What do we know about what happens neurologically and biologically when we practise?

Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
I'm curious about the scientific aspect of practising a skill, especially drums.

Let's say somebody practises a double stroke roll for one hour per day on the pad, paying attention to all of the key elements of 'deliberate practice'.

Over the course of that hour, that week, that month, what is happening in the brain and the nervous system? We know there is a degree of plasticity in the brain, which physically reshapes itself and develops new neurological pathways to accommodate the new action, and a degree of musculature damage and repair, just as in somebody new to weight training. We also know there is a process called myelination, which seems to be linked with the insulation of a neurological pathway to reduce 'spillage'...

What else do we know? Do we have any idea as to the quantisation of practising something? Under 'ideal conditions', how many repetitions/hours/days/weeks of repeated motion does the brain and nervous system need to begin and complete this process?

I'm really keen for your thoughts, especially any peer reviewed articles on the topic. There are a few floating around online, and Noa Kageyama's Bulletproof Musician website has some great articles. Does anyone know any good ones?

I'm less interested in the more anecdotal and divisive theories. Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule is pseudo-scientific, and Kenny Werner's 'Effortless Mastery' is totally anecdotal and a touch spiritual.
 
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boomstick

Silver Member
I watched a documentary series called "The Brain with David Eagleman" that covered this subject, among others. It was a few years back, so I don't remember all the details, but there was something about developing the neural pathways for repetitive motion, and their example was a cup stacker. It was an interesting perspective with regard to drumming.
 

Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
I watched a documentary series called "The Brain with David Eagleman" that covered this subject, among others. It was a few years back, so I don't remember all the details, but there was something about developing the neural pathways for repetitive motion, and their example was a cup stacker. It was an interesting perspective with regard to drumming.

Perfect, thank you. I'll look it up.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Decades ago, we were taught in school that once you achieve “adulthood”, your brain stops developing. Thankfully, those were the words of scared adults. We now know the brain doesn’t stop adapting to new stimuli.

In one of many interviews, Simon Phillips talks about working on new patterns and how he feels his brain is creating new pathways while embedding the patterns into his memory.

Too bad I can’t learn to go to bed at a decent hour. That part of my brain is on the fritz.
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I'm not sure there's anything more to glean from this. For drummers, the takeaway for me is again, more practice. Reconfiguring neural pathways is the real magic here, which is done by practice. I'm pretty sure you covered all the major points. Repetition creates new neural pathways. The continued use of these pathways cause the myelin layering (insulation) process to happen. The more myelin, the more info can flow.

So neurons re-configure, new circuits are formed, and then these new circuits grow more efficient and faster with the myelin layering process. I'm not sure there's anything more.
 
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C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Per one scientific review I read some time ago, drumming might make us smarter. It stimulates the brain's hemispheres simultaneously and in relatively equal proportion. The upshot is that a drummer's brain begins to function in a unified fashion. Perceptive and analytical capacities flourish in turn. These claims are largely hypotheses of a correlative nature, of course, but their basis seems grounded and rational.

The fact remains that we know very little about the mind. It's part biology, part magic. If we possess an immutable and immaterial spark -- an elusive essence that animates and propels us -- only the ghostly microscope of metaphysics can reveal our true potential. Science is limited to the realm of atomic particles. We might be made of a great deal more than protons, electrons, and neutrons.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Man that's a loaded question-I'd have to give my anatomy-physiology lectures so everybody understands how the body works first-then there is all sorts of studies on athletic, music, etc and how things impact brain (sensory and motor),muscle, bone, hormone, cell signalling, transcription and protein translation. But still with all the information I can't tell you how consciousness emerges from all the activity or really how anything really works with absolute impunity-still all being discovered and sorted. We know the hippocampus is instrumental in storage of memories in connections with neocortex (and other parts of brain) and it takes time-a week or two, I think , before it is really stored as long-term memory. That's why memorizing for exams on short term isn't the same thing as really "learning"=retain in long term memory. Takes time for muscles and nerves to respond to activity also-changes in ionic channels, enzymes regarding metabolism and contraction, etc. Motor skills memory is processed in cerebellum where there are these reverberating circuits. You have to realize our senses provide us with a representation of reality-given the sensitivities of our senses and so we have a visual map in our visual cortex, auditory map in our auditory cortex, sensory and motor map of body in sensory-motor cortex, and even motor representations of learned skills n our brain of the world. That's why our senses can be fooled.Homonculus Sensory and Motor Cortex v2.png
 
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MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
I am in disagreement with the 10,000 hours idea. It does not take that long to learn something, or even master it. Yoyoka and company have demonstrated this.

10,000 hours is 416.666 days straight. Anyone need that much time to learn to tie shoes?

Perhaps all the different complexities, rhythms, patterns, etc., after 10,000 hours your library of skills is vast and you can be considered a master.

@Push pull stroke was given homework by @Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX . I dont remember the name of the rudiment, but I do remember he worked on it for about a month before being up to speed and comfortable with it. That's definitely not 10,000 hours.

Learning is learning. If you have been drumming for 50 years but have never tried a gravity blast, your brain doesnt know how to do it. I could then teach you in about an hour how to do it, and you would be able to. It's not going to take 10,000 hours.

Anyone who has gotten a job that has on the job training doesnt have to wait 10,000 hours until they can perform the task. You dont need 10,000 hours of driving to be able to do it.

This idea needs to go away.
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
I heard a lecture from this fellow a few years ago. He has studied the brain processes of learning and practising music and other skills. Has also written books and delivers lectures and courses around the world (pre covid).

https://courses.professional-development.com.au/books/

One thing I remember was the importance of learning a new coordination skill extremely slowly. Better to play the combinations of feet and hands one note at a time (vertically), rather than playing one line in time, adding another and adding another (horizontally). Muscle memory will develop more quickly this way.
There were many strong points, backed up by references and articles, but this one has worked for me.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
I am in disagreement with the 10,000 hours idea. It does not take that long to learn something, or even master it. Yoyoka and company have demonstrated this.

10,000 hours is 416.666 days straight. Anyone need that much time to learn to tie shoes?

Perhaps all the different complexities, rhythms, patterns, etc., after 10,000 hours your library of skills is vast and you can be considered a master.

@Push pull stroke was given homework by @Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX . I dont remember the name of the rudiment, but I do remember he worked on it for about a month before being up to speed and comfortable with it. That's definitely not 10,000 hours.

Learning is learning. If you have been drumming for 50 years but have never tried a gravity blast, your brain doesnt know how to do it. I could then teach you in about an hour how to do it, and you would be able to. It's not going to take 10,000 hours.

Anyone who has gotten a job that has on the job training doesnt have to wait 10,000 hours until they can perform the task. You dont need 10,000 hours of driving to be able to do it.

This idea needs to go away.

I think the 10,000 hours thing gets misinterpreted a lot.

I get what is being said by it: repetition will ensure mastery.

I think what we all have to do is set up a hierarchy of what "mastery" is.

For me, mastery is when you are pushing the limits and changing the paradigm of the given endeavor. For others, it might just be being able to ingrain the basic concepts...

Bach was a master; Davinci was a master; Frank Lloyd Wright was a master; Aristotle was a master; Henry Ford was a master; Baby Dodds was a master; the 1984 Garfield Cadets were masters; ...these entities were practiced enough to understand and expand the fundamental thinking in their discipline...and a lot of this does NOT have to do with physical repping. It also has to do with the hours spent in studying all elements of their craft.

I think as we get better at immersing ourselves in all of the aspects of our craft, we do not have to spend as much time physically repping to get better.

But being able to "perform the task" - for me - is not mastery. I think mastery starts when you can adapt the fundamentals of the task to any and all situations...when you can adjust on the fly, and see usage of the task in other situations.

For me:
Learning is not mastery....
Learning is the first step towards mastery. Learning is putting the key in the ignition, and turning it on.
Application is the next step towards mastery. Application is using the pedals, gears and steering wheel
Adaptation is the next step. Adaptation is accelerating, braking, turning left and right etc...assessing traffic flow
Experimentation is the next step. Experimentation is the first time you push the limits. How fast can I go? How hard can I take this turn?
Failure is the next step...and is actually happening in ALL of the steps...where you reassess what is happening. Having an accident, or blowing a tire
Discovery is the next step. What new parameters have you discovered having gone though the previous steps
Redefining is the next step. Where you are now seeing all the possibilites happening

I feel like, for me, most of the 10,000 hours happens in the cycle and repetition of Adaptation, Experimentation, Failure, Discovery, Redefining...and is a year/decades long process.

I also think that realizing that you are never done, that the activity you are in is ever evolving, and that you are part of a team on the same journey is a HUGE part of Mastery

sorry for maybe "waxing poetic" and babbling a bit, but I LOVE this kind of stuff
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
I am in disagreement with the 10,000 hours idea. It does not take that long to learn something, or even master it. Yoyoka and company have demonstrated this.

10,000 hours is 416.666 days straight. Anyone need that much time to learn to tie shoes?

Perhaps all the different complexities, rhythms, patterns, etc., after 10,000 hours your library of skills is vast and you can be considered a master.

@Push pull stroke was given homework by @Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX . I dont remember the name of the rudiment, but I do remember he worked on it for about a month before being up to speed and comfortable with it. That's definitely not 10,000 hours.

Learning is learning. If you have been drumming for 50 years but have never tried a gravity blast, your brain doesnt know how to do it. I could then teach you in about an hour how to do it, and you would be able to. It's not going to take 10,000 hours.

Anyone who has gotten a job that has on the job training doesnt have to wait 10,000 hours until they can perform the task. You dont need 10,000 hours of driving to be able to do it.

This idea needs to go away.
It's another way to say "5 years", but for most people that's too much of a commitment. If the terminology is changed to "minutes", then it seems like less work. Kinda like pricing something at $9.95 instead of $10.

In my experience, five years is about right to become competent in an art (photography, graphic design, drumming) and in the STEM disciplines (mechanical engineering, FORTRAN programming). However, the learning never stops and this is what separates the "can do" people from the "not worth it" people. I don't love FORTRAN programming and it's what stopped me from further learning and development in mechanical engineering.
 

boomstick

Silver Member
Decades ago, we were taught in school that once you achieve “adulthood”, your brain stops developing. Thankfully, those were the words of scared adults. We now know the brain doesn’t stop adapting to new stimuli.

In one of many interviews, Simon Phillips talks about working on new patterns and how he feels his brain is creating new pathways while embedding the patterns into his memory.

I've been thinking about this lately since the most rapid improvement in my drumming happened over 40. A big part of that was a switch to open-handed playing, so it's interesting that you brought up Simon. As I made the conversion, I could almost feel those neural pathways forming and strengthening in my "weak" hand, like Simon describes. I have also become much more ambidextrous in general, and feel more in balance physically, but also mentally. So now I drum not just for fun and music. I believe it's also good for my physical and mental health.
 

TMe

Senior Member
After a long hiatus, I started practicing seriously again. After a while, my wife said "you've got your drummer's body back!" So there's that.
Unfortunately, my drummer's body starts at my elbows and knees and extends to my fingers and toes. Everything in between is Jello. Great forearms, though.
 

EhhSoCheap

Member
I think the 10,000 hours thing gets misinterpreted a lot.

I get what is being said by it: repetition will ensure mastery.

I think what we all have to do is set up a hierarchy of what "mastery" is.

For me, mastery is when you are pushing the limits and changing the paradigm of the given endeavor. For others, it might just be being able to ingrain the basic concepts...

Bach was a master; Davinci was a master; Frank Lloyd Wright was a master; Aristotle was a master; Henry Ford was a master; Baby Dodds was a master; the 1984 Garfield Cadets were masters; ...these entities were practiced enough to understand and expand the fundamental thinking in their discipline...and a lot of this does NOT have to do with physical repping. It also has to do with the hours spent in studying all elements of their craft.

I think as we get better at immersing ourselves in all of the aspects of our craft, we do not have to spend as much time physically repping to get better.

But being able to "perform the task" - for me - is not mastery. I think mastery starts when you can adapt the fundamentals of the task to any and all situations...when you can adjust on the fly, and see usage of the task in other situations.

For me:
Learning is not mastery....
Learning is the first step towards mastery. Learning is putting the key in the ignition, and turning it on.
Application is the next step towards mastery. Application is using the pedals, gears and steering wheel
Adaptation is the next step. Adaptation is accelerating, braking, turning left and right etc...assessing traffic flow
Experimentation is the next step. Experimentation is the first time you push the limits. How fast can I go? How hard can I take this turn?
Failure is the next step...and is actually happening in ALL of the steps...where you reassess what is happening. Having an accident, or blowing a tire
Discovery is the next step. What new parameters have you discovered having gone though the previous steps
Redefining is the next step. Where you are now seeing all the possibilites happening

I feel like, for me, most of the 10,000 hours happens in the cycle and repetition of Adaptation, Experimentation, Failure, Discovery, Redefining...and is a year/decades long process.

I also think that realizing that you are never done, that the activity you are in is ever evolving, and that you are part of a team on the same journey is a HUGE part of Mastery

sorry for maybe "waxing poetic" and babbling a bit, but I LOVE this kind of stuff

K. Anders Ericsson, the researcher whose work spawned the 10,000 hour rule, tried to correct the misconceptions of his work up until his death. I think you've intuitively picked up on some of those misconceptions; there's a whole theoretical framework that understandably gets overlooked when non-scientists get a hold of journal articles.

Quality of practice factors in to the equation, and as you described, there is a whole process of learning to integrate feedback and cognitively simplifying what are complex mental tasks.
 

Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
This is all interesting stuff.

I have ordered the Michael Griffin book; that should be an interesting read.

@GetAgrippa - your comment about the "week or two" for the formation of connections in the neocortex. That is exactly what I'm looking for. Do you have any more information you that?
 
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