Practice DOESN’T make perfect, Practice makes permanent.
We’ve probably all heard the saying “practice makes perfect” when, in fact, it’s actually completely scientifically wrong. Why? When we’re learning something new, it’s actually more like wet concrete, and each time we do the act of practicing that thing, we are drying the concrete in whatever shape it’s currently in. When you’re pouring in a new driveway you need to get it perfect and level first, then with time it dries hard. We all know if you focus on drying the concrete as quickly as possible and ignore shaping it, you will have a lumpy driveway that will be very difficult to fix. But the incredible thing is: this dry first, shape later approach is exactly what the majority of people learning piano do, because they focus on speed first and not getting things right from the beginning, which then causes people to practice a piece for months and still have something they’re completely unhappy with. So what’s the solution?
First, understand THIS: When you do ANY action, your brain is firing off a chain of neurons in sequence which trigger your muscles to move. Each time you repeat that same action, the link between neurons gets stronger and stronger. The more you do something, the stronger that action gets. Then as this connection becomes strong, it can be done without thinking, just like tying your shoelaces. This is important, because THIS is how you learn every. single. thing. on the piano.
Your brain doesn’t know what is good or bad data, so it records all of it. Only you can guide yourself to try to do the right thing. The more good data you feed it, the stronger the signal you want will become, while if you allow half of your practice to be junk, then it’ll mix in with the good and you will get crappy results.
So how can we hack our biology to work for us instead of against us? It’s very simple to say, but hard to do: You need to do things perfectly from the beginning, every single time.
Perfect practice makes perfect.
Except wait, isn’t that impossible? How can you actually play perfectly from the beginning? You can’t. No one starts perfect, you can only go slowly, and make the fewest mistakes possible. If you practice in a mistake, it will be harder to correct than if you didn’t practice at all. That’s why the greatest virtuoso pianist of all time Franz Liszt said “Think 10 times, play once.”
It’s important to do the right thing, because our brain will grab onto whatever we do and remember it for us.
If you want to learn fast, go slow, because if you go fast you will learn slow.
Go slowly, do things right, and you will progress much much faster in the long run so you can get to the point where you can enjoy playing the piano.