Yesterday I had a student who was complaining about her left hand. She uses matched grip and is working on strokes in the american grip position.
“It just doesn’t work as well as my right,” she said. So I looked at her hands. She was right. The mechanics of her left hand were not really anything like her right.
Everything about her right hand was better. The way the stick sat in her hand, the fulcrum, the motion of her hand from the wrist, etc. As a result, the stroke was much closer to what makes for a loose, flowing, bouncing stroke.
I pointed out the differences in the mechanics of her hands to her. We discussed how she was practicing to make her stroke better.
It turns out that she was simply repeating the incorrect strokes on her left side, over and over again, in an attempt to make it better. The truth is (at the risk of stating the obvious), practicing this way definitely does more harm than good. One would be better off not practicing than reinforcing the incorrect movements.
I always explain to my students that (especially with technique) you must practice with the end in mind. She was not heeding my advice about how to practice at all.
Spending time working on technique will not do any good at all unless you have an understanding of what you want, and how it is supposed to look. Hopefully, you will have an idea of what it should feel like as well. The help of a good teacher (whether in person or on video) will help you create the mental image of what the technique should be.
Frequently, I see students trying to work on technique but not realizing what their own body is doing correctly or incorrectly because they are not even looking at their hands, wrists, fingers or arms during practice.
One must be very aware of all the details of what is happening physically during technical practice. Using, eyes to see, ears to listen and your brain to perceive how the technique feels will help guide you. Add this awareness to the mental image of what the technique is supposed to look sound and feel like (your goal) and you are on the right track.
In other words, if a particular technique is incorrect, you must figure out specifically what about that technique needs to change in order for it to be better. Then you have to force your body to make the actual changes in order for it to work. As you begin to make the change or changes, you have to practice a lot in order to lock in the new physical behavior. Believe me, this is difficult. But it is the only way.
My apologies if any of this seems obvious, but my observations lead me to conclude that surprisingly, sometimes–even often–these details get missed.
Be patient, specific and focused with a very detailed technical goal in mind. Add that to time spent (often a lot of time) working on it in this particular way, and results will come.
The ecstasy of a new technique you can use to express yourself is worth the investment. Yes–ecstasy. That’s how good it feels when techniques are mastered.
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“One would be better off not practicing than reinforcing the incorrect movements.”
As they say, practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes *permanent*. Of course, there’s wiggle room in that statement, because you can change bad habits over time, but fact remains that practicing incorrectly is where those bad habits come from in the first place. It’s critical to put serious thought into what you’re practicing and how you’re doing it, so that your practice is actually beneficial!
Mark Feldman says
exactly! thanks for your well written thoughts.