Anders Ericsson on Keeping the Changes We Gain in Practice
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!
“The cognitive and physical changes that come from training require upkeep. Stop training and they go away.”
The old adage holds true: “Use it or lose it.” This is true perhaps nowhere as much as with playing guitar pieces.
We toil away at learning pieces. We hone and polish. We struggle to iron out the kinks and smooth all the rough edges.
And what happens when we finally get to a point we can be happy with (or at least resigned to)?
We give ourselves the prize of starting a new piece.
But then the process starts over again, and the old piece may slip into the background. We get drunk on the promise of our new projects and forget our previous ones.
Before long, days and weeks have passed. Months, years. And when we do decide to play it again, we find it’s not there anymore. This can be heartbreaking.
And the same thing happens with our technique and training in general.
If we get too wrapped up in our current pieces, we may feel tempted to skip our scales or exercises. We may save our real training to the end of practice, then cut it short.
We may convince ourselves that playing pieces is all the training we need. And it can be, but only if we transform the challenges within the piece into exercises themselves.
So what should we do if we slide back in this way? The only thing there is to do: We accept it, learn from it, and move forward. We mourn the loss, then forgive ourselves and look ahead.
We can always restart our training today. No matter how much time has lapsed, we can do something meaningful to train our hands now.
And how much time is needed to maintain our gains?
Not that much. We just need to reinforce the basics and meet the far edges of our abilities. This means we review our fundamentals, and use them to meet challenges that are hard, but not too hard.
A weight-lifter needs to continue to add more weight, even if only a little. And in the same way, we need progressive challenge.
In our pieces, in our technique work, the trick is to find something to push us. Then we rise to the task and do the work. And if we let embers grow cool, we give them a new spark and forge ahead.
Hi, I’m Allen Mathews.
I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
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For the first time ever, I have achieved great tone on my acoustic guitars. I've been studying fingerstyle guitar and music theory for about one year now. Tonight is the first time, I feel quite satisfied with my ability to produce a nice clear tone when striking the strings with my right hand fingers. By following your training videos in the program, I'm gradually developing my fingerstyle playing ability. KUDOS to you, Allen Mathews.
~ Joaquin Kenyon
I also want to thank you for including more video lessons on the Bridges Guitar Series. I have learned to play Calatayud's Waltz. The most exciting thing about having done this is that I sight-read the entire piece as I was learning it. Six months ago looking at a sheet of music was like looking at Egyptian hieroglyphics. Learning to read notation is empowering and I appreciate the sensible way you are teaching us to learn to read music.
~ Steve Simpler
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