Do you like to practice exercises? | Coursera Community

Do you like to practice exercises?

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When you learn how to play an instrument, you imagine yourself playing beautiful music. Many people learn how to play an instrument through learning a favorite song. But usually, if you study with a music teacher, you will be given exercises to practice and beautiful melody, but countless scales, and exercises based on all possible note combinations.

How do you feel about learning to play an instrument by playing exercises? Do you think they are important?

Do you like to practice exercises?

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Hard to tell. Exercises are that thing we are obliged to do when we are children, but make a competency we will not be able to conquer otherwise.

Nothing that we learn as adults will follow the same path as we generally lack the obsessive learning routine of school years.

That’s why the few chances to learn something as adults is to enjoy the process itself aiming at a personal creative project, supported by enthusiasm. That’s how I personally am learning to compose electronic music.

@ATP, these are interesting thoughts. In my experiences teaching all ages, I found that most adults understand the importance of building their skills through practicing exercises. Most kids dislike the process and barely practice. However, if all things are equal and an adult practices exercises as long and hard as a child, the child will be so much better. We probably learn faster as a child. But the adult understands and appreciates the importance of building skills through exercises.

It’s wonderful that you are enjoying the creative process and learning how to compose music.

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Another wonderful thread, @Judith!

Yes, since I learned piano from a professional pianist, I was given exercises (hand practices). Hannon is one of the best for finger exercises. I could tell the difference in my playing just by practicing the first few exercises. These are so important and improve flexibility so much.

However, I must confess, I am a bit lazy to practice (I do play well though, that is, I do practice :laughing:), and didn’t give much time as a whole (exercises + pieces) into it.

But yes, it’s very important to practice exercises, and I highly encourage everyone to do them.

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I think one strong difference between adults' and children's learning path, is that children learn as they MUST, and adults because they WANT.

Let's make a comparison with Language Learning: other than for job reasons, most people approach a new language because of a love story, however most part assumes that Grammar studying is the only way through, while practicing with natives/full immersion are more recommended.

Don't we say that "practicing wipes off grammar"? 

However I think it's not really a matter of "method", but a matter of point of view. Creativity is not really about "reaching a defined result" but more about "how many ways that result can be achieved".

In this sense, enjoying exercises as a hint for a creative activity is the real learning method which doesn't force on reaching a result, but about assimilating a principle in a playful way.


This is not comfortable. But learning by doing. I was a professional pianist, contests and etc. Really, I hated exercises. But I loved my results. Hockey players hate running. But they run and win games on the ice. Technique. Even hobbies should be professional. With sincere applauds. Do  I play the piano now? No. Other hobbies.

@Archisha Bhar , @ATP , you are both so good to have discussions with.

For a while, maybe still? educators were urged to explain why it’s so important to play exercises, or to memorize a multiplication table, or any other seemingly boring learning tool, grammar being another one.( although I still grimace when I think about having to diagram sentences...that was supposed to help you understand the parts of speech in a sentence.) I disliked learning music theory so much, couldn’t understand why I had to dissect a beautiful Beethoven symphony or learn how to create all kinds of strange chords. If only the connection was explained, why you need this and how it will help. That could make all the difference.

In order to be most creative, you need to have a wide array of tools you can use. Because I practiced exercises I can play anything I feel like on clarinet and can improvise. I couldn’t do that as well had I shunned those exercises. If you understand why you need to do something, such as practice endless hours of those dreaded exercises, then you might be more apt to put in the work. An adult understands this because of being an adult. Perhaps we need to help children have a better understanding of why they need to work on exercises?

@Archisha Bhar , I worked on those Hannon exercises too and they actually stretched my fingers so I could play better. 😀

@marina_h , I am so sorry you don’t play piano now. Hopefully, you will get back to it one day and just enjoy it. My sister was a gifted cellist who was pushed too much, and eventually quit. As a parent, it’s so hard to know when encouraging a talent turns it into a nightmare.

I also believe it is important to be the best you can be even at hobbies, but you still want to enjoy it. The process of improvement is magic.

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Thank you, @Judith.

That's absolutely correct, @marina_h. It's about the result. I agree.

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I do see that deep technical expertise makes a musician able to approach different instruments. 

Nevertheless, as this topic is of my interest and I studied it, I think that a separation between "exercise" on one hand, and "application" on the other, is part of a sociological model that doesn't really enhance individual talents -- rather still points from economical urges, trying to mass as much human resources in. Do we need more farmers than engineers? (©️)  Let's open farming schools. 

= Do what Society expects you to do, and you will have a fine life.

In general, however, an exercise is meant as an artificial obstacle to be "searched for" in the attempt to verify one's own level in the field of interest: Personal Challenging. 

What is the boring part of EXs for real, is not of their own being "difficoult", but when piling them up looking like a dark gallery to see the way out sooner or never.

EXs are meant to grant a gradual assimilation in order however to get ready to real situations. This is why EXs are just Models of reality.  

= Give your talent to the world and we’ll have a balanced Society. (my idea of Jesus’ message)

@ATP , people who do what society doesn’t expect them to do often find tremendous personal success. Sometimes this is what’s most important. It was expected that my sister would be a great cellist, but she wasn’t happy so she quit. She is happy setting up music exhibitions at Lincoln Center Library.

I wouldn’t call exercises models of reality. They help you attain the reality you seek. They are tools used to achieve desired results.

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I wouldn’t call exercises models of reality.

I hope we match what we mean. 

When a person is able to follow their own ideas step by step (whether or not their path is inspired to other people: something known -- or experimentally: something no one likely did before) they usually focus on a “next level” of expertise.

I mean, when a (creative) workflow gets broken -- when I see that I can’t just fully play my intentions, then I try to fill the gap with the desired level of skill.

So this is the main difference you quoted above between doing an exercise passively (without ever understanding what is that meant for), and a conscious determined approach to a “Model” of my intentions such, that I can reach it gradually.

Actually I mean, pilots don’t learn flying by crashing a plane after another, but using a Simulator, which makes them experiment a “model of reality” targeted at a speccific issue, for them to Automate the reaction.

This is the main difference between Conditioning a Response and Building a Workflow.

Put the word “Music” somewhere and I’d be in topic. Since ART is the abstraction of any human creative activity.   

@ATP thanks for clarifying.

Just as a P.S, I enjoy exercises . Having a goal that can be accomplished is always an exciting prospect for me. Even though they are not meant to be performed or enjoyed by others, I found many to be beautiful in their ability to push me to further success.

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The desire to get a certain target may recall old school patterns, where learning is necessarily massified so often we don’t get the point, just know that we have to do it day-by-day©

When as adults this is up to us, this mind-pattern definitively may lead us to procrastinate, pile up good intentions and find us facing a wall of to-do lists and give up. 

Until something cracks, as when I found myself in the urge to accomplish a goal involving that desired knowledge, as I had to create my own soundtrack for a certain video and dive in a program to master it right off, spending whole days stuck onto it, rather than planning “regular exercise day by day”

 This opens to the truth that learning is a matter of spiritual necessity: we need a fire inside us that burns knowledge and turns it into flesh and nerves. Where the distinction between Exercise and Application is just a nightmare to forget between us and our childhood.

This is why our job should always be a personal expression rather than a reaction, in order for that path to make us grow and contribute.  

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what is a P.S?  

@ATP P.S. means a “post script” , or sort of like “by the way...” It’s usually used in a letter, when you want to add something at the end.

….I just remembered that the Beatles had a hit song called, “P.S. I love you”.

@ATP ,not everyone procrastinates. And children do as much as adults. There is no doubt that “necessity is the mother of invention “, when you needed to find a solution, your motivation and perseverance led you to it. But wouldn’t it have been better if you already knew what to do, rather than need to search for the solution and teach yourself? Knowing the importance of gaining needed knowledge should ignite that fire. I know if I practice certain finger patterns as a result of an exercise, when I encounter it in music I will have no trouble executing it.

Reactions in music are important. 

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@Judith If you mean Reaction as keeping the Workflow, everyone agrees this is perhaps the point in music, creating a continuous atmosphere to bring you somewhere else (think to John Cage :D) but I rather think to the idea of being in a creative "trance" state (ref. Daniel Goleman) which implies not to have to think over what you're doing (which I said as having the knowledge in the flesh rather than in mind).

If I however, develop another meaning of "Reaction", then I tend to disagree over the idea that practicing exercises makes me ready IN CASE OF... 

Technically, this is the basic idea of training (in Latin "Exercitus" = Army) so what better idea of "being ready to anything". Nevertheless, this always implies a narrow range of events and in fact we developed Superstition as still today we are not able to face disastrous natural events. 

If my life was all focused on "having to be ready to whatever", then that would not be a life, but a psychosis, since a creative path necessarily will put myself towards new choices: will people like this? or  stop listening my music? what will I eat then? Otherwise it's conformism.

As @Archisha Bhar  and @marina_h agreed above "it's all about the result", but I agree just up to a limit which is rather about Time:

if we go too beyond in future, that is no more a vision, but rather a projection of myself where I am safe and successful - but this means I'm refusing any dilemma, any creative struggle in the place of conformism and personal safety.

Even if you love what you study (= say, Music), you'll always stumble in "that tedious Subject" you hope you just get a good score and forget it!

Exercises then can be meant in two basic ways: 
1) passing it, by providing the asked result, so you can head to your desired goal (= going out and have fun); 

or 2) Exploring the process that leads to a certain result, to be seen as just one of many possible events (see the course Intro to Mathematical Thinking).

Loving a subject is mainly about living in the second situation, when you don't focus on skipping the question right off, but about exploring it (= “How does it work?”). This is where Exercise and Application are the one and the same. 

@ATP , what I meant by reaction in music is music is an expression. When you play music with others, you react to them and they react to you. You can have whole conversations as you play. But if you want to express musically what you need to, you would be subconsciously reaching for the skills you developed as a result of exercises you learned.

I agree that you can’t become obsessive about being ready for things, but it makes sense ( at least to me) to have some degree of readiness for things that are important to you.

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As I said, Making Art -- in its ethereal, someway nonsensical appearence -- can be instead seen as an abstraction of any other human professional activity, in the way it is a personal path of RESEARCH. 

  • When we barely satisfy a request, that is not Research : it’s a set of skills we gained by Continuous Training -- But Continuous Training doesn’t really make the very Personal Expression. Any living being can be trained to specific results and get an excellence. Though, they are not FREE.
  • In our Functional still Superstitious societies, we are accustomed and see Exercises as something coming “from Outside” (Law) = some duties to satisfy in order to get a prize/permission/aknowledgement.

ART, I mean, is what is most similar to the Natural Process of Evolution, and Playfulness is its main aspect.

  • Playfulness is an Unconditioned Process of Knowledge -- making something without the Anxiety for the Result. Is about Exploring the subject. This is Loving Life.

We are Explorers, not Executors, and this always implied RISKS. I don’t believe the distinction between Creative people and Linear-minded people. I only believe that some children are raised up in the Anxiety for the Expectation.

I seem I am repeating the same thing over and over.

If you @Judith don’t appreciate Playfulness in a Teacher’s or Professional view, I think I have no more things to contribute with. If you are fine with your level, I can’t discuss with it. I just don’t agree. 

@ATP , productive discussions are what makes a successful community or forum. People don’t always agree. It’s probably preferable that they don’t agree. You have presented many unique views. When they are questioned, or commented on, it doesn’t  mean your view is being disregarded. Sometimes what you or others have written, needs further clarification or thought. This means that what you have expressed is being considered and pondered. Saying you “can’t discuss it” shuts a discussion down. It’s important to remain open to helping people understand you and to continue having meaningful discourse.

Why do you think I don’t appreciate playfulness? It has been the backbone of successful teaching, but it’s not the all. I am not a closed minded person as you implied by saying, “if you are fine with your level”...I am never fine with my level. I hope everyone is interested in growing, thinking, creating, learning and evolving into the best we can be at the time. 

I question if anxiety is always negative. It can be a driving force to accomplish. It’s how you deal with it, not that it exists. 

A few thoughts about exercises I wanted to express…..when you think about exercises, you think about something prescribed. Here is something you can do to make it better...but we are all individuals, with our own issues and our own needs. I would ask students to create their own exercises  based on where their problems were. Playing fast trills on a clarinet for example, is not anything you would find in a book. Bit you can make up a series of trills to practice and therefore improve. Think of areas you need to strengthen and create exercises to help you. This can make the process of playing exercises more exciting.

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I think this discussion would tend to absolute fuzzyness anywhere outside Music.

Music or Dance or Academical Painting (and Circus Acrobatics) are those fields where Sheer Exercise Patterns are the only way to success. You cannot undergo any of those fields if you are not determined to the blindness to such a role;

anyone who went these kind of schools can’t but just do what their teachers have planned for them. Expressing “one’s own personality” based on Picasso to Basquiat legends, means going nowhere.

If you want any success in any other field, you should inspire to those kind of professionals where Training is your spare-time hobby.

I think no one can do that if they have no real harmony to their target. If you are not sure of that, you will be torn apart within short.

Anxiety, Paranoia, Rage: bless on those who can manipulate their feelings and turn them into Creative forces, Forecasting a failure, … cleaning the bathroom! 

But I mean, if children undergo Affective Blackmail concerning a certain behaviour, you will never have any Musician Dancer Acrobat Surgeon or Soldier who are doing their job as such, rather than as a means to an existential illusion. 

@Judith thanks for clearing out