Practice Makes Perfect

Practice makes perfect. How many times have we heard this phrase? I have heard it too many times to count! I started playing the piano when I was 6 years old. I started playing the organ when I was 11. My piano and organ teacher was a wonderful friend and neighbor, Corella Johnson, who had a strict requirement for all of her students to “practice the piano” at least 30 minutes every day. My mom, always detail oriented and organized, prepared a daily practice log, where she dutifully wrote the time my daily practice sessions began and ended. So as not to be confused over the exact time I spent practicing, Mom placed a clock on top of my piano, near the dreaded metronome, to allow her to measure my practice sessions with exactness. I was not permitted to join my friends in any after school activities, such as jumping on my trampoline, until my daily practice was finished and logged in. This routine remained in place until the last week of my formal piano training, a few weeks before I moved away from home to attend college. That’s 12 years of daily practice, 7 days a week! Did I learn how to play the piano? Absolutely! Did I ever resent practicing? Not that I can recall. In fact, practicing my musical instrument is now an ingrained part of my life. At the time of this writing, I have been playing the piano for almost 60 years and I have been playing the bass guitar for 22 years (sadly, I no longer have an organ). On every day when it is possible to do so, I either play the bass or the piano for a minimum of 30 minutes. Although I do not keep a log to record my playing time, I write on my calendar “practice” each day at 7:00 p.m. As for whether practice makes perfect, I am living proof that it, in fact, does not. Once in a while, I play a song perfectly, but more often than not, I make a few mistakes, meaning I had better keep practicing until I eventually get it right!

I can attest to Melissa’s commitment to practice.  She takes it seriously and is religious about it, as long as her “day job” doesn’t interfere.  But practice gets a bad rap, that is a bad name.  Melissa’s practice time is often better characterized as “playing” as in “playing the bass.”  Practice seems repetitive and punitive.  Playing is fun.  I know that some of what musicians do is repetitive to learn a riff or rhythmic progression, but putting it the context of the full song brings out the fun of playing the bass, piano, or whatever.  Any skill requires practice.  I can definitely tell when I am rusty from not having shot photos or skeet for a while.  It takes time to get back into the swing of it.  Without getting into specifics here, there is research, accurate or not, on the power of practice and the necessity for it to master a skill (see  A challenge in the world of litigation research, and I’m sure litigation for attorneys, is that the opportunity to practice certain, critical, skills is limited.  Realizing the need to practice does present opportunities though, by testing arguments with friends, families, or employees, or, when things are serious enough, with trial consultants.  The key is to recognize the degradation of a skill and the need to rebuild or refine the skill set for when that skill is critical.  

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