“Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.”
–Arthur Koestler, author

The tricky passage that finally rings true, the ‘aha’ moment, the transcendent performance – all are creative achievements that result from learning.

In effect, the more adept we become at learning, the more facile we’re likely to be with the creative process.

When it comes to learning, though, I’ve observed that music students generally divide into two camps: deep learners and shallow learners (although many display characteristics of both). Still, only deep learning enables us to perform with unfettered creativity.

Here are some distinctions between these two types:

Deep Learners
•  Set specific practice goals and then work in organized yet flexible ways
•  Isolate problem spots in practice (they vocalize rhythms, play hands alone, recite song text, etc.)
•  Maintain awareness as they play or sing, directing their actions from within
•  Infuse their practice with joy and spontaneity
•  Manage repetition so that they absorb passages without needing to repeat them ad nauseum
•  Listen intently in practice and evaluate their work with open minds
•  Embody excellence
•  Perform securely and enthusiastically

Shallow Learners
•  Practice haphazardly without clear objectives or are overly rigid and mechanical
•  Play or sing through lengthy sections without attending to specific details
•  Often let their attention wander during practice
•  View practice as drudgery that must be endured
•  Repeat endlessly, hoping that repetition alone will bring security
•  Evaluate sporadically, often drifting off pitch and out of rhythm
•  Let inaccuracies and difficulties slide by unaddressed
•  Deal with persistent performance anxiety and may dread performing

Fortunately, musicians with shallow learning habits can transform themselves into deep learners. How? In a nutshell, by setting clear goals, gaining disciplined practice habits, employing self-motivation strategies, and seeking expert guidance.

See The Musician’s Way for deep-learning strategies that equip music lovers to be true performing artists.

Related posts
The growth mindset
Making the most of music lessons
The power of specific goals
The self-motivated musician
The ultimate practice shortcut

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein

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