Friday, February 25, 2011

Of Schubert and Futsal (Talent Code Post #1)

This is the first of what I suspect will be many posts related to a great book, The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle. I recommend it highly.

I've had a pretty good run lately. In the span of three weeks, I've played bass trombone with Charlotte Symphony, tenor with both Symphony Orchestra Augusta and South Carolina Philharmonic and now alto with Charleston Symphony.

The alto gig came on two day's notice, Schubert's 9th Symphony. Normally I would like to spend more time making sure all those slide positions are secure. This has forced me to really stay on my toes, never let my guard down and be able to make quick adjustments.
According to Coyle, I've been building a lot of myelin. Myelin is the insulation around nerves. As you build a skill, the layers of myelin around the nerve 'circuit' for that activity increase so that the circuit works broadband.
Here's one of Coyle's points: optimal learning takes place when you are struggling a bit (falling and down and getting up, so to speak). Play something that is way over your head or too comfortable and you are no longer in your optimal learning zone.
Well, I've been struggling a bit, so I guess I've been experiencing optimal learning.
In his book, Coyle studies 'talent hotbeds:' places that seem to produce a disproportionate number of highly talented individuals whether it be in music, sports, or something else.
One such hotbed is the well-known Brazil/soccer hotbed.
One of their secrets: futsal.
This is an indoor variation of soccer using a smaller ball that doesn't fly as far when kicked.
What does this mean?
Instead of spending so much time running up and down the field, the players spend a lot more time in tight situations requiring fancy footwork.
Regular soccer on a larger field is relatively easy in comparison.
This makes me wonder: have baseball players ever taken batting practice using a smaller ball?
Let's return to alto trombone. Because of the smaller slide, an error of, say, a 1/4 inch, produces a bigger pitch error than on a tenor. Thus, besides learning those new positions, you must also be more accurate.

See the connection?

Perhaps (with our lavish budget) I should have the school buy altos for all the music majors and then force them to play with exacting intonation.
Wouldn't this be a little like Brazilian futsal?
Check out this video, these guys are magicians...