Some time ago I did an experiment during one of my study sessions, which was very useful for me to really understand how effective my study is.
I decided to dedicate two hours, dividing the session into two one-hour parts. During the first hour I filmed all the phases of the study (with a GoPro) and the second hour I used to review everything again and analyze the practice.
The aim was to figure out what my actual study time was, that is, how long I actually practiced and how much wasted.
The result? Quite amazing.
By keeping track with a simple timer, I discovered that I had only “really studied” for just over 50% of the time. And I thought I was a good student…
Since then, I have given myself some rules, which are also valid taken individually, but it would be better to follow them all at once.
1. No distractions
Phone mode “do not break my soul”, internet disconnected, no email, no social, no postman who intercoms me (I excluded the intercom from my soundproof room), in short, no breakage of sudden boxes.
2. When you study you study, when you play sounds
There’s a big difference between studying and playing. Studying is the process of repetition, sometimes tedious, repetitive, aimed at making your brain receive the message and automate the movements.
Playing is creative practice, where you put into practice what you have learned technically and at the level of coordination. In practice you apply your skills in real time, improvised depending on what your brain tells you to do. To use a metaphor, imagine a footballer who takes the ball in the middle of the field and goes into the goal dribbling opponents. His skills allow him to do things that his brain has a very limited time to process.
Mixing the two risks wasting your time and concentration. I’ve noticed that most of your study time is wasted playing things that have nothing to do with your studio.
For example, imagine studying a rudimentary thing. The process of study is to repeat the movement on the pad or snare drum, until it becomes an automatism. But I noticed that every two minutes I interrupted the studio with a groove, a fill, or something that took me off the track.
On the contrary, the process of “playing” requires your mind to be free from thoughts like, “But am I doing this right? Are the movements correct? What if you moved your hand in this way?”.
Thinking too much makes you play badly with other musicians, doesn’t keep you connected to the music and eventually you tend to get away from the sound of the band and the feeling you should convey.
3. Study with the right intention
Often when we study, we play with a very different approach to when we are on stage.
Even when you’re studying sticking or a coordination exercise, you always ask yourself, “But if I played it live with my band, would I play it this way”?
4. Always complete the exercise
Don’t stop studying the exercise you’re working on until you finish it. Even if it’s at 50 BPM, it doesn’t matter. I learned about myself that this is crucial for motivation and discipline, even in the short term.
5. Focus on what you need in that period
In addition to having a pre-established work plan (see this article), it is important to determine what is most important for you to study at that time.
For example, if your interest is to improve playing on clicks or sequences because a band has just hired you and you have upcoming concerts, work on that, don’t waste mental energy studying bossa nova, if your band does rock…
Organize your study with short and long term goals, but modify them according to the situations you face.
This experiment will probably give you a much clearer idea of the real quality of your study.