Practice – The Last 10 Percent Is The Most Important 6

If you've read much of or are one of my students, you know how important repetition is to me.

What many people don't understand about practice, is that the last 10 or so percent is where the majority of improvement occurs. Repeating a section 10 times vs. 5 times doesn't mean it will only be twice as good. In fact repetitions 8, 9, and 10 might add an extra 200 percent. (If you can't tell, I'm making these number up, but you get the point).

Its very similar to building muscle at the gym. The last repetition determines the majority of the muscle growth. How much should you repeat? There's an art to this. After a certain number you reach a point of diminishing returns, and you'd do better to work on a different section for a while and then come back. After a lot of practice, you'll get a sense of what is enough…there's a sort of "locking" in that occurs, where you can tell you actually learned something. As against a sense of murkiness and uncertainty about the section at hand.

But in general, I'd say most people err on the side of not enough repetitions. So, go forth and repeat.

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6 thoughts on “Practice – The Last 10 Percent Is The Most Important

  • Matt

    Hi Kay – I’m so glad you like the blog! Please feel free to add me on your RSS feed or e-mail updates.
    I think your observation is spot on. Unfortunately memory isn’t a linear thing, the next day some things stick and some things don’t. (At least for most of us – the people I’ve known with near photographic memories are also the ones with HUGE repertoires. Lucky them!)

  • Kay

    It is my first time visiting your blog but I’m going to make sure, its not the last.
    I am a beginner (or so I’d like to think) and have been taking lessons for the last 6 months. I too believe that nothing beats practice – the more I play, the better I get. However, more often than not, I notice that while learning a new song and playing it around 10 (or enough number of) times, I reach a point where I can play the song seamlessly. But when I wrap up for the day and revisit it the next day, I am not able to play as well as I ended the day before. Of course, it gets better with time but its an observation I thought I would share.