Talent is Overrated – Deliberate Practice

I first heard the term “Deliberate Practice” in Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent is Overrated.

This book scores points for the “nurture” faction in the nature vs. nurture debate.  According to Colvin, deliberate practice is the main ingredient that separates “world class performers from everybody else.”

Side Note: Actually, Colin credits the term “deliberate practice” to Dr. K. Anders Ericsson who is a cognitive scientist at Florida State.  I’m currently reading his 1993 publication The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.  You can find a summary here.

All of these ideas apply directly to musicians; I’m a strong believer in them.  I tell my students that they can achieve anything they want to achieve; the only thing in their way is deliberate practice.  Deliberate practice is what separates us from the Keith Jarretts of the world.

According to Colvin, deliberate practice meets these criteria:

  • It is designed specially to improve performance
  • It can be repeated a lot
  • Feedback on results is continually available
  • It’s highly demanding mentally
  • It isn’t much fun

Since I started exploring these ideas, I have been striving to design even better practice routines.  I have also started exploring these ideas with my students. Colvin’s right – they’re not fun.  Because they are more strenuous and require more discipline, I find students have a hard time accommodating my suggestions (even though they know it’s good for them!).

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to start sharing some of these practice ideas and show how one can apply them directly to jazz tunes and improvisation.

Stay tuned!

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