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All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it?

Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/22/19 01:59 PM

TL;DR: What has worked for you to maintain a rare streak of spectacular practice days, when that has occurred for you?

KevinM posted a very nice thread called "An off night" about those days when nothing seems to work. We've all had them. But this thread is about the opposite. Those days when everything seems to click and we make astounding progress.

I, myself, am currently in a two-day streak after a rather discouraging slow-down triggered by a pinky injury 5 weeks ago.

Even before this injury, things had started to slow down. The units toward the end of my method book were each taking longer than the last to get done. It seemed like learning repertoire was taking longer. My fingers were feeling a bit dumber day-by-day.

Then on Monday, everything changed. The repertoire piece I was assigned in my morning lesson, which in the past probably would have been good for 2-3 weeks, ended up getting a first draft end-to-end video recording at something like 80% of performance tempo after less than 90 minutes of practice on Monday. cool I blasted through half of the penultimate unit of my method book in single day, making good recordings of all the pieces covered. cool And now, today is day 3.

I'm entering day 3 with some trepidation. I haven't yet practiced today. And I'm a little worried that everything will revert to how it was before. eek And then the streak will be over. cry

So this thread is about how to maintain a practice streak not of practicing every day (I have an unbroken streak of practice days since Christmas 2018 thumb ), but better than normal practices - in fact spectacular practice sessions. I'm not talking about just 'good' - statistically, all of us should have 50% of our practice days be just good. I'm talking about those rarer 98th percentile days - the ones where everything just clicks and you suddenly feel like you know how to play the piano!

What has worked for you to keep up the momentum if and when you've been blessed with this sort of streak of superb practice days occurring for you?
Posted By: cmb13

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/22/19 02:33 PM

TL, DR lol jk

I wish I knew.....it's been a while since I've had one of those days! Just make sure you're getting enough sleep, as sleep really helps solidify those gains.

Once in a while things click, and you realize you're better than you were before. You're doing it right though, with your lessons and gradual progression through the early levels. These seeds you're planting will grow strong roots and sturdy trees (like that metaphor?).
Posted By: dogperson

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/22/19 02:38 PM

You can’t keep it up. CMB is right about sleep but I will also add keep stress levels low ( easier said than done)
Otherwise you’re just gonna have to ride the wave Without falling off the surfboard😊
Posted By: dmd

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/22/19 02:56 PM

Well, my advice would be to try to stop grading your practice sessions and stop measuring your progress.

Just spend your time at the piano enjoying yourself with some practice and some playing or working on repertoire.

You know what to do. Just do it and go on with the rest of your day.

Playing the piano is not something you have to attain a particular level of expertise in given period of time.

Do it as an activity as part of your day or week.

You will get as good as you get and that will have to be good enough.

Good Luck
Posted By: keystring

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/22/19 06:15 PM

Quick off the cuff thoughts:
When it clicks .... depending on the click ..... I want to know why it clicked. What did I do? Then I can repeat that thing which made it click, to bring it into long term memory, and also to get those new synapses forming through mindful repetition. You may find that on day 5, and thing is there solidly, because you have now achieved this kind of familiarity. It will not be there on day 2, even though it was there on day 1, because familiarity cannot form that fast. It may not be there on day 3. Knowing this, don't have expectations, or you'll get disturbed or panicked or discouraged --- just trust that a thing will happen, do it, and let go.

I have an impossible workload so can't write more.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/22/19 06:34 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Then on Monday, everything changed. The repertoire piece I was assigned in my morning lesson, which in the past probably would have been good for 2-3 weeks, ended up getting a first draft end-to-end video recording at something like 80% of performance tempo after less than 90 minutes of practice on Monday. cool I blasted through half of the penultimate unit of my method book in single day, making good recordings of all the pieces covered. cool And now, today is day 3.

I'm entering day 3 with some trepidation. I haven't yet practiced today. And I'm a little worried that everything will revert to how it was before. eek And then the streak will be over. cry

So this thread is about how to maintain a practice streak

Such a wonderful experience! But the streak will pass. My advice is just to be happy that you had this experience, and not to bother with what happens next. Otherwise the risk is that a tension will creep in.
Posted By: Pianoperformance

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/22/19 06:48 PM

Just enjoy the experience. You must be on a piece that reflects your current abilities. Ha, I wouldn’t share it with your teacher quite yet..they may up the ante on the next piece! Well done.
Posted By: John305

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/22/19 06:51 PM

Don’t click the video if a little adult language will bother you.





Also, coming from a sports background, the number one rule of a streak is that you don’t talk about the streak until it’s over.
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/22/19 07:41 PM

I've never been able to sustain a streak for more than a day or two. There are just too many variables that pinning it down to one or two or three that you can actually control is near impossible. And then there's that niggling voice over your shoulder: was it as good as you thought it was?? Even so, I do savor them when they occur.
Posted By: cmb13

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/22/19 07:53 PM

Originally Posted by John305
Don’t click the video if a little adult language will bother you.



Also, coming from a sports background, the number one rule of a streak is that you don’t talk about the streak until it’s over.

lol!
Posted By: cmb13

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/22/19 07:55 PM

Originally Posted by keystring
Quick off the cuff thoughts:
When it clicks .... depending on the click ..... I want to know why it clicked. What did I do? Then I can repeat that thing which made it click, to bring it into long term memory, and also to get those new synapses forming through mindful repetition. You may find that on day 5, and thing is there solidly, because you have now achieved this kind of familiarity. It will not be there on day 2, even though it was there on day 1, because familiarity cannot form that fast. It may not be there on day 3. Knowing this, don't have expectations, or you'll get disturbed or panicked or discouraged --- just trust that a thing will happen, do it, and let go.

Good point! Speaking to an analytic person, (TS), you can bet he'll perform this multivariate regression analysis to get to the bottom of it.

Originally Posted by keystring
.....I have an impossible workload so can't write more.

Perfect amount! wink
Posted By: MichaelJK

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/22/19 11:59 PM

It's a great feeling when things seem to click. And then it feels awful when they stop clicking.

I've noticed two patterns in my own practicing:

Number 1:

It's worth being aware that feeling great about your practicing doesn't necessarily mean that you are playing better. At the same time, feeling awful about your practicing doesn't necessarily mean that you are playing worse.

Sometimes your feelings have nothing to do with how well things are actually going. Maybe you're just having a bad day. Or a great day.

That's one aspect of it.

Number 2:

Another is that sometimes things really do click. And when you notice that you can do something you never could do before...yay!

But then it gets old. You get used to your new abilities and forget what it used to be like. So, human nature being what it is, you start wanting MORE.

So, the better you get, the less satisfied you are.

Try to just take each day as it comes. Do it for the love of music and the love of practicing. Trust that you are learning at the pace you should be learning at, and that if something really does slip out of your grasp, it means you weren't ready for it yet.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/23/19 12:17 AM

I'm just recovering from the downturn after my spring streak. Said streak lasted about a month or six weeks. I'd have to go back to my notes to check exactly. But I love that Bull Durham video above because that same movie has her voice over something like, "For one magical summer the Bulls played like major league-ers." I paraphrase, but it's been that spring for me and when it ended I was a little down, but I'm getting my groove back this week.

What happened? Several weeks of going double speed through my method books, and other materials, everything seemed possible, my fingers were sure and steady, memory coughed up what I needed on demand, practice was a joy, much progress was made...

And then we all know it ends. Why is probably that I caught up to my technical limits.

What brought it on in the first place? It might have been:

I'd recently slowed my practice tempos across the board
I had very clear goals for each piece/lesson/exercise before I sat down to the piano
I liked the music I was playing
I had time to listen to a lot of piano music during the day
There was a lot of piece turn over that kept my motivation high day after day
I found a new way to practice the "middle" of the work, that part between learning the notes and polishing.

We say, "all of the above" in our household. Could be any one or all, but methodically repeating them doesn't bring on a streak, sadly.

Magic touched me for a brief time and now I can only put in the work and diligence that I can so that if magic drifts back through someday I'll be ready.
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/23/19 06:47 AM

Like others have said, just enjoy it while it lasts grin It can be discouraging when a streak like this passes, but it gets better when you remember that the learning process - of pretty much anything - isn't linear. We don't steadily progress until we're there, it always evolves in leaps and bounds alternating with periods where nothing much seems to improve (or even seems to go the opposite way).

Remembering that I'm not really stalling, that I'm laying the groundwork for the next "leap", helps me get through those phases. And the days when everything just flows and I think, "hey, I'm not all bad after all!" are pure joy.
Posted By: Ted

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/23/19 10:49 AM

I have found that is mainly a question of memory. My natural tendency is to remember things that go wrong and forget things that go right. I have no idea if that is general or just me. If I have a serendipitous moment the internal response goes, "Oh thank goodness, I don't need to worry about that any more." If I make a mistake it says, "That's no good, I'd better work on that." And in the latter case, I do think about it and work on it, and it embeds itself into memory. In the former case, on the other hand, memory doesn't get a chance and by the next morning it has gone, completely forgotten, a vague recollection at best.

Fortunately, the answer is simple but requires interrupting the ecstasy, repeating the lucky bit enough times to allow memory to take hold, and preferably leaving a written note about it for the next session. This circumvents the exasperating feeling of realising a discovery had been made somewhere or other but being unable to recollect exactly what it was, a sensation I had regularly when I was of a lazier disposition.
Posted By: outo

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/24/19 02:19 AM

Originally Posted by Ted
I have found that is mainly a question of memory. My natural tendency is to remember things that go wrong and forget things that go right. I have no idea if that is general or just me.


I am just like you, but it does not seem to be very common.
Posted By: Terry Michael

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/24/19 03:01 AM

Pardon my ignorance, I don’t know what a TL and DR is (maybe your post is directed at certain people) but I’ll throw in my 2 cents.

What makes nearly ALL of my practice sessions ‘click’ started when I became a very avid “LISTENER “. I’m very surprised at how long this took me. I guess it’s because playing piano occupies a lot of different tasks. We are concerned that we’re not posturing properly. Are we playing at the correct speed? Am I holding that note LONG enough, etc, etc.

But when I started seriously listening to what I just played and zeroed in on something I felt was off, instead of just acknowledging it as being off and continuing on I would STOP and analyze what I’d just heard. Ok, so my pedaling is off just enough that it’s blending those last two chords together. And I seem to be doing that ALL the time. So let’s WORK on JUST that so my muscle memory and my brain will make those distinct chords. And I’ll practice just that. Again and again always LISTENING very closely, almost like (it’s hard to explain) someone else is playing it.

When I got good at that, my practice sessions started clicking ALL the time and I advanced very quickly in learning and playing those pieces in far less time than it normally would take.
Posted By: PianoStudent88

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/24/19 03:15 AM

TL;DR identifies a summary of a long post. It stands for “too long; didn’t read”, which might be the reaction of some erstwhile readers if there wasn’t a summary.
Posted By: JimF

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/24/19 09:47 AM

Originally Posted by dmd
Well, my advice would be to try to stop grading your practice sessions and stop measuring your progress.

Just spend your time at the piano enjoying yourself with some practice and some playing or working on repertoire.

You know what to do. Just do it and go on with the rest of your day.

Playing the piano is not something you have to attain a particular level of expertise in given period of time.

Do it as an activity as part of your day or week.

You will get as good as you get and that will have to be good enough.

Good Luck


+1. Exactly this
Posted By: Morodiene

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/24/19 12:17 PM

I think having these moments when things start to "click" are really important and encouraging. I get excited when a difficult passage I've been struggling with for weeks finally starts to come together - but I know it's the result of the previous weeks of concentrated effort. For a beginner, getting to this point can take a long time (a year or two or even longer) for things to begin to settle and things you used to have to focus on start to become automatic.

How to sustain it? I don't think this is something you will lose unless you have a big gap in your practicing. However, the music does get harder, and so new challenges need to be tackled and it may appear as though you "lost it", but really you've jumped to a new level.
Posted By: akc42

Re: All of a sudden, it 'clicks': Now how to sustain it? - 05/24/19 02:24 PM

Originally Posted by Terry Michael

What makes nearly ALL of my practice sessions ‘click’ started when I became a very avid “LISTENER “. I’m very surprised at how long this took me. I guess it’s because playing piano occupies a lot of different tasks. We are concerned that we’re not posturing properly. Are we playing at the correct speed? Am I holding that note LONG enough, etc, etc.

But when I started seriously listening to what I just played and zeroed in on something I felt was off, instead of just acknowledging it as being off and continuing on I would STOP and analyze what I’d just heard. Ok, so my pedaling is off just enough that it’s blending those last two chords together. And I seem to be doing that ALL the time. So let’s WORK on JUST that so my muscle memory and my brain will make those distinct chords. And I’ll practice just that. Again and again always LISTENING very closely, almost like (it’s hard to explain) someone else is playing it.


I am interested in this. So far I have been using my teacher for the listening part of what you are saying. Once she points something out to me I can usually start to fix it pretty quick. I find that with all the concentration going into playing a piece to the best of my current ability I don't have much bandwidth left for the listening. I can even then notice something pointed out to me when playing when I accidentally revert back. For instance the 2nd measure of Rondo Alla Turca has a slur in the first two notes of the left hand (as well as elsewhere). This was pointed out to me in my lesson earlier this week. By the next day (actually probably by the end of the lesson, but we spent the rest of the lesson attacking other short sections where I was doing it wrong - mainly left hand clarity issues) I had mostly fixed it, but when I didn't play it right (and that phrase comes up over and over again) I could immediately notice and be able to stop and try and fix it again.

But hearing myself with clarity once I think I have the notes down is something I haven't learnt yet. I would love some tips on how to.
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