Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A New Look at the Pareto Principle in Music

From Wikipedia we have "The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes."

(See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle for more.)

Applied to learning music we get this, 80% of the benefit of a practice session is gained from 20% of the effort. Could this be true?

When I get started in the morning I usually play over a tune slowly and carefully. I pay attention to how my notes are tuning in to the open strings. i listen to the sympathetic resonance. This really warms up my ear as well as my fingers and arm.

Playing the tune through the second time is easier. If I play the tune five times it's beginning to sound solid by the end. If the second time through sounds 80% as good as the fifth time, then we have an example of the 80/20 rule.

Until this relationship struck my mind, I had not been aware that practicing by fives lets you employ the Pareto Principle.

Another way to look at it is to ask how much can you gain by additional practice.

If you typically practice about a half an hour. then you could enhance your ability 25% by continuing two more hours. (The half hour is 20% of two and a half. The marginal increase in results of 100% over 80% is 25%.)

How well I play, or how well you play is subjective for us. Even so, I suspect there is at least some truth to the application of the 80/20 rule in music practicing.

One last thought. It may be the number of times you play the same passage, piece or etude. That may be the constraint that brings the 80/20 rule into play.

This concept has a little more detail, especially for music students, at the Music Lesson Plan blog.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

From the Academy to the Agora

The turning point in philosophy came , for me, when I was done with about 27 hours of grad level philosophy courses. I was about 80% done with the first draft of my thesis. It was in aesthetics.

I had pursued this course of study right after getting my Master of Music degree in Composition and Violin. I intended to fill in my two greatest interests with credentialization.

At that moment I was faced with a choice of how to spend my Thursday nights. Would I take one more class in philosophy, or attend the local Toastmasters Club.

I had heard the recommendations from Jim Rohn and Brian Tracy. Finally, I went to the local club to see what it was.

The value of the educational program at Toastmasters was immediately apparent. As I weighed the choice, I thought, $300 plus for the 3 hour philosophy credit, or $30 for Toastmasters. Both were meeting on Thursday night.

I cold not see the philosophy class as being ten times as valuable as Toastmasters. I made the decision on that basis and never looked back.

One thing leads to another. I was lead to the philosophy of success by the Toastmasters experience.

Preparing short talks on subjects of my choice deepened my study of what success means. The opportunities in the Toastmasters program have directly brought me more personal success. It’s been a good fit.

I think of it as a community service, too. Helping new members develop their communication and leadership skills enhances the whole community.

The Academe is cloistered and sequestered. The Agora is the marketplace. This is where ideas are ultimately tested and proven. I may have started my quest in philosophy in the academic environment. Now it continues in the day to day give and take with people in the normal work-a-day world.