Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The value of practicing alone

In a now-famous experiment, (Ericsson) and his colleagues compared three groups of expert violinists at the elite Music Academy in West Berlin. The researchers asked the professors to divide the students into three groups: the "best violinists" who had the potential for careers as international soloists; the "good violinists"; and a third group training to be violin teachers rather than performers. Then they interviewed the musicians and asked them to keep detailed diaries of their time.

They found a striking difference among the groups. All three grounds spent the same amount of time participating in music-related activities. All three had similar classroom requirements making demands on their time. But the two best groups spent most of the music-related time practicing in solitude: 24.3 hours a week, or 3.5 hours a day, for the best group, compared with only 9.3 hours a week, or 1.3 hours a day, for the worst group.

-From "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain


  1. Interesting - I'd never heard of this study before, but it makes sense. I've lived in an isolated area for a few years now, and although I whine about it constantly, there's really no substitute for the tons and tons of solitary practice it's allowed me. On the other hand, getting out and being around other artists occasionally is always inspiring, and I wish I had more of that to balance out all the solitary drawing drills. I don't know if this is the same for everyone - how's your own small town experience going?

    I guess it's because in a group, you'll always be subconsciously practicing all the little skills it takes to interact with other people - alone, you get to isolate the skill at hand, and that makes all the difference.

  2. It could be that people who practice alone are the people who are most passionate about what they do.

    I'm living in a house with a few other people, and sometimes it gets pretty noisy. So although the lack of anywhere to go or anything to do gives me no excuse not to work, I'm also aching for some alone time.


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