You get what you measure

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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twang
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You get what you measure

Post by twang » Wed Mar 29, 2017 11:09 pm

It's an adage in my line of work that "you get what you measure". The corollary is "You don't get what you don't measure." For example ,if you measure schedule you get the schedule you want but at the expense of unmeasured attributes like cost or quality. If you add quality measures you have be careful you somehow measure quality so you don't end up with something like more tests but less quality. (It's easy to add tests that don't measure the attributes of quality you are after.)

I've been mulling this over with respect to practice-- especially in regards to the last mile when trying to get a piece ready for performance. I've been trying to think of useful ways to measuring how I play a piece. As I start, I've been toying with the following kind of metric:
  • A) Assign points for different types of flaws (so low scores are better scores)
    • 1 point for minor technical issues that an audience likely wouldn't notice-- e.g., a minor buzz, a clipped note, etc...
    • 2 points for more obvious technical flaws that an audience would notice-- e.g., a big buzz, wrong notes, getting lost and having to reroute
    • 4 points for a flow that disrupts the but doesn't stop the flow-- e.g. forgetting, for the space of a beat or two, what the next phrase is
    • 10 points for a horrible flub along the way
    • 100 points for a crash that stops the music
    B) Measuring how many times in a row I can get a score of 3 or less, and maybe how many tries it takes to first score of 3 or less.

Admittedly there a number of problems with this, but even in the little bit of experimenting I've done, it does seem to work wonders for creating focus, and artificial performance pressure.

I'd like to hear from others if they've tried anything remotely like this or if you have ideas to improve it.
"An amateur is he who takes up the study of an instrument as a relaxation from his serious occupations." -- Sor

RectifiedGTRz
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Re: You get what you measure

Post by RectifiedGTRz » Wed Mar 29, 2017 11:46 pm

twang:

I may not be getting what you are saying above.... are you saying you practice flaws in your performances? Or potential flaws?

I may be missing the point, but I would think that is a disaster waiting to happen. It's good to try to recover when making a mistake during practice, once you learn a piece, but if you are finding you are messing up in the same spots, go back to the score and do some serious wood shedding. By all means do not "practice" your flubs, mistakes, flaws, whatever. Be confident in your playing abilities. If you can't play a piece without messing up maybe twice or three times, you need to practice more.

When I memorize a piece (after I can play through the music at some type of consistent tempo), I start playing that piece in different ways: get a metronome and try to play a few ticks faster than what you will perform at, until you can play it then turn it up a few more ticks faster. Then, go back to the original tempo, and I bet you'll be more confident in playing the piece. Also, I would practice playing the whole piece LOUDLY, then playing the whole piece softly.... do this a couple of times then add in the dynamics of the score and your interpretations. All of this helps my mind and muscles to solidify the music under my control.

If you want to create performance pressure, take your cell phone and video yourself. Go to a park and play....

Too many things can happen in a recital: a baby starts crying, some person passes gas, another burps, cell phone rings... you know, whatever! Tune out everyone and play the darn music! Get lost in it, and once it's GAME TIME, you would do best to have an ego bigger than President Trump (or Segovia!). Because once you mess up, no matter how small, if you don't care (and you can't) you will just keep on playing. Unless you are being recorded (and that's an entirely different frame of mind), chances are no one will remember if you mess up, whether you forget a section, buzz, squeak, sweat, whatever, if you keep going and make the music yours.

I like the term "the last mile" you used above!
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twang
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Re: You get what you measure

Post by twang » Thu Mar 30, 2017 12:08 am

RectifiedGTRz wrote: I may not be getting what you are saying above.... are you saying you practice flaws in your performances? Or potential flaws?
Oh, I'd never do that. I always aim for perfection. But, invariably, I'll make mistakes-- you know the odd ones that seem to show up at random places; or only show up one in ten times, or because the dog barked. The metric is the quality of the performance-- that's what I'm after. It's probably just the phrasing of the adage that confused you.
"An amateur is he who takes up the study of an instrument as a relaxation from his serious occupations." -- Sor

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bear
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Re: You get what you measure

Post by bear » Thu Mar 30, 2017 12:23 am

This all seems a little anal retentive for me. Perfection does not exist. All the pressure gets in the way of fun.
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Re: You get what you measure

Post by BellyDoc » Thu Mar 30, 2017 1:13 am

You're lost in the land of surrogate outcomes.

Play the guitar. It's not a robotic function. Let your brain do what it does best and just give it the opportunity to grow these connections while you enjoy the music you create. Accept the "mistakes" as novel challenges to play with until you outgrow them or become disinterested.
"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." -Sir Isaac Newton

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portalesman
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Re: You get what you measure

Post by portalesman » Thu Mar 30, 2017 1:07 pm

Just enjoy the ride
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guit-box
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Re: You get what you measure

Post by guit-box » Thu Mar 30, 2017 1:23 pm

You're getting the typical public forum response to your question, immediately dismissing the validity of the question. I've never gone to this level of assigning points to anything, but there is a phrase that I find helpful. "Don't practice until you didn't make a mistake, practice until you can't make a mistake". That is what is required of a world class musician. I may not reach that level with my classical guitar playing, but that doesn't mean I don't want to strive for it. Working on smaller sections and practicing them until I can play them at least 4-8 times in a row without a mistake is critical to reaching a high level. Then you piece the smaller sections together until you're finally playing the entire piece. I like David Russell's advice to do this but starting from the end of the piece. That way you've effectively ended up playing the later measures of the music more than the beginning and so as you progress towards the end everything is more familiar and more practiced.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

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Re: You get what you measure

Post by Luis_Br » Thu Mar 30, 2017 2:52 pm

I think you are looking for the wrong flaws. As guit-box said, you should be way ahead and avoid the flaw before it happens. A good player does not bother because of the buzz, he actually bother because hand was not in the best position, finger was too tense, fingering could be better, sound was not the way he wanted to. A top player plays 10 times in a row without a buzz or "wrong" note, but he is still not satisfied and he still keeps the metronome way down, because he sees so many things that are still not ok, and you won't even notice.
You will get better when you change your points to the means instead of the results. You should actually penalty an unnecessary tense finger, a finger not right behind the fret, left thumb too much pressure, hand and elbow in bad position, right hand shaking too much, right wrist not loose, wrong nail attack, unused fingers not in rest position, failure to make good movement anticipation and so on. Make a video of yourself playing and look for correcting these flaws instead of buzz and wrong notes.

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twang
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Re: You get what you measure

Post by twang » Fri Mar 31, 2017 6:38 pm

guit-box wrote:You're getting the typical public forum response to your question, immediately dismissing the validity of the question.
Thank You.
guit-box wrote:I've never gone to this level of assigning points to anything, but there is a phrase that I find helpful. "Don't practice until you didn't make a mistake, practice until you can't make a mistake".
I have a certain fondness for that expression.

Let's back up a minute. Here I am, I've worked all the technical details and now am trying to get to that very place where "you can't make a mistake". How do you do that? How do you know you've arrived?

Back to my premise of "you get what you measure", how might you measure this? You might say you're there if every time you play it, you play it perfectly-- technically _and_ musically. That's unrealistic and not helpful. A more practical statement of the goal might be: every attempt would count as a satisfying performance in front of a live audience. Seems better.

But again, back to my anal-retentive question, how might you measure that and what might you do in practice to get there? If for a week, I played it satisfactorily five times in a row with no unsatisfactory attempts, perhaps I'd declare success. Well, that's easy enough, except for the part of judging if any attempt met the criteria of being satisfying. As a performer I might find several random things to be unsatisfied about that the audience might never notice-- seems like that should count-- except I still want to work on those things.

That's the kind of thinking that led me to the idea of a scoring system. Just imagine a panel of judges holding up score cards after each try. What criteria might they be using?

I am very aware that applying numbers to this kind of thing is fraught with peril; still seems like an interesting exploration. If you don't like the premise or it's all too nerdy/anal/analytical for you, I get it.
"An amateur is he who takes up the study of an instrument as a relaxation from his serious occupations." -- Sor

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bear
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Re: You get what you measure

Post by bear » Fri Mar 31, 2017 6:57 pm

guit-box wrote:You're getting the typical public forum response to your question, immediately dismissing the validity of the question.
Really?
There is a science to the way the brain learns. The basics are that the brain will incorporate knowledge quicker in a relaxed "fun" state than in a pressured anxiety producing state.

If learning is the goal, than creating an optimal environment is essential. Each of us has his/her own learning style and for some even the basics can be ignored if the optimal environment can be created.
Personally, the regimen outlined would not work for me (as least with cg).

I believe what this forum does is provide alternative modalities. They may be accepted or rejected by the reader.
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2006 Michele Della Guistina Concert 10 string 650mm ce
2005 Jose Ramirez 4E 650mm ce
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Re: You get what you measure

Post by BellyDoc » Fri Mar 31, 2017 8:37 pm

guit-box wrote: "Don't practice until you didn't make a mistake, practice until you can't make a mistake".
Interestingly, this sentiment, typically phrased as "An amateur practices until they get it right, but a professional practices until they can't get it wrong," is heavily used in surgical education... and I was guilty for years of propagating the same lunacy.

It's a convenient falsehood, used primarily to shame neophytes into working their skill acquisitions by correlating their lack of technical expertise to a lack of "professionalism". In essence, we're calling our trainees personally flawed, because they're not yet independently competent. Once one really understands that this is what's happening, it becomes obvious how poorly we're treating these decent people. Of course, this has been studied at the level of surgical education research and has unsurprisingly been found to be a sub-optimal technique, but even if it worked, it would be unethical. Of course, it gets internalized anyhow, because one characteristic common among many who are highly effective and successful is a constant baseline status of personal discontent.

There aren't any really good algorithmic approaches to skills acquisitions. Again, this has been studied. Spending the time to practice, engaging in earnest self reflection, and working with expert guidance are generally useful, but different learners benefit differently from each of these. Militarizing the learning process doesn't help everyone, although for some, maybe it works just fine.

I certainly won't nay-say an analytic approach to anything without being forced to recognize the degree of hypocrisy that I'm engaging in to do so, but I think it's important to recognize when what we do or say is just part of the craziness of who we are... and not some sort of window into deeper underlying truth. It's ok to be crazy, maybe even good. If so, it's even better to be crazy and know it.
"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." -Sir Isaac Newton

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Rick Beauregard
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Re: You get what you measure

Post by Rick Beauregard » Fri Mar 31, 2017 10:59 pm

I like where you're going with this twang. And for all the strictly right brainers out there, I don't expect that you'll get it. Learning is not just all fun and flow. It is both a left brain and right brain process. Other posts talk about performance anxiety. This is when we spend all our time in the practice room in the left brain learning a piece, then walk out on stage (or in my case the video light goes on) and our right brain takes over and we crash.

But back to the question. I like the idea. I use metrics to score my daily practice sessions based on time and how I feel it went w/r goals for the day. Hours + 1 for met the goals, 0 for not so much, -1 for sh..ty day! Over time the data and trends help me focus.

The "last mile" thing is a challenge for me too. I find myself deducting points near the end of trying to learn a piece. I'll have to try your method.
All this time I thought I was making music; it was making me.
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bear
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Re: You get what you measure

Post by bear » Sat Apr 01, 2017 1:48 am

Rick Beauregard wrote:I like where you're going with this twang. And for all the strictly right brainers out there, I don't expect that you'll get it. Learning is not just all fun and flow. It is both a left brain and right brain process. Other posts talk about performance anxiety. This is when we spend all our time in the practice room in the left brain learning a piece, then walk out on stage (or in my case the video light goes on) and our right brain takes over and we crash.

But back to the question. I like the idea. I use metrics to score my daily practice sessions based on time and how I feel it went w/r goals for the day. Hours + 1 for met the goals, 0 for not so much, -1 for sh..ty day! Over time the data and trends help me focus.

The "last mile" thing is a challenge for me too. I find myself deducting points near the end of trying to learn a piece. I'll have to try your method.
Maybe I should turn in my PH.D in Developmental Psychology/
2013 Jeff Medlin '37 Hauser 640mm sp
2006 Michele Della Guistina Concert 10 string 650mm ce
2005 Jose Ramirez 4E 650mm ce
2005 Manuel Rodriguez Model C3F 650mm sp
2003 Manuel Rodriguez Model D 650mm ce

Whiteagle
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Re: You get what you measure

Post by Whiteagle » Sat Apr 01, 2017 3:17 am

Hi Twang. I can't see why your method of trying to eliminate errors wouldn't work for you. I am wondering whether doing scoring whilst you are playing could be a distraction. I aim to be able to play a piece 5 times in a row without errors but yes we could write a thousand page book on how do you define an error so it is going to be our personal judgement in the practice room. Judging musicality is much more difficult and I don't think you can score it and I find recording myself the best way to be able to judge that. Good luck with your system.

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Re: You get what you measure

Post by Rick Beauregard » Sat Apr 01, 2017 7:00 am

bear wrote:Each of us has his/her own learning style and for some even the basics can be ignored if the optimal environment can be created.
Personally, the regimen outlined would not work for me (as least with cg.
Well said Dr. bear. :contrat:
All this time I thought I was making music; it was making me.
2015 Steve Ganz "Solidarity"
1980 Dauphin D30
1962 Fender pre-CBS P-Bass
National Triolian Uke ca.1930
Almost as many fly rods as guitars
_/) _/)
_/)

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