The Little Book of Talent
Written by Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, The Little Book of Talent is a quick read. Even though the back cover says it is a book for “building a faster brain and a better you,” words that sound too promising to be true, the book has some good ideas.
The book claims to have field-tested methods to improve skills. There are conveniently 52 Tips for you to read, perhaps one a day over a year? Or all in one sitting.
4 Favorite Tips
Close your eyes while you practice. Coyle even attributes this tip to musicians who he says have “long used this technique to improve feel and accuracy.” The reason we close our eyes while practicing is because it is a quick way to get you to engage your other senses to give you new feedback. Your brain loves something new! That’s why kids with ADHD can pay attention easily when there is something new in the air. Their brain is immediately engaged. When you close your eyes to practice, your brain is sensing a familiar skill in a new and fresh way.
Your child would love to try closing her eyes to play a song or to practice a certain skill.
Slow it down! I’d be the first in line to play a new piece fast. But we should stop the “Hey, Look at Me! reflex.” Yes, we are excited because we learned to do something new. However, playing it fast simply creates sloppiness, hurting our chance of improving over the long-term. “It’s not how fast you can do it. It’s how slowly you can do it correctly.”
Remind your child to slow down on newly learned parts of a song.
Tip # 41
End on a positive note. This tip is near and dear to my heart because Coyle tells about his daughter’s violin practice. He says they end her practice with a foot-stomping rendition of the bluegrass tune “Old Joe Clark.” Just listening to “Old Joe Clark” would be fun! I think your young child would consider a big bear hug from you as ending on a positive note! And the words, great work! Or, let’s go tell Daddy how well you practiced. Let’s FaceTime Gramma about it. Let’s tell your stuffed animals or baby brother. Older students have moved into the area of self-satisfaction of a job well done, or of completing something they agreed to do. You could use a simple chart where your older child checks off the day and, if you want to teach him metacognition skills, have him record the best part in the practice.
Tip # 43
Embrace Repetition. To borrow from the cellist, Andrea Yun’s clever video– It’s “all about that myelin” — Coyle says, “Repetition is the single most powerful lever we have to improve our skills because it uses the built-in mechanism for making the wires of our brains faster and more accurate.” Myelin is a substance that wraps around nerve fibers and makes the messages travel faster. Easy to see in the above image.
Myelin grows in proportion to the hours spent in practice. Every time you complete another rep, your brain adds another layer of myelin. The more you practice, the more layers are added, the more quickly and accurately the signal travels, — the more skill! Easy! I suspect Coyle read a lot that Shinichi Suzuki wrote because of course this is all about Suzuki. It is all about that bass, I mean myelin!
Oh, and myelin is the culprit for explaining why bad habits are tough to break. You can’t unwind myelin. Look at that image of a nerve. How could it unwind?
These are just 4 of the 52 gems in the book. I think Suzuki parents know a lot about what goes into creating skill, and they might enjoy dabbling in Coyle’s short book.
“There is no such thing as a difficult piece of music. A piece is either impossible or easy. The process whereby it migrates from one category to the other is known as PRACTICING.” Sir Yehudi Menuhin
Image source here.
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