“Are Your Practice Sessions Making You a Worse Player?”
It’s been a hectic week and practicing guitar has completely slipped through the cracks. Who hasn’t experienced this scenario, right? But wait, we say to ourselves… I have several hours to kill on Sunday afternoon and I can totally make up for my missed practice sessions in one big chunk. Or can I?
I recently came across some surprising information that may very well put the “marathon practice session” theory to rest.
This information was presented in the book “With Winning in Mind” by Lanny Bassham. It’s a great book on the mental processes used by top competitors in different sports. What really caught my attention was a short section discussing how much training is enough, how much is too much, and how much will actually make your skills worse.
What? Training can make your skills worse? Yep. In fact, the book goes so far as to state that no practice is better than practicing just once a week for a longer session given certain situations.
At first, it didn’t make sense. I’ve always believed that longer practice sessions are always good. Especially if I’ve been slacking on my training. However, after reading the section several times, doing a bit of research on the studies done in this area, and adding in my experience as an educator, it became obvious that Mr. Bassham is definitely onto something.
The theory states that without consistent and focused practice sessions starting shortly after a training session, class or lesson (golf, tennis, guitar, math, cooking, etc.), the odds of your skills diminishing go up dramatically. In fact, the longer one waits to implement what they’ve learned in a training session, class or lesson the more likely their skills will become much worse – especially with a long practice session right before their next class or training time! Why? Simply because most people will have forgotten the good habits they were taught and will practice incorrectly, creating bad habits for themselves.
Does this really apply to learning a musical instrument? You better believe it! I’ve lived this scenario and would’ve killed for this one piece of knowledge when I was beginning to play. I vividly remember going to guitar lessons and being excited to go home and practice. However, life always took over, and I wouldn’t get back to the guitar until a day or two before my next lesson. That’s when the cram practice sessions would take place so I could try and fool my teacher. Now I understand why he always had that look of bewilderment when I told him I’d practiced 2 hours during the past week! He knew I was either lying or doing something severely wrong while practicing. Looking back, not only was I cramming in the practice session but I had been practicing incorrectly for those 2 hours, leaving him with a mess he had to spend the remainder of our lesson trying to fix. I must have cost my parents a bundle with all the cleanup lessons they paid for! DOH!!!
We’ve all experienced situations where our skills seem to get worse. Sometimes it’s just a phase that will pass. Sometimes it’s the tactics we’re using. Either way, let’s stack the deck in our favor and apply this super easy strategy to as many areas of life as possible. No matter what you’re learning, studying or training for, save yourself a ton of time and, in the long run, money by practicing and using your newfound skills as quickly as possible after learning them.
Until next time, stay focused, stay consistent, and expect the best from yourself!
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