I read the book The Talent Code from Daniel Coyle a couple of years ago. It defines talent as the combination of three main concepts: Deep Practice, Ignition and Master Coaching.

The first concept, "deep practice", refers to those moments where you are not only practicing but also you are doing it right. This is the opposite to just repeating note after note, measure after measure without stopping to analyze (consciously or not).

An example of this "deep practice" would be when you finally get those two or three measures that seemed impossible a few days ago, and not only you get them but also you understand them (and by this I mean seeing them in a different way and being able to reproduce them).

Throughout all my years as a musician I have been able to get into this so called "deep practice" a time or two, but have failed to do this consistently.

What are the techniques to get into it? How do you do it consistently?

  • 6
    I think some behavioral scientists refer to this phenomenon as "flow."
    – NReilingh
    May 4, 2011 at 13:13
  • 3
    And this Daniel Coyle guy doesn't explain it in his book? So what is he talking about really? May 22, 2011 at 9:26
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    Famous saying : amateurs practice until they get it right, professionals practice until they can't get it wrong I don't know the source.
    – user1306
    Jan 31, 2013 at 2:11
  • @percusse, I like that. Very true!
    – WeRelic
    Dec 9, 2013 at 23:28

6 Answers 6


The keyword that always helps me hunker down and work is specificity.

I decide what my goals are for a practice session in very specific and concrete terms, and I stick to them until I'm tired. I find that writing down my problems and goals keeps me from straying. If something catches my attention while I'm practicing, I write it down and forget about it until I'm done working on whatever else it was that I was working on.

In a sense, I put myself in the shoes of a teacher, with a critical and organized teaching plan just for myself.

Ivan Galamian taught that practice sessions should be broken up into technique and overall performance/interpretation (I don't remember the exact terms he uses and I don't have my book on me right now) -- and that the distinction between the two should be made very clear. When you're practicing technique, what you really should be doing is isolating the very fundamental nature of the problem you're having. Invent very specific exercises that grill you on nothing but that problem, and practice it in all sorts of variations of tempo, rhythm, articulation etc..

Alas, I'm quite lazy and I don't practice nearly as often as I should these days. But when I do, it's definitely this mentality that gives me the best mileage. It's hard to be specific and absent-minded at the same time.


I've never heard of "deep" practice. There's just understanding and practice, at least in my eyes. It's not some magical concept in which you need to be enlightened to achieve.

Knowing how to do something is the first step (learning) and practising is a way to re-enforce what you've learnt or to learn better execution of a part or technique.

For example, I recently recorded the drums for my band's EP. The producer used the MIDI drum tracks I had created in preproduction to rework an alternative rock song's outro. he effectively threw the drum part off the beat about halfway across the 8-bar outro along with a bunch of other not-exactly-straightforward polyrhythms. It sounded like a bunch of gobbly goop over the 4/4 metronome at first but I accepted the challenge and began learning the part.

It took maybe an hour or so to wrap my head around the rhythm, playing back parts of it then learning it on the kit and that involved having a short break at least once or twice to let it sink in. After that I came back to the drums and it made a lot more sense and I was able to start practising my execution of the part, solidifying my knowledge of the part and how to play it to solidly the click for the recording.

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    I beg to differ on "There's just understanding and practice, at least in my eyes(...)". Sometimes I do bring myself to pratice something and the sesssion is not efficient at all. Sometimes I take the guitar just to play something and end up making a major leap in some area. That's being in "deep pratice", "in the zone", "in the flow". It's not a magical concept, it's a state of mind in which you pratice more efficiently than otherwise. May 5, 2011 at 13:09

In his book, he taught that there is three techniques you will have to perform to enter deep practice;

1.Whole picture: learning a piece of music, you need to play it through or look through it.

2.Chunking: break the big picture, practice parts of the piece of music. Do the things you do not understand.

3.Slowly: Do not do it like how amatuer violinist does it. Practice the chunks you do not understand slowly. Then once you think you got it, speed it up. If you are going to perform a big concert, speed it way higher than required, you can always practice it slowly once you got it.

4.Repeat and find errors: Repeat the process of playing a chunk then play another chunk. Then play the chunk but to accept your errors and practice it to perfection.

P.S., Did you really read the book, even I a 14 year old could understand it after reading just the first part, plus he give a lot of fact for deep practice for the violin.


I quite often have difficulty doing this in a formal way, but my technique is to 'fool' myself into feeling like I am gigging live, where I always feel more comfortable and relaxed.

So what we do in my band is play a couple of songs which really get us in the mood without worrying about technique, accuracy or anything other than enjoying the flow. Typically somewhere into our second song we just 'click' and from that point on we are in a groove for the next couple of hours.

When practicing alone I can never get to that point, so my solo practice is concerned much more with exercises and repetition to improve a particular phrase or technique. But it is very mechanical - I don't get in the groove on my own at all.


I am reading The Little Book of Talent , while striving to apply his pronciples in my practice. Two of those concepts have proven to be highly effective for me: "never mistake mere practice for accomplishment" and "the image of an exhausted, drenched in sweat, sportsman in the court ahen nobody is seeing him. Also it has been useful to address my ability to concentrate with exercises apart from the practice sessions and also during them. All of this in a nut- shell is taking responsibity for the oucome of your practice.


A good way to ensure concentration while practicing:

  1. choose an excercise you cannot perform right now but that you feel you can perform in a period of practice (10 min, 30 min or 60 min)
  2. practice without rest, until you can perform it PERFECTLY!, not the slightest error, for a number of repetitions.

The Must of having to perform it perfectly won´t let your mind wander. If you take to much time, either the goal is too much for you or your mind is wandering, evaluate, reset goal if necessary, take a rest if necessary, play it in your mind, and return to the task as soon as possible.

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