Practice and Your Brain



I just read a fascinating article by Wendy Zukerman at  It was about how, when a certain activity becomes a habit, a person’s brainwaves will slow down.  It reminded me of when I listen to sports broadcasts and the analyst explains how the game “slows down” for a second or third-year player.

The performing arts are exactly the same.  We hear somebody described as “talented,” “a natural” or, my personal favorite, “a prodigy.”  The attraction of terms like these is undeniable.  They let us off the hook.  “It’s okay that I’m not getting better on my instrument or with my ballet technique.  I’m not as talented as the other people in my class.”

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This is a dangerous mindset.  If you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t succeed at music, dance or theater, then you almost certainly will not.  It is also completely inaccurate – especially when all that is required to achieve success in the arts is a little bit of regular practice.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“To track how brainwaves change during learning, Ann Graybiel and Mark Howe at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used electrodes to analyse brainwaves in the ventromedial striatum of rats while they were taught to navigate a maze.

As rats were learning the task their brain activity showed bursts of fast gamma waves. Once the rats mastered the task, their brainwaves slowed to almost a quarter of their initial frequency, becoming beta waves. Graybiel's team suspects this transition reflects when learning becomes habit.”

If a rat can do it, you can do it.

So take out that Region Band solo, Fall Drama script or Hip-Hop choreography, and just work on it a little bit every day.  I guarantee you that, pretty soon, you will find some cheese.


Any questions or comments?  Feel free to e-mail me at

Joe Elefante has traveled 4 continents as a pianist, saxophonist, vocalist, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He has musically directed, conducted or played countless musical theater productions, including several at the Paper Mill Playhouse and Jersey Boys on Broadway and National Tour. Joe founded the Joe Elefante Big Band in 2001, which was the house band at Cecil's Jazz Club for three years, and was featured on ABC's Nightline and in The Wall Street Journal. Currently, Joe is a freelance composer/arranger/ performer, is very active as a school clinician and is Artistic Director of Elefante Music & School for the Performing Arts.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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