Results 1 to 10 of 10

Thread: The Magic 200

  1. #1
    Distressed Model John Ritchhart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Mars Hill, North Carolina
    Posts
    971

    Default The Magic 200

    In a casual conversation with my sensei, (a touring professional) a small epiphany occurred to me which I probably already knew. We both decided to learn Russ Barenberg's tune, A Pleasant Beggar, at the same time. It took me a day and a half to learn the notes and struggle through both the A and B parts with lots of hesitation and fits and starts, and playing it at about 50 bpm with 16th notes. Now that may be only a couple or three hours of practice for me. So I call him up the next day and he says "yea I got it". What do you mean "you got it" I say back to him. Russ plays it a couple of times at 80 bpm, then bumps it up to 110, again playing 16th notes. And you got it? Yea he says. How in the h... do you get it in one day? He says "well I played it 200 times" How long did that take I asked. Five hours he says. So you sat down at one go for five hours straight and learned to play this at speed. Well he says I took a couple of rest breaks. I'll play it another two hundred and I'll never get it wrong he tells me.
    Pete Wernick told us one time that the difference between an amateur and a professional is that an amateur practices a tune until he gets it right, and a professional practices it until he can't get it wrong.
    So I sit down with my usual practice regimen and play it 200 times while doing some other exercises as well. It took four days. But he was right, I can now play it along with Russ. So the realization hits me of how much time and work it takes to really play fluidly and confidently. It's the difference between playing notes and playing music. I'm sure this varies somewhat depending on innate talent etc. Anyway that's my recent revelation. The difference for me between one hour of practice and three isn't arithmetic, it's exponential.
    We few, we happy few.

  2. The Following 7 Users Say Thank You to John Ritchhart For This Useful Post:


  3. #2
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Beaverton, OR, USA
    Posts
    1,431

    Default Re: The Magic 200

    Well said, and a good reminder to me as to why I fumble my way through tunes that I thought I had "learned". Thank you.
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

    My website and blog: honketyhank.com

  4. #3
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Ardnadam, Argyll, Scotland
    Posts
    1,562

    Default Re: The Magic 200

    What a very sensible posting, John. I especially liked the point: Pete Wernick told us one time that the difference between an amateur and a professional is that an amateur practices a tune until he gets it right, and a professional practices it until he can't get it wrong.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheOldBores

  5. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to John Kelly For This Useful Post:


  6. #4

    Default Re: The Magic 200

    For years, I've embraced practicing music at a metronome speed so slow that absolutely no mistakes are made.

    After the motions are learned perfectly, through many repititions, then the metronome speed is increased, again making sure that absolutely no mistakes are made through many repititions. If mistakes occur, the speed gets cranked back to a level that no mistakes are made.

    The point is, practicing making mistakes means you are perfecting playing those those mistakes. Practicing playing perfectly, without any mistakes, means you don't have to then relearn the piece without mistakes in the future.

    200 perfect repetitions is a good number to aim for, as it makes it unambiguously clear if you actually can or cannot play it perfectly at the current speed or not, no ego involved.

  7. The following members say thank you to Explorer for this post:


  8. #5

    Default Re: The Magic 200

    Good point about not practicing mistakes. Difficult to practice slowly, but as you say, each correct repetition gradually sped up, leads to correct muscle memory and better overall understanding of the music. Peace.

  9. #6

    Default Re: The Magic 200

    Well, the 200 thing is the doorway or the start of learning or realizing how you learn. Almost 30 years of journey, has only made me a journeyman. If you get so you know it will only take 100 reps instead of 200. That's learning how you learn. Incidently, this has caried over to learning other instruments, namely piano, i've never played before. Music theory, matters not the instrument, so it's only a matter of getting the new mechanics printed in the brain.

  10. #7
    Registered User Mike Romkey's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Bettendorf, Iowa
    Posts
    502
    Blog Entries
    8

    Default Re: The Magic 200

    Great post. Though Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule has been debunked (doing anything for 10,000 hours will not, alas, turn you into a guaranteed Mozart), perseverance, practice and perspiration pay big dividends. Deliberate practice -- with breaks, so you're not grinding away with a numb mind -- is golden. Pete Martin has some things to say about this worth hearing on his YouTube mandolin videos. I'm going to follow your lead and play the song I'm working on 200 actual times. I bet it'll be worth it.
    '09 Gilchrist Model 1, “July 9” Red Diamond F-5, '12 Duff F-5, '19 Collings MT2, ’24 A2-Z, ’24 F-2, '13 Collings mandola, '82 D-35, Gibson Keb Mo.

  11. #8

    Default Re: The Magic 200

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Romkey View Post
    Though Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule has been debunked (doing anything for 10,000 hours will not, alas, turn you into a guaranteed Mozart), perseverance, practice and perspiration pay big dividends. Deliberate practice -- with breaks, so you're not grinding away with a numb mind -- is golden.
    Hmm.

    I've read numerous discussions, studies and critiques examining Gladwell's book, and it's been interesting to see a few points come up.

    Just as an observation, Gladwell only applied the 10,000-hour rule to cognitively demanding activities that needed significant thought, unlike, say, high jumping, or running fast. I think he said, "In cognitively demanding fields, there are no naturals."

    I also don't think practicing a mistake makes one better at anything other than at replicating that mistake, so just practicing obviously isn't an effective strategy. Focused, intentional and correct practice is what builds, say, correct technique, or whatever.

    It'a also interesting to read studies wherein it is found that practice doesn't necessarily add close to 50% to one's results, but it does factor into excellent form/technique/whatever around 15-20%.

    I recently read an study, possibly observational (I don't remember), wherein it was found that professional musicians improvising used their right brains just as beginners do, but also they have plenty of improvisational chops hardwired in through practice. The right brain of the professionals then has more of a toolset on hand to be creative with.

    I guess I've just noticed that sometimes people want to justify and/or embrace the idea that they can develop amazing skill sets, like soloing, perfect timing, or whatever, without deliberate, perfect practice. I know you're not saying that, but guarantees aside, deliberately working on, say, effective composition can do a lot to get one closer to composing effectively, even if one doesn't become Mozart.

  12. #9
    Registered User Mike Romkey's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Bettendorf, Iowa
    Posts
    502
    Blog Entries
    8

    Default Re: The Magic 200

    I've just put John Ritchhart's idea to the test. I'm taking Matt Flinner's "Advanced Bluegrass Soloing" online class for fun, enrichment, and something to do. (Matt's a great teacher, BTW.) The first week's tune is Bill Monroe's "Heavy Traffic Ahead," complete with some pinky slides and greasy playing passages. I practiced it 200 times, with and without a metronome, keeping a tally in a Moleskin. I have to say with that many repetitions, it's committed to muscle memory and I can do it pretty effortlessly up and down the neck in different keys. (Which isn't actually any kind of big trick. Just move my left hand up or down.)

    Will a nod to all the caveats mentioned above, I have to agree that if you try sitting down and working up new material, diligently playing it 200 times over the course of a day (or an afternoon, an evening and the next morning, in this case), can pretty much drill it into your skull and make it reflexive.

    For the next however long I'm going to make deliberate, focused high-rep practice part of my routine on new material. It does seem to work, at least for me.
    '09 Gilchrist Model 1, “July 9” Red Diamond F-5, '12 Duff F-5, '19 Collings MT2, ’24 A2-Z, ’24 F-2, '13 Collings mandola, '82 D-35, Gibson Keb Mo.

  13. #10
    Distressed Model John Ritchhart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Mars Hill, North Carolina
    Posts
    971

    Default Re: The Magic 200

    One last comment on this learning exercise. I find that once in a while I still hit a glitch in my playing on this tune. I have moved on to use this technique on Daley's Reel now and I started analyzing what I was thinking whenever I make mistakes or just get stuck on a phrase. I have discovered that when I do make an error I am thinking about something completely unrelated to the task at hand. I find these thoughts intrude and I haven't had a lot of control of it. So the concepts of focus, mindfulness, or staying in the present seem to be the challenge for me. I suspect that pros have less of an issue with this. I may have to take up meditation to get some discipline in my brain.
    We few, we happy few.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •