miércoles, 25 de abril de 2012


Ultimately, every aspect of an aspiring musician's performance must become automatic, achieved with as little effort as possible, like the process of an experienced driver coordinating the steering wheel and the brakes in turning the corner.  The same happens with music; initially, each element takes intense concentration.


Yet another challenge stems from the fact that the brain is ordinarily bound by what is known as the speed-accuracy trade-off: for virtually anything we do, the faster we go, the more likely we are to make errors.  Haste really does tend to make waste.  In order to be effective, musicians must circunvent this law, playing both quickly and accurately.


Alas, the only known way to defy the speed-accuracy trade-off is through practice, using the only technique that the brain can bring to bear, a process known as automatization or proceduralization, in which  in which the brain makes a transition from explicit or "declarative" knowledge, which can in principle be verbally articulated (albeit slowly), to implicit or "procedural" knowledge, which can be executed rapidly.  As knowledge becomes proceduralized, we sometimes feel as if we know something in our fingers or muscles but lose the capacity to explicitly explain what is going on. 

During this process, simple steps get combined or "chunked" into more efficient, larger units.  (…)  (E)ventually, some of the skills that initially required a great deal of effort become so automatic they take less conscious focus and leave room for other tasks. 

Deliberate practice can presumably make this happen faster, by ensuring that what gets proceduralized is the right sets of habits.  When practice regimes aren't selected with care, the learner may wind up automatizing bad habits and thus enshrine sloppy and inadequate procedures, in a way that impedes future progress.

At the neural level, proceduralization consists of a wide array of carefully coordinated processes, including changes to both gray matter (neural cell bodies) and white matter (axons and dendrites that connect between neurons).  Existing neural connections (synapses) must be made more efficient, new dendritic spines may be formed, and proteins  must be synthesized.  Often, mental representations that are initially stored in the prefrontal cortex (which we associate with conscious cognition) shift tones parts of the brain such as the hippocampus, associated with memory, and the motor cortex and the basal ganglia, which are in charge of the more immediate control of our muscles. 

Until all that practice-spurred brain growth starts to happen, you might be able to enjoy music, but you certainly won't be able to play it.

lunes, 23 de abril de 2012


Sensation from movements of parts of our body which are conveyed to our central nervous system are called "proprioceptive" (self-perceiving), as opposed to "exteroceptive" (tactile) sensations.


Proprioceptive sensations and the ability to make the finest inner analysis and synthesis of these sensations are necessary and the ability to make the finest inner analysis and synthesis of these sensations are necessary for acquiring motor skill.  These motor signals also represent the only material through which our motor acts are built and developed.  Hence, when aiming for the most efficient piano practicing, we have to take care that our proprioceptive sensations are clear and distinct.  Slow playing serves this claim to some extent.

While practicing, slight exaggeration of movements will be of benefit in providing more vivid proprioceptive material, which must be as if imprinted in the corresponding cells of our brain.  The contours of this imprint have to be precise and distinct.  For better results these sensations should be consciously perceived.  

George Kochevitsky


En psicofísica hay una ley (la ley de Weber-Fechner) que relaciona el valor objetivo de la estimulación (una luz, un sonido, un contacto) con su valor subjetivo (la sensación que experimentamos).  El quid del asunto es que nuestra sensibilidad disminuye en proporción con la cantidad total de estimulación.  Si hay dos velas encendidas en una habitación, notamos fácilmente la diferencia de luminosidad al encender una tercera.  Pero si hay cincuenta velas encendidas, es improbable que notemos la diferencia al encender la número cincuenta y uno.  Si la estimulación total es menor, cada pequeño cambio marca más la diferencia o, para decirlo con la frase de Gregory Bateson, es una diferencia que hace la diferencia.  Contra un fondo silencioso y sin estrés, los sonidos y los movimientos sutiles pueden tener un efecto muy dramático.


Although Robert Schumann did not busy himself with piano teaching, he wrote much about music and musicians.  He thought that exercises, scales and etudes could be useful, but that to practice mechanical exercises for many hours would be as absurd as trying to pronounce A, B, C faster and faster every day.  He considered better to study a complex musical composition comprising all possible kinds of difficulties and offering good material for technical work. 

George Kochevitsky.