Yes of course the knowledge I already have helps a lot. I could intuitively/automatically read music, had a good grounding in theory, was experienced in performance and interpretation, and had developed an ear (which continued to develop since then because of my love of music). But I think the greatest contributor to learning quickly is that music taught me how to learn.
The main thing I learned earlier was that practice time is sacred. I thought of it this way, I did a radio broadcast once in Europe for estimated 3 million people. That is a defining concert in a musicians life. But in fact, each concert is a defining moment that can't be repeated, the small ones and the big ones. These times are sacred, you must open yourself up to let the best music possible happen. The single largest contributor to that is your preparation.
So I realized that each single practice session that leads up to a concert (or any type of performance) must have this same care and consideration as the performance. There is no time to waste, the level of the skills you develop as a musician don't allow you to mindlessly practice, or make needless mistakes.
Another way to look at it is that you also have to practice musical 'mindfulness' and attention with the music you are learning, or you won't be able to call on that in performance.
So, I get up a 5AM every morning for two hours, because that is the only time my world is quiet. And I am the least distracted. I record each session on very high quality recording equipment, and I review it later. For each session I write a 'pratice plan' the day before, consisting of the routine and focus areas. I play very slowly, I aim to make as few mistakes as possible. I'll 'set' a passage in my mind before I touch the keyboard. It pays off.
That's the idea, but there are other techniques that aid this, such as making sure to build in fun and creativity (sight reading, some noodling, learning classical improv). Additionally, through hard lessons, I learned not to take a technical approach to learning music (piano in this case), but a musical approach. In other words, I do not take on a new work and think about how technically I'll manage to play this - those are details that will simply get worked out as needed. From start to finish I approach it as a audience member, which is a musical approach. I start by deciding the musical results I want, and then just quietly figure whatever is needed to realize that. It's not that the technical aspects are not important, it's just that they aren't the focus of the work.
Hope that helps ...
Originally posted by jdsher:
Dan M: How many hours a day do you get to practice? Do you think that your early exposure to music theory made you progress so quickly? I have been playing about 6 months and finished the Faber book about 2 months ago. Now my teacher and I just work on arranged pieces and try to add some parts of the real thing when I can. I am only able to get about 30-60 minutes/day if I'm lucky.