A world of comparisons and trade-offs

Following up from last night, I want to hammer home an important point:

We live in a world of limitations.

That means that the comparative value of your time spent doing certain activities is more important than an absolute value.

Practicing scales will improve your guitar technique, but will it improve your technique as much as spending the same amount of time practicing actual musical pieces?

The idea that students should practice music rather than scales isn’t exactly anathema to the orthodox music education practitioner; the traditionalist would say, “Practice both!”

We don’t have unlimited time on this earth to practice all of our scales and get learn music for performance. When you have limited time, you have to spend it practicing what is MOST important – what is comparatively valuable, rather than absolutely valuable.

Trade-offs are also present. When you practice scales, you aren’t progressing your repertoire. When you practice repertoire, your scales will suffer. Of course, any scales in your music are… well, in the music, so you will practice them. If you read a new piece that has a scale run in it (this is actually rare, by the way – scales represent tone collections like keys, they don’t musical sense by themselves), you might have to slow down for that passage.

Unless you have time to burn, practicing music is generally the most efficient and moves you closest toward your goal – performance of music.

This principle should be considered in all aspects of a limited, busy life. With a writing group, you can definitely get a benefit, but is it a greater comparative benefit than you would get doing something else? Maybe, as a few people have noted, you benefit from the deadlines associated with the group, and therefore the trade-off of not being maximally efficient with your time is worth it.

It’s going to depend on who you are and who is in the group.

I don’t sell absolute methods, because people are not absolute. Why I try to do instead is to provide the right framework and mindset for deciding how to spend your time, with a few concrete examples and some time-tested advice to help an individual design a creative process to meet his or her own goals.

Keys to Prolific Creativity will be out in March!

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