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Splitting without Context

I was so frustrated.

I’d started working on learning a new challenging (for me) piece of music in my piano lessons as a kid, and I came up with something clever:

I’ll split the song into different chunks and practice each separately. Then I just need to put them together and I’ll have this down!

So, I did. I practiced each section independent of the others, and could play each one decently well.

I proudly demonstrated each section to my teacher, and she asked, “Now play it all together”.

I confidently started, and very quickly ran into a big problem…

My hands were expected to move in very different ways in each section. I had optimized each section without considering the context of the surrounding area.

The result? The transition areas were incredibly rough. I’d lose the beat, fall behind, and get disconcerted. And really frustrated.

My teacher laughed, and explained that breaking up the song into sections is a wonderful idea, after you understand the full context and have run through it a few times.

We split problems to decrease the complexity of working on them. Splitting without a good measure of context, however, typically increases the complexity when it’s time to integrate the pieces together.

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