Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Thoughts on the "Learning Quotient"

Another beginning adult cello blog Cello with Love (who started blogging in 2011 too), posted this AWESOME blog regarding the Talent Code by Daniel Coyle I thought it would be fun to add comments to each and I would love to hear how others rate themselves too. :)

The information is originally from the website: I think I'll have to start following that blog and read that book too! :)


[excerpt from the Talent Code website below]
My thoughts in blue.

I’d like to suggest an idea called Learning Quotient. The idea is that our ability to learn is a measurable skill, just like IQ.
Here’s how it might work: rate yourself from 0 to 5 on the following questions according to the usual scale: 0 for strongly disagree; 5 for strongly agree.

  • 1. You work on your skills for an hour or more every day 3? Depends on which day you catch me on. For the most part, I try to pick up the cello at least once a day. Although during the July 4th weekend, I took a break from everything and was a complete couch potato! 
  • 2. You are focused on process, not the immediate outcomes 3? ...hmmm... these questions are a bit weird or maybe I'm over-thinking things again... I LOVE the process, which is very enjoyable and calming for me, but I do believe in immediate outcomes as well. Why can't I have both?? ;) Having a good process typically results in immediate outcomes anyway, right?, hopefully in most cases? 
  • 3. You have strong relationships with mentors/coaches, and use them as models and guidance 4.5 I absolutely ADORE my two cello teachers, but I am a bit stubborn and opinionated, hence the 4.5. Although I can't remember any instances where I didn't take their advice ...hmmm... okay, eventually take their advice! I do frequently use them as models as well. I especially take the the advice of my teacher Clayton when organizing our cello group. I don't think he knows how heavily I rely on his advice.
  • 4. You are keenly aware of how much you do not know, and the gap between your present abilities and your long term goals 5 I know diddly-squat about everything and anything! Lol! Yes, it's a VERY deep chasm between my present abilities and how I would like play someday! *sigh* I know it's a bit difficult to know what I don't know, but I can easily compare myself to a cello great, like Janos Starker, and know I'm no where close! On a scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being as technically skilled as Mr. Starker), I'd be a negative 20! It's just so obscenely and ridiculously absurd that I should even compare myself to someone with that level of ability and knowledge. Huuuuggee gap! My goal is to have technical ease while playing whatever cello music in whatever genre that I so desire! Talk about long term goals... lol! Anyway, I also prescribe to Bruce Lee's philosophy of "emptying one's cup!" ;)
  • 5. You can accurately and precisely describe the skills you want to build 5 I could easily list how would like to play someday and could provide YouTube examples too, and the list seems to get longer and longer! When I watch cellists, I always think about how they play and can typically find more than 2 aspects in their playing that I would like to incorporate in my own playing. For example, having their bow hold, intonation, body movement, passion, phrasing, energy in different areas of the body or technical aspects, bow articulations, stage/performance presence, sight-reading abilities, relaxedness, use of dynamics, use of vibrato, sweetness in tone, rhythm, ability to improvise, breathing, cues, connected-ness (is that even a word??) to music, etc, etc. I better stop there or this is going to be a really long post.
  • 6. You think about improving your skills all the time I don't think I necessarily think about trying to improve specific skills, I just try to play the music to the best of my abilities when I'm playing. I also don't think I do it all the time. I do have to work, eat, sleep.... 
  • 7. You approach your daily work with enthusiasm 3 Sometimes I'm just too tired and unmotivated to practice, and sometimes I really don't want to practice, but by the end of my practice session I don't want to put my cello away to go to bed. My poor neighbors have to listen to me practice after midnight sometimes! 
  • 8. You are balanced between building with repetition and seeking innovations 4.5 I like repetition (it's somehow comforting), and finding new games to make those repetitions fun is also enjoyable for me too! 
  • 9. You are comfortable going outside of your comfort zone 4.5 I think stepping out of one's comfort zone to expand one's area is important in learning, so I try to do this frequently. Although I do whine about it sometimes... okay, I frequently whine about it! Lol! ;) But how else would I know what I'm capable of otherwise? Wait a minute... that question is a bit odd... if one is comfortable going outside of their comfort zone, than wouldn't they still be in their comfort zone? ...heh, heh... ;) ...maybe they should rephrase that to: You frequently step outside of your comfort zone.  Or: You attempt to expand your comfort zone on a regular basis... or something to that effect?
  • 10. You are constantly adapting and refining your learning process 5 Yes!! I believe there's always an easier and better way of doing things! - "If it's not broke, break it!" :). Although sometimes I focus too much on finding a better process instead of just putting my nose to the grindstone!

By this yardstick, a perfect LQ would be 50: the heavenly realm of John Wooden and Goldschmidt. Below 15 and you’re either comatose or Allen Iverson (an immense talent who famously didn’t believe in practice). I suspect most of us would fall in the 25-30 range or so, which, among other things, speaks to the inherent challenges of creating a daily routine and sticking to it.

What I like about the idea of LQ, however, is that it is not a fixed quality. It can be increased and grown, and profoundly affected by environment and group culture.

[excerpt from the Talent Code website above]


So what does this all mean? I typically like to respond, "that I'm CRAZY!" ;)

Just kidding... maybe... it just means that I'm more conscientious of my learning process than most people since I scored a 40.5, but that is to be expected since I blog and video record my progress!!
...I mean seriously, who does that??? That's a bit crazy! ;)

For those who scored lower, it may mean that you need re-evaluate your learning process. I haven't read the book so that's an assumption, but I would think the key take-away based on doing the questionnaire would be: make sure you have an effective learning PROCESS! There are a lot of books and blogs that cover this like:
And apparently the Talent Code, which I will have to read sooner than later.
The books and websites listed above are the ones I've read and also follow online. Although I haven't looked for any books or websites recently.

Also, what I really like about Clayton's lessons, is when I learn a new piece of music, we would go over difficult sections, and he would say something like, "this is how I would practice this" and he would first show me, and then have me try it first with him, and then by myself. This way, I go home knowing exactly how to practice a new piece. It's created a great process for me because I can (for the most part) anticipate how he'll break something down to learn a new piece of music and have recently been using it to learn some new pieces on my own since he's gone for the summer. It's also great to know that a cellist that I admire, uses the same process that I use when learning music! Very cool! :) See, I do use my mentors as models! Maybe I should change that score to a 5! Lol! :)


  1. Hi there! I've been meaning to do post a comment here for ages to thank you for inspiring me to blog my own progress since I started playing the cello at the end of last year. I've been reading your blog since before I started having lessons and loved the whole idea of having a record of the whole process to look back on. So a big thank you!

    1. Hello fellow "crazy" video recorder and blogger!!! :)

      I just read through your blog and it's AMAZING! You've posted some wonderful information that I'm totally going to steal and use in my practice. :) And, great videos and audios too; such a HUGE difference between your first recording of Cmaj scale in December 2012 and your recording Minuet No. 1. You should feel really proud - Congratulations!!! :)

      Your last video was excellent (despite the pause), and I can definitely see a flapping wing motion. It's something I need to work on too, which is perhaps why it's noticeable to me, but I can see it in the opening movement of your armpit area. I also think you have a great left hand "shape" and sound lovely too! Pretty darn AMAZING, and in less than one year!

      Keep up the amazing work, and I look forward to watching more videos and reading your blog! :)

    2. Thank you so much for the lovely feedback! I've only just made the blog public - I'd been putting it off because the thought of anyone hearing my attempts to play made me cringe - but I've found reading your blog and other learner cellists' blogs so useful and reassuring that I thought it was time to take the plunge. Thanks too for posting this about Daniel Coyle - I've just been reading through some of his blog posts and there's a whole load of useful advice in there. Love it! Happy celloing :)

  2. Wow, you guys are both making me want to start a blog too. It's quite encouraging and enlightening to read what other adult learners are doing. I remember when I first started that I was quite concerned about how long it would take before I sounded "good" or if that was even possible at my age. It remains an open question, and certainly everyone's journey will be unique, but thanks to the generosity of people like yourselves the commonalities to the learning experiences are becoming clearer and the true potential for adult students is finally being put on record.

    1. Lol! I'm still quite concerned about how long it will take me before I sound good!! ;)
      My husband finally gave up answering that question and just points to the videos and says, "there's tangible proof you're improving... now stop whining and go practice if you don't like how you sound!!" ...and I still ask him every time I get frustrated!

      I've heard there are cellists out there who started as "older" adults and are quite good, but I don't belief it since I always think they were probably good back then too! I know that's not logical, but for some reason, that's what pops into my head every time I hear that!

      YES! Start a blog and keep it private - you don't have to share it until you're ready (or at all), but at least you'll have something to compare your progress with! :)

    2. I daren't think about how long it will take me before I sound good or I'd totally lose hope! Although I find that if I adjust my expectations to something more realistic for a beginner, then 'sounding good' can be just playing a note perfectly in tune and hearing the ring, or one smooth bow change. Tiny moments of 'sounding good' :)

      I love reading adult learners' blogs because the whole learning process is in itself fascinating (to me anyway): how different people navigate the process (as you say Ben, everyone's journey is unique), the wrong turnings and right turnings and experimentation and problem-solving, the joyous moments and then the (many!) troughs and how you deal with those, how to let go of expectations, coping with frustration, the baggage we bring to it from childhood experiences of music learning, etc etc. Definitely worth keeping some kind of record of the process, even if it's for your eyes only!

    3. Ok! Recorded my first video ever. The first take is pretty representative of what I play like when I'm under pressure. All tense and with spotty intonation issues. Thought I'd be brave and share it here as a 'thank you' for pioneering the public adult cello beginner experience ;)

    4. Seconded!! BRAVO BEN!!! :D

      Wow, I get to play that in Book 3?!! Lots of trills and shifting! I need to stop screwing around and finish Book 2 already! ;)

      What I found really impressive is that you kept up the energy throughout the entire piece! What did you do to increase your stamina to play the piece? Besides playing it in its entirety several times through? ;)
      I always get really tired and tense by the end, so I make up excuses and don’t do the repeats! …so how did you do that? Or did you get tired? :)

      And love how your right arm has very consistent levels for string crossings! My elbows tend to flap around crazily which is causing issues with my tone in my right hand and intonation in my left. …ack…

      AND I love your tone and phrasing! A Yamaha AVC7 cello you say…? Who’s your teacher?

      SWEET!! Totally loved it!!! :)

  3. Bravo Ben, love your video! Thanks for sharing it. Lovely tone and dynamics, really impressive playing :)

  4. Thank you both, you guys are very kind! Especially since all I can see when I watch it is how far I have to go :)

    How do I practice? This piece is a bit long, and the way I build up endurance is by breaking it up into, 2-4 note passages/shifts and playing them over and over (Like a mantra/meditation) at the correct bow section and contact point, playing the notes in reverse order to back to my starting point each time. This may seem monotonous, but I find it really relaxing and essential to progress. I generally find playing more than a few notes at a time to be counter productive since its generally how I train bad habits, although I also try to repeat each set of notes in the context of the surrounding notes. I focus on feeling the minute changes in bow friction at different speeds, pressures & contacts points, and then on making it sound a little cleaner and more relaxed or expressive than the last repetition. This slowly increases focus, endurance, and efficiency so I can eventually practice for way too many hours per day. Playing in front of people is another story, and staying relaxed becomes much harder!! You guys both make it look so easy to stay relaxed btw, and this I think is the key to expressive playing because it gives you options.

    My favorite bach piece in book 2 makes an enhanced comeback in Book 3, and there are many other fun pieces to look forward to! You will love it! Such a fun book. Book 4 looks like it will be even more interesting... I'm starting to suspect the fun really never ends with cello as long as we keep learning ;)

    My teacher is an awesome local cellist in sacramento, ca who teaches at Kline Music, Krystyna Taylor. I have had a lot of truly great music teachers in my lifetime, and she is among the very best in terms of talent, teaching ability, and curriculum selection.