The Pedagogy of Music by Kyle Coughlin

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Principle Number 2: Make It Effortless and Accurate

Effortless and accurate are two words that are not always connected when it comes to making music. We all strive to attain accuracy in our performances, but the effortless aspect of music making is more elusive. It is important to understand that effortless does not mean that there is no work involved. To enjoy music and become a good musician requires work, dedication, and commitment. In this case, the word effortless represents the avoidance of tension, stress, and struggle in the physical aspects of our playing, as well as our minds.

To effortlessly make music and avoid tension, it is essential to practice well. Remember that every time we practice or make music we are either reinforcing pre-established habits or creating new habits. The following practices can help you train yourself to perform more effortlessly and accurately:
Always create good habits when practicing.
Practice slowly! Avoid playing too fast, too soon. Practicing at unreasonably fast tempos is one of the greatest causes of tension and stress in our playing. When you feel tension in your playing, stop and slow down.
Use accurate repetition -- it is how we develop good habits, how we internalize music, and how we engrain a skill so that we don’t have to think about it any more.
To break bad habits: Stop! Relax and breathe. Slow down and use effortless and accurate repetition.
Focus on one thing at a time and internalize it. Avoid trying to focus on too many things at once.
Practice in a step-by-step manner. Avoid skipping steps. No one would dream of attempting calculus before mastering algebra, yet we frequently do the equivalent of that in music by playing pieces that are far beyond our abilities or our understanding.
Understand the role of the conscious mind and subconscious mind in making music.

 

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