The “Practice Makes Perfect” Myth

We’ve all heard the cliché that “Practice Makes Perfect.”  I’m sure at some point either a parent or teacher has told us this, especially if we’ve taken any sort of music lesson in the past.  However, I had a music teacher when I was in College who abhorred this saying!  I thought that was somewhat strange, because for my Music degree I was required to practice at least 16 hours a week!  Surely the reason for that was because “Practice Makes Perfect.”!  But I soon learned her reasoning for not liking this saying.

She explained to me that one could practice for hours and hours, but if they were lazy, inaccurate with the notes and timing, and didn’t pay attention to the dynamics, they weren’t going to achieve practice that makes perfect, they would only achieve practice that makes error.  That certainly wasn’t a result I wanted.  I learned to slow down, pay attention to the music and notation, and count carefully. Suddenly I was accomplishing more in my practice sessions than I ever had.  That was because I focused on developing only good habits with accuracy, instead of going quickly, making mistakes, and having to take the next week’s practice time to correct all the errors from the week before!

It’s important that as teachers we instil a sense of quality of practice in our students.  Repetition is good, but repetition that makes the same mistake over and over achieves nothing but a mistake! Repetition that focuses on learning accurately will result in practice that makes perfect.

So, my teacher changed the cliché.  Instead of “Practice Makes Perfect” it became “PERFECT Practice Makes Perfect.”

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