Deliberate Piano Practice - Coaches and Resources

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Deliberate Piano Practice - Coaches and Resources

Key Takeaways
  • Patrick Lahan, founder of the Lahan Music Studio in Maryland and Jamin Coller, founder of learnpianolive.com are US-based piano teachers/coaches that identify with the use of deliberate practice principles in their piano teaching programs.
  • The Piano Student's Guide to Effective Practicing and The Ultimate Deliberate Practice Guide are US published resources that explain and incorporate the use of deliberate practice principles in learning skills, such as playing the piano.
  • All resources presented focus on goal oriented, focused, repetitive methods that are specifically targeted to problem areas and persistent feedback as pillars to their programs and resources utilizing deliberate practice as a more effective and efficient method for learning a skill, such as mastering the piano.

Introduction

Deliberate practice to master a skill has been recognized as a more efficient and effective way to shorten the time it takes to master a skill, such as playing the piano. Anders Ericsson defines this practice in his book, Peak, where the art of deliberate practice is applied to target problem areas and individualize teaching to produce results in a fraction of the time. Since the research involves the use of these principles to master the art of playing the piano, we have included information for some coaches and published resources in the field that describe how the practice can be applied to shorten the 10,000 hours school of thought to become an expert in a given topic or skill.

Piano Coaches and Teachers Using Deliberate Practice Principles

Patrick Lahan - Lahan Music Studio - Maryland

  • Dr. Patrick Lahan co-founded the Lahan Music Studio alongside his wife, Sarah York Lahan, who teaches violin at the studio. He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Theory from Florida State University and a Master’s Degree in Piano Performance from the University of Maryland. Lahan culminated his musical education with a Doctorate in Music Arts and Piano Pedagogy from the University of Oklahoma.
  • This is a small community studio but was included in the research due to the strong presence of deliberate practice curriculum with specific analyses of principles contained in Anders Ericsson’s Peak throughout their website and internally published materials.
  • The learning principles applied by Lahan Music Studio specifically tout the use of deliberate practice methods, teaching their students the ability to solve complex problems as part of their curriculum using this method.
  • Patrick Lahan publicly states in the studio’s blog that deliberate practice as taught in the book, “Peak” by Anders Ericsson is important to him and he utilizes the concept in all his lesson agendas.
  • He states that rather than defining practice as time oriented, practice should be goal oriented. For example, instead of practicing for one hour every day, a goal would be to play a progression 5 times daily, hitting every correct note, using the proper finger pattern, in the appropriate rhythm.
  • Studio blog entries for the program incorporate chapter-by-chapter applications of deliberate practice as taught by Anders Ericsson, in his book, “Peak.” Chapters include but are not limited to:

Incorporating the Use of Deliberate Practice Principles

  • Peak’s introduction, “The Gift,” where Lahan reflects on an Ericssonian concept refuting the fact that certain people are born with a gift, such as Mozart and his innate ability to possess absolute pitch, and the fact that a “recent Japanese study” involving 24 students maintained that all participants were able to develop perfect pitch with the proper teaching and training. This leads the student to believe that the gift is the ability to develop the skill.
  • Peak’s Chapter 1: Purposeful Practice Vs. The Usual Approach where Lahan applies principles of goal oriented practice found in Peak. The usual approach maintains that most people acquire a hobby and then spend time practicing various aspects of the hobby. Performance happens quickly and then stagnates at an acceptable level, where now playing becomes “automated.” In order to break through this level, practice should become specific and goal oriented, focusing on one specific skill area for improvement. Simply playing a piece over and over again, will not lead to continued improvement.
  • The four principles of purposeful practice include: specific goals, focused sessions, provision of feedback, and getting out of one’s comfort zone.

Videos and/or Publications

  • The studio also has a YouTube channel to demonstrate deliberate practice techniques (i.e. left hand, right hand), as well as listening assignments and model performances. Videos range from Level 1 Keyboard Skills to demonstrations of full classical pieces.
  • The studio also has a Facebook Page and Instagram account with videos of teachers and some students demonstrating their skills as a result of deliberate practice. Although a small community studio, Lahan Music Studio has achieved a 5-star rating on Google.

Learnpianolive.com and Klopol Academy - Fair Oaks, CA

  • Learnpianolive.com - Klopol Academy is an online platform for learning to play the piano and becoming proficient at any skill level from level 1 to Royal Master Conservatory Level Certification, available via the Klopol Academy option.
  • Jamin Coller is the main teacher for the program and the program has a 5-star review on Yelp.
  • Enrollment in Level 1 is free and the subsequent 11 levels are included in any livepianonow subscription, with the main subscription offered for $20 monthly,
  • The program was selected for inclusion in the research due to its emphasis on the deliberate practice methods it uses, which are published in the studio’s blog. While the specific use of deliberate practice methods was published in 2013, the studio continues to use these principles in their lesson plans.

Use of Deliberate Practice Principles

  • According to learnpianolive, principles of deliberate practice include: lessons designed to specifically improve performance, the use of repetition, dependent on feedback, intellectually demanding, and possibly not much fun because the focus is on mistakes and areas for improvement.
  • Content includes leveled playlists, custom courses, live streams, and archives to live streams that have aired previously.

Videos and/or Publications and Media

  • There is also a YouTube Channel with free content that contains leveled playlists, 60 second piano lessons tips and other drills to help with your practice sessions.
  • Learnpianolive has a Facebook page that offers tutorials using deliberate practice methods, such as this tutorial for Mr. Blue Sky by ELO where he breaks down the notes and lines in the song and stresses the importance of saying the lyrics while you play the notes, and alludes how mastering one line may be your goal for the day.

Books on Deliberate Practice when Mastering the Piano

The Piano Student's Guide to Effective Practicing - Hal Leonard

  • The book addresses problem solving in piano practice using deliberate practice principles in order to proficiently master complex passages in music.
  • The book contains drills and exercises designed to help master problem areas in challenging passages (i.e finger patterns, and listening skills to catch common mistakes).
  • The drills and exercises coincide with principles of identifying specific goals, focused and mindful practice, and repetition, which can be utilized in shorter, more focus sessions involving active listening and self-reflection in mistake patterns that are noted in Ericsson’s book, “Peak.”
  • Out of 41 reviews, Amazon average rating for this book is 4.5 stars.

The Ultimate Deliberate Practice Guide - FS Blog

  • While preliminary research yielded short books and articles on the topic, many descriptions were not extensive enough to review the principles contained in each book beyond the short reading descriptions provided on book sale sites or marketplaces. Therefore, we expanded the research to include this comprehensive publication on deliberate practice which is congruent with Ericsson's book, "Peak." Since it is not a sell able resource there are no reviews on this specific publication, however references to other thought leaders, such as Ericcson and Geoff Colvin.
  • Published in FS Blog, 2022. The principles in this article, while not specifically related only to the art of playing the piano, are derived from "Peak."
  • In this blog, the concept of shortening the number of hours needed to become an expert in a skill, such as playing the piano is better internalized in multiple sessions with spacing in between the sessions.
  • The end goal is not to practice a skill over and over again until it becomes automatic or mindless, as the average human brain is lulled into a sense of well-being by getting into the zone of doing something over and over again, including the same mistakes with no mental effort other than repetition. The end goal is to be focused and mindfully aware of your practice, and focusing on specific and measurable exercises to meet specified sub goals within the overall experience.
  • Because this required intense concentration, sessions cannot be nearly as long as those where only repetition is practiced.
  • The goal of each session is to mindfully identify performance improvement areas and develop a specific plan to address these areas. By trial and error and reflection, the student ultimately finds what works, and it is through this process that the skills are cemented into the brain.
  • By completely engaging both mentally and physically with the skill to be mastered, a student can identify specific goals and define measurable objectives to meet the overall goal.
  • Because these sessions are so intense, one cannot practice for hours upon hours and maintain the status quo with regard to performance by simple repetition.
  • The work that happens in deliberate practice is so intense that no more than 4-5 hours of work are recommended per day in 1-houirto 90-minute sessions with adequate rest in between. However, the gains experienced from these shorter intense session supersede a full day or work using usual methods. Therefore, proving that it does not take 10,000 hours to become an expert in a topic or to master a skill.

Research Strategy

To arrive at the resources, i.e. teachers/coaches and books or published resources on deliberate practice, searches were conducted linking both overall references to deliberate practice principles to the resources themselves or individual references within the websites and description linking individual principles to those identified with deliberate practice, as defined by Ericsson. Because principles are universal and timeless and have been around for many years, sources and materials older than 24-months were utilized in the research. Care was taken to prioritize information, specifically related to mastering the piano, but where descriptions of materials were lacking in content or principle, the search was expanded to include deliberate practice methods overall.

To glean reviews, searches were conducted through common review sites, such as Google and Yelp, where reviews were not available, direct reference to thought leaders within the realm of deliberate practice were used as metrics for inclusion as a reputable resource.

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