Over practice

Practice is usually defined by picking up your drum sticks and hitting something with it, or playing the keys of your piano. For this blog, that’s what practice will be.

I see sometimes some beginners, some hungry beginners, I should say. They have decided to play music like they are going into boxing: no matter the obstacles, they will become world champions.  They come to see me and I give them some exercises. They go back home and they practice. They are very excited and their enthusiasm carries them week after week into hours of practice. That can last for a long time. They are progressing fast, making giant leaps at learning the piano or the drums. And their motivation doesn’t give up.

And that’s great. Isn’t it?

It depends.

The body, the adult body I mean, is not made to cram hours of a physical activity. It might take the blow. But it might not.

I’ve seen some people come to my studio and ask me to resolve some injuries they sustain from over practicing. Carpal tunnel syndrome. Nerve damage. Sometimes even broken bones. I need to say that those injuries didn’t happen under my supervision. Usually, they were practicing on their own, with no teacher guiding them. Anyway: They went too far. They have broken their toy. They need a miracle.

The miracle is this one: get treatment, go one step at a time, let the body heal and compensate for the pounding you gave it. It will be slow, it will be progressive, it will take time.

And so should the practice be. Can you pull a little on the muscle to make them faster or more nimble? Yes. Can it hurt? Yes. Can you push yourself? Again: yes! But in moderation! Be careful, listen to yourself, vary the practice, alternate the exercises, take your time. Dedicate some practice time to listening, or transcribing, or reading. You can step away from the instrument for two seconds and still learn quite a bit about music. You don’t have to be on the horse the whole time.

Learning an instrument is not about getting a new toy. It is about learning about yourself, which is something that takes time and patience. No two ways about it: we are not machines.