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#163: Repetition in Your Practice: Are You Doing Too Much?

In my family, my grandmother’s sister was pretty much our favorite aunt. Aunt Dolie was sweet and generous, although she never had very much of her own and worked very hard all her life for what she did have. She was a gentle soul and totally without worldly savvy. She lacked a lot of practical knowledge, what we would call “know-how,” But that didn’t mean she was without courage. Hence, this family legend I am about to relate to you.

When Aunt Dolie was in her fifties, she decided she wanted to learn how to drive. As a city person, she had always used public transportation or relied on my grandparents for rides to the store or to the doctors. My grandfather helped her find a driving instructor. He knew that teaching her himself would likely push his patience past the breaking point. 

The driving instructor showed up for Aunt Dolie’s first driving lesson. They successfully navigated the difficulties of starting the car and pulling away from the curb. The instructor made sure she stopped at the stop sign at the corner, told her to signal for a right turn and then turn the corner. Aunt Dolie hesitated and asked him, “How many times do I turn the wheel?” At that moment, it became clear to the instructor that she would never become a confident or even a safe driver. It was her last driving lesson and her last attempt at driving.

So what’s the point of this story for us? I am often asked a question that is just as difficult to answer. Fortunately, though, if it’s a question you have had - and most of us have wondered about this sometime - just asking the question doesn’t mean you have to give up harp playing, the way my aunt had to give up the idea of driving. The question is this: how many times should I repeat a passage or a piece in my practice? 

It’s a good question, even if it doesn’t have an easy answer. The key lies in understanding what repetition can and can’t do for you. We’ll talk about how to avoid repetition burnout as well as how to be efficient with the repetitions that you really must do in order to play with accuracy and security. Can I give you a magic number? Nope. But I will show you how to find a number that works for you.

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions and suggestions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected] 


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