Recently I have been learning how to draw. I signed up for a class in drawing and I have come a long way in my skill since I first started. Taking this class opened up my eyes to something that I already knew, but put it in a new perspective. Repetition.
For each object we learn how to draw we spend approximately 3 – 6 hours drawing the same item over and over again. The first few times are rough, but then it gets faster and more accurate. Eventually hidden details start to show themselves. We have learned a minimal amount of techniques, but my skill has greatly improved. The trick is to pick something that I can not draw, but practice it over and over again.
This approach to learning was how I also learned music. I would learn a new chord and practice it over and over again. In college I use to turn this into a game. I would play an etude at a specific tempo and each time I played it perfectly I would put a mark on a piece of paper. I would try to play it perfectly 100 times.
Every skill we learn, we perfect it by doing it many times. This is the trick to gaining skill. Do not be afraid of wasting time by practicing something a lot. It is better to master a few techniques than to barely use a bunch. Put it this way. If you focus on 1 thing for an hour a day each week. You will become very good at that one thing. You will be very good at 52 things by the end of the year. 52 things is more than enough to play well.