*This is the third in a series of blogs which are an in depth analysis of Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code as it relates to the “Talent Education method” developed by Dr. Suzuki.

 The Three Rules of Deep Practice:  Chunking, Repetition, and Integral learning

Myelin is what physically increases in the brain when ability is developed, and “deep practice” is how to optimize this process.  Part 1 of this blog-series discussed how myelin wraps around the neural circuits in the process of developing accuracy and speed in neural pathways.

In part 2 “deep practice” was discussed as the most efficient and effective way to build the myelin around the neural pathways for developing talent. Deep/deliberate practice involves full concentration on accomplishing a defined goal that is within reach, and getting constant feedback through the process.   In deep practice on the piano using Suzuki principles of learning, the student will practice a small spot(s) that contain the core feeling/technique of a piece many times.  There is a clear goal which has been practiced and learned at the lesson, and at practice the student gets feedback in the form of the quality of the sound produced as well as the outside perspective from a coach/parent.

By practicing these small parts, the student is learning to “chunk” together patterns and understand their relationships to each other.  This is pattern recognition, a critical component of Ability Development.   Daniel Coyle defines this kind of “spot practice” as the first of three rules on deep practice:  “Chunk It Up”  (1)

The second rule for deep practice is repetition.  Daniel Coyle differentiates deep practice from mere repetition because it involves the learner in the “Sweet spot edge of your capabilities, attentively building and honing circuits.”  (2)  Rote repetition without engagement is not beneficial and potentially harmful. It is repetition done with the engagement of the learner in the process to fine tune each repetition, and to provide self-correction each time so that the thoughts/ movements become increasingly precise.The repetitions need to  keep the interest of the students and yet not be too hard to make them tired quickly.  Here is where a master teacher comes in to understand the sequencing of learning in relationship to building foundation skills and directs the learning in a way that challenges the student and also enables them to succeed. It is then the parent’s job to understand the subtleties and priorities of an assignment, and follow through.

The third rule for deep practice then means doing targeted specific repetitions that engage the learner in an integral learning experience  The important point is to let the student experience what they are trying to learn rather than tell them about it or about how to do it.  In music study, this will allow them to hear the sound as it’s own language without words in the way.  This is possible because the sound has already been internalized through listening.  Next, help them be able to make that sound by using their body in the most natural way through demonstrations by the teacher, and keywords that are associated with the movement at home. Connect the sound quality with the specific movements you observe and help the child to develop this awareness. This ability to play with a beautiful sound using a natural balanced position will be reinforcing to the child.  Dr. Kataoka says:

“If a child starts piano lesson at age 3 or 4, he or she should always learn what a good sound is, along with how to enjoy it. The teacher’s primary task is to instruct how to make good sound because music starts with sound, and sound exists in the world of sensibility.” (3)

Honor the child’s feelings about the number of repetitions, and affirm the process rather than the result. In this way the goal is the practice experience itself.  Allow the mental/reading concepts to come at the child’s own pace, preferably later.

Deep practice is the center point of integral learning where the mental(aural), physical, emotional, and inspired aspects are in harmony, and the myelin wraps around the circuits to provide a clear path for the message connections between the mind and body, and a good feeling becomes associated with this as well.  When we can find this center point of learning, ability develops deeply, and at a much more rapid pace.

These concepts of core education and Integral learning will take us in the next blog to further discuss Daniel Coyle’s third rule of deep practice: “Learn to Feel It”.

Other related posts in this blog:
Spot Practice to Enable Integral Learning 
Ability Development and pattern recognition

1.  The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, p.79
2. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, p. 88
3.  Sensibility and Education by Dr. Kataoka, p.54

Books quoted and discussed in this post: