice a small section of something in the following way:

  • play it once
  • mentally rehearse it—”exactly as it should be” in your mind four times
  • repeat the above two steps two more times.

So when you’re done, you have practiced the section fifteen times, but your hands are only tired from three times. And you’ve given the section a lot of thought.

So What Does this Add Up To?

Here’s what I’m going to do. I have picked a piece. Not completely at random, it happens to be a composer I really like, Armand Russell. But it is something that I have never played before and have never heard. I am going to work on this piece for 100 days. I am going to work on one measure per day, using that “15 reps” method I described above. And I’m going to work backwards, i.e. starting with the last measure and moving to the first. Each day, a new measure.

The piece I’ve chosen is “Whimsical Prelude” from Russell’s Preludes and Nocturnes for unaccompanied double bass. (Recital Music RM1000) The piece is actually only 42 measures long, so when I get to playing the whole thing (about 42 days from now), I’ll either continue to work on it for more days or move to another of the 5 pieces in that collection. So here’s a link to the recording of the first day: https://soundcloud.com/jacque-harper/whimsical-prelude-41-42

I stipulate that I have already broken my pledge; I worked on and recorded two measures today. But measure 42 is only a held quarter note followed by a sixteenth and an eighth note. It was just begging for more. Also, I fully expect that I will miss a day here and there, so this won’t be the last time I break my own rules. But the spirit of the idea is intact!

I’ll tag each of these blog posts with “100 days.” And they will almost certainly follow each other with very little interruption, so you should be able to just go next next next through the posts and fast forward through my progress. I love to hear comments!

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