An approach to interleaved and variable musical practice: Tools and techniques

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall” goes the old joke. “Practice, practice, practice.” But of course there’s no other way. If the science of talent development has taught us anything over the last fifty years, it’s that there is no substitute for strategic practice. Some even argue that innate musical abilities don’t exist. Whether it’s nature, nurture, or both, show me a top-notch musician and I’ll show you a person who has learned to practice well.

The misinterpreted-effort hypothesis

This is an interesting study nicely summarized in The Bulletproof Musician. Learners exposed to two different study methods - blocked vs interleaved practice - preferred the blocked practice method, a learning method known to be less effective. Rather than attribute it to laziness, the authors of the study hypothesized that learner’s simply don’t know what method of practice (study) is more effective so that interpret the more difficult method (interleaved) as being harder.

Nietzsche and the sublime purposeless of music

Nietzsche at the piano I have always been troubled in some ill-defined way by articles that assert the benefits of music in some tangible way. For example, kids with music training do better at math. (I don’t if that’s true or not; but you get the style of what I’m talking about.) The unwritten inference is something like this: “No one but a fool or the spectacularly talented would regard music as an economically-valid life path; but math might be.