Summer holidays: to study or not to study

“Never stop studying. Don’t miss a day. I once didn’t play for a few days and had to start all over again. This is what one of my teachers said when I studied the flute in The Hague. I felt guilty if I missed a study day, even when I had already graduated. After graduating, I studied privately with someone else and he had a different opinion. He couldn’t study every day because he had to travel a lot for concerts and workshops around the world. He said to me, “Not playing the flute for a day or two helps me refresh my view on flute playing.” Two completely different opinions from two great players.

For decades it was taught that you have to study for hours. And of course practice makes perfect, that’s a fact. But more and more studies show that we have to take rest into account. The brain needs time to process information. And it does that while resting. That is why a passage you are working on sometimes does not run well at that moment, but is better the next day.
I experiment a lot with visualization and practice methods. During my education I never learned how to study effectively. You just had to study for at least four hours a day. That made me tired before I even started working because the pile of work to be done was too big and too disorganized. Now I use different techniques. Maybe you already use them or maybe they can inspire you.

quarter technique

I divide my available time into 4 parts:

part 1: warm-up and technique (scales)
part 2: studies (or technical exercises)
part 3: pieces
part 4: more pieces or exercises

If I have an hour, each part gets 15 minutes. If I have two hours, each part gets 30 minutes and so on (not necessarily without breaks).

8 minute rule

Research shows that you can only effectively focus on one thing for about 8 minutes (for some people 6 or 7, some people 9). So I set the alarm on my phone for 8 minutes and after the 8 minutes I study something else for 8 minutes. For example, another piece or a different part of the piece when I’m working on part 3

Pomodoro technique

When using the Pomodoro technique you work very concentrated on your task for 25 minutes without any distractions (phone, email, other tasks). After 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break and after a few pomodoros, take a 15 minute break. During the break you have to do something completely different: go for a walk, get coffee, check your mail, and so on. You can download an app on your phone.

I combine these three techniques while practicing and it is magical what happens. The results are astonishing. It seems like you have less time, but because you concentrate very well, you get more done in less time with better quality.

My flute gets a few days of rest during the summer holidays, just like me.

Have a nice summer!


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