I love Chopin, at the moment I am learning to play Nocturne in E Flat Op.9  no.2.

 When I practice the piano I use layered learning, breaking down the learning process into different steps.

How do I do that first I divide the piece into sections, sections that make sense like the end a phrase, which not necessarily the end of the line of music. Small sections work best.

I usually start by using separate hands and then putting the two together, but not until each hand on its own is perfect. There is a lot to consider, timing, rhythm, flow, phrasing and expression.  Usually I only aim for half an hour quality time with my piano, find little and often works best. My playing is not just about my pieces, I like a bit of variation:  warm up, an exercise, some sight reading.  My main aim is get a reproducible performance. Often when re-visit some of my old pieces i am amazed at the improvement.

Psychologists say:  A stimulus enters long-term memory (that is, it is "learned") after it has been attentively observed 7 times. But if an "incorrect" stimulus is first learned, it then takes an average of 35 (!) repetitions to learn the "corrected" stimulus. Learning it right the first time is five times easier than re-learning after learning it incorrectly.

Wow - it is better to learn something right first time around!!

Can the layered learning that I apply to my piano playing be applied to my interpreting? 
Answer yes!! - Its about breaking down the process into steps then repeating each until I can get a reproducible performance.

It is this type of learning that provides the deliberate practice that improves my interpreting performance not all at once but with time.

And the Chopin?...  I am getting there, but it takes time and commitment.


After a fantastic summer of sport in the UK, there were many outstanding performances and memorable moments.  But what is it that made those athletes a success? Is it just natural talent or is it something more?  Research tells us it is something more. Athletes that win gold medals win, not because they are different but because they train more effectively.

What does their training involve?

·         Setting goals

·         Getting  immediate feedback

·         Focusing on both technique and outcome

Recent research would indicate that expertise is achieved through deliberate practice (see Hunt 2006, Ericsson et al 2007). Research suggests it takes 10,000 hours of practice to develop expertise, that is years of hard work!

As an interpreter it is easy enough to acquire knowledge through training courses, skilled and knowledgeable teachers and specialist books, but is that enough? Is some deliberate practice a must for interpreters too?  

What is deliberate practice? What does it involve?  It needs a bit of passion for interpreting; it needs dedication and belief in self.  The most important thing here, well at least for me, is belief. I believe by doing CPD, which is properly designed, intended to focus on applying some knowledge, a new skill or a tip from a colleague, and practicing it until I can reproduce it, then my performance will improve.

The price of win a gold medal is extremely high and only a few achieve it, not everybody is willing to give up 10,000 hours in the pursuit of such achievement, but by understanding the key to being better  is to do some focused practice, then anyone can be better.

Is this an opportunity for a little bit of expertise development?

The NRCPD now “requires all communication professionals to record 12 hours of professional development activity to renew their registration in 2013” (NRCPD website 2012). This number rises to 35 hours from 2014 onwards.  

Ericsson et all (2007). The making of an Expert  The Harvard Business Review. 

Hunt, E.  (2006).  Expertise, Talent and Social Encouragement in Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert performance. Anders Ericsson, Neil Charness, Paul Feltovich, and Robert Hoffman (Eds.).

http://www.nrcpd.org.uk/news.php?news_id=45 accessed 22nd November 2012