Practicing for accuracy

Noa Kageyama, a Julliard-trained violinist and performance psychologist, writes a crazy-good blog called “The Bulletproof Musician”. I’ve tons of good tips from his blog; but I just ran across a post about practicing for accuracy.[1] He writes:

“But on some level we are also uneasy. Deep down we hope that it sticks, but we know from experience that it probably won’t. That the nice flow we got into, the level of playing we reached by the 40th repetition is not stable – and it’s probably not going to sound quite so flawless at our lesson or our jury in two weeks.”


“You run things ad nauseum to try to build up your confidence and keep everything “in your fingers,” and convince yourself that you can trust everything to work out ok when the moment comes.”

I’ve been perceiving that lately at the piano with a performance coming up shortly. It’s sense of confidence about my level of ability when I’m actually at the instrument; but as soon as I step away, I have a feeling that it’s going to slip away. It has me constantly sensing that I need to go back to the practice room to verify that I really have it in the fingers.

The solution (or rather, one of the solutions) is to apply variable practice. Instead of practicing at the same tempo or in the same way, one should vary the tempo above and below the performance target. He bases his recommendation on a study of children learning to accurately toss beanbags from a distance. Children who practiced tossing from variable distances were more accurate following a 12 week training period than those who only practiced at the final test target distance.

Cool. Reminds me over-under intervals that I’ve used in training on the bike.

  1. Kageyama, N. A Practice Strategy That Will Help You Play More Accurately When It Counts. Retrieved from Link