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Author Topic: Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?  (Read 4062 times)

Offline dentstudent

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I am teaching myself the guitar (that'll be autodidactically, then  [^]), and find that if I play a piece of music too much, it seems to get to a point where it doesn't seem to improve irrespective of how many times I play it. So, I leave it for a while then come back to it, and suddenly (it seems) that I can get the fingering right, and I have moved up a notch on ability. I remember this from when I was learning to drive - it was apparently quite common to reach a learning/ability plateau which lasted for a few lessons, and then the capacity to improve would come round again.

Has anyone else experienced this? Is it a real phenomenon or is it purely an increase in personal expectation that is, for a while (and hopefully not lastingly), outstripping ability?



 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #1 on: 26/02/2009 12:03:52 »
It happens to me too. I don't know the reason but wonder whether it could have something to do with "muscle memory". If you repeat the same movements over & over your muscles get used to moving in a particular way. The more you do it, the more used to it they get. Take a break, however, and some of that automatic movement may reduce. Then come back to it a while later and your muscles will do more what you want rather than what they "remember".

As I said, I don't know. This is just wild speculation.

Speaking of muscle memoery, maybe that's worth a thread of its own.
« Last Edit: 26/02/2009 12:05:35 by DoctorBeaver »
 

Offline BenV

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #2 on: 26/02/2009 12:48:35 »
I'm not sure about the 'learning plateau' effect, but you can play a piece so often that you start to learn mistakes, or learn your own interpretation - this may sound better to you, but if you're in an orchestra, and you've learned your interpretation too well, you may be out of synch with the rest of the orchestra.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #3 on: 26/02/2009 13:20:12 »
Ben - the learning plateau does seem to be a real phenomenon. I've certainly experienced it and I know other musicians who have.
 

Offline BenV

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #4 on: 26/02/2009 13:33:20 »
Sorry DB, I didn't mean I doubt it's existence, more I'm not sure why it happens!
 

Offline dentstudent

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #5 on: 26/02/2009 13:42:58 »
DB - yes that makes good sense. I noticed when I went to see Walter Trout recently that he was almost not really paying attention to his fingers, but was always accurate in his (somewhat self-indulgent) solos. So, I would surmise that he has a "muscle memory" in his arms/hands/fingers and so doesn't need to think about where to put them. I have just thought of another situation - my mum has an excellent touch-type capacity (around 100 - 120 wpm), but when I asked her where a particular letter was, she would be at a loss, unless she worked through a word that included that letter.

BTW, I can also touch type at 100 wpm - and it aloisihklj  tiha li ggih aih er!
 

Offline dentstudent

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #6 on: 26/02/2009 13:45:15 »
Do you think that it could be similar to writers' block?
 

Offline dentstudent

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #7 on: 26/02/2009 13:47:37 »
I'm not sure about the 'learning plateau' effect, but you can play a piece so often that you start to learn mistakes, or learn your own interpretation - this may sound better to you, but if you're in an orchestra, and you've learned your interpretation too well, you may be out of synch with the rest of the orchestra.

I think that it will be sometime before I get invited into any sort of orchestra!

But, having sung in many choirs, I know how easy it is to learn something and then find it difficult to unlearn. A habit is very difficult to break....
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #8 on: 26/02/2009 14:09:52 »
Do you think that it could be similar to writers' block?

I don't think so. That is a creative block rather than a learning block.
 

Offline chris

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #9 on: 28/02/2009 23:35:41 »
I think that sleep has a lot to do with this. Scientists showed a couple of years ago that sleep is very important for memory consolidation, and I don't see why that need not apply to motor learning too.

Essentially when you learn a motor movement you lay down a neural pathway that executes it. This pathway is strengthened by physical rehearsal, but is almost certainly strengthened by mental rehearsal too.

I suggest this on the basis of a related discovery published last year in which Italian scientists showed basketball coaches, pro players and non-basketball fans sequences of pro players throwing balls at the basket. The muscle activity in the volunteers' throwing hands was also measured, and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) was used to "facilitate"  any active motor programmes occurring in the brain during the study.

The participants were asked to suggest, having seen just the ball leaving the hand, which balls would successfully be "basketed"; the pros were right nearly 75% of the time but the coaches were right only about half the time, as were non-players (ie no better than chance).

What's intriguing is that the muscle activity in the hands of the pro players ramped up as they watched the sequences of other players throwing the ball. Effectively what they were doing was playing the movement configuration of the player they were watching through their own motor pathways and subconsciously comparing what they would do against what the player on screen had done. If the two agreed then they felt they knew what the outcome would be.

And so, I suspect that when we expose ourselves to a stimulus we continue to rehearse and consolidate that learning, even when we're not aware of it. As Ben says, over-rehearsal leads to over-familiarity with the wrong way to do it, usually because of boredom; but a night's sleep and some sub-conscious rehearsal can work wonders...

Chris
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #10 on: 28/02/2009 23:56:22 »
Chris - That's interesting what you say about mental rehearsal. Bobsleigh drivers use that as a standard technique.

I also find that when I am very familiar with a piece of music I can hear it in my head in all its full glory; I can hear the exact tone of each note and invariably I imagine it in the correct key. That doesn't happen with a piece I am less familiar with. I wonder if there's a connection there somewhere.
« Last Edit: 01/03/2009 00:00:12 by DoctorBeaver »
 

Offline RD

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #11 on: 01/03/2009 19:33:34 »
Repetition can degrade performace: consider the newspaper vendor who yells "Ee-nig Stan-it" (Evening Standard).
« Last Edit: 01/03/2009 19:36:25 by RD »
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #12 on: 02/03/2009 05:59:08 »
Maybe his throat is just dry? :)
 

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Is it possible to over-practise a piece of music?
« Reply #12 on: 02/03/2009 05:59:08 »

 

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