Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cheating at Practice

When I was a kid, my parents decreed that we should all play the piano.  So, I started when I was four. 


I liked being able to play the piano, but I often didn't have the patience or ability to sit still for long periods of time and play the same part over and over....and over...and over.  I became bored very quickly.  This is where I began to cheat.

Due to the fact that we didn't have enough pianos for everyone, sometimes one of us would play the piano and the other would play the keyboard.  The keyboard had this amazing button that allowed you to record what you were playing.  I soon discovered that if I played it through once and recorded it, I could just push play after that and it sounded like I was playing the piece over and over, leaving me free to do whatever I wanted.

My mom had ten children so it was hard for her to keep track of all of us, all the time. So, sometimes I got away with it.

The sad thing is, it didn't really hurt anyone else.  I was just hurting myself.  Today, I still have a hard time drilling.  I get bored easily and have to switch to something else before I go back to a single section.  Variety helps me stay focused.

My piano playing skills are not what they should be for as long as I've been playing. However, I am pretty good at sight-reading. I can sit down at a piece and do a pretty decent job playing it.  Why?  It is because I didn't practice all that much so when I went to my lessons I would often sight-read the pieces for the first time.  Some weeks, my teacher would say, "Wow, that's improved a lot!" I would be very happy, but I wouldn't learn any good moral lessons.

During festival week, I had to ability to quickly memorize my pieces and then play them with feeling.  I often received better scores than my more diligent siblings who actually practiced and spent long hours on their pieces.  Again, though it was advantageous, I wasn't learning any good moral lessons from it.

It took until college for those lessons to become apparent, and even then, it took a while for them to sink in.  I am also a very fast reader with high retention so it was easy for me to procrastinate homework until the last moment. Usually my grades were top-notch as well, so I felt that I could continue to do that forever. 

However, one day I realized that I actually needed to study.  There are no shortcuts to real knowledge.  I remember very few of the songs that I memorized as a child because I didn't memorize it in my long-term memory bank, I only placed it in the short-term one.  Though I am an excellent sight-reader today, I do not have the skills to sit down and practice for hours that I sometimes wish I did. 

Cheating at studying and practicing never really helps you. It only damages the skills that you need in order to focus on a task and keep at it.  Luckily, I have made up for some of the damage I did to myself, but it's hard to see that when you're a child who can't sit still.

Don't cheat at practicing.

Cheaters never prosper because they learn how to take shortcuts.  Shortcuts lead to shoddy work and unimpressed employers.

1 comment:

  1. You know what? In this way we are kind of opposites. School came really hard for me, actually. I don't retain information too easily; I learn best by hands-on experience. Lots of it. And piano, I am okay at sight reading simple stuff, but I really do need to play something many times, and memorize it, in order to play well :) Growing up, I was pretty jealous of my younger sister who seemed to be able to get the grades with a minimal amount of work, and learn to sing and play the piano well in a short amount of time. But the funny thing is, College was much easier for me than high school. I guess if you're forced to learn how to study in order to keep up with people who are great at being able to learn and retain stuff, then those skills really do benefit you later. I hadn't thought of it that way before. It's a nice perspective to consider.

    I think you're still a great person even if you cheated at pracitcing :) I think we all cheated at a few things, growing up... (probably. Maybe not your Dad. He's perfect.)