The difference was in how they spent this time. The elite players were spending almost three times more hours than the average players on deliberate practice — the uncomfortable, methodical work of stretching your ability.The scheduling of practice time was also different between elite and average players:
The average players, they discovered, spread their work throughout the day. A graph included in the paper, which shows the average time spent working versus the waking hours of the day, is essentially flat.
The elite players, by contrast, consolidated their work into two well-defined periods. When you plot the average time spent working versus the hours of the day for these players, there are two prominent peaks: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
In fact, the more elite the player, the more pronounced the peaks. For the best of the best — the subset of the elites who the professors thought would go on to play in one of Germany’s two best professional orchestras — there was essentially no deviation from a rigid two-sessions a day schedule.Assuming that the students that faculty had picked to be "elite" or "average" actually corresponded to those who went on to have careers (a completely different question), we can draw the following conclusions on how to rise to a high level of playing:
- Pick the best times of day to practice and stick to them. Every day.
- Take the time to do the detail work. Hands separately. Slowly with metronome. Multiple repetitions. Work at problem spots until they're fixed.
Apparently those who do the work and do it consistently actually have more relaxed lives than those who don't. Considering how difficult a life in the arts can be, a relaxed attitude towards life is a very noble aspiration indeed.