Trust-based music practice: why going slow results in faster progress

Even when you’re performing a lot, there is no substitute for practicing if you want to keep your level of musicianship (or any other skill for that matter) and want to improve.

For the times you’ve little time to practice, I found a good advice in ‘Metaphors for the Musician’ by Randy Halberstadt and which Randy Halberstadt metaphorically called ‘targeted bombing’ (did you ever forget the term ‘emotional intelligence’ after hearing or reading it for the first time?).

The idea of targeted bombing is that if you have only an hour to practice, it’s better to practice something new but small and with the attitude that this will be your only chance to practice it. So ask yourself:

  • What can I do within the next hour to permanently improve my musicianship in one very small but measurable way?
  • What can I do to master this one item so that it will be self-reinforcing, so that it will immediately begin to show up in my actual performances?

This requires trusting yourself; accepting the competences you have today and that you’ll improve step by step (“trust-based practice”). Trying to go fast usually means slow progress or even implies the danger of complete paralysis. Going slow, conversely, usually means faster progress. Slow and steady wins the race in this context.

It sounds paradoxical; but if you take your time and dig in deep to what you’re practicing you’ll actually progress faster. As you climb a mountain with thousand small steps.