A few weeks ago, I conducted an experiment on my pupils! No, don’t worry! No one was harmed in the process!!!
I simply asked them to share with me a memorable event from their childhood. It soon became clear that things that make the most impression on our memory, are events that had the greatest stimulus on our senses.
I can’t remember much of my childhood. So much of it was playing, eating and sleeping. Just the normal, everyday activities. But I do remember going for my first music lesson as a seven year old…
I can still see and smell the thick fog of cigarette smoke that greeted me as I opened the music shop door and stepped into what felt like a scene from a Dickens novel. And the intrepidation I felt as I heard for the first time the voice of the Fagan-like character who introduced himself as “Mr. Coffin.” I remember the feeling of hopelessness as my mother disappeared off into the distance. I still feel uncomfortable now as I recall the feeling of his long, bony fingers pressing down on my back and guiding me further and further into the gloom of the music shop towards the instrument that I was to learn on.
Why does this long ago memory feel like yesterday? How can I remember so many details?
The answer is simple. The event had such an impact on my senses and indeed, the rest of my life. (For although, Mr. Coffin ironically died a month or two later, I carried on studying music with a new teacher. And my new teacher’s studio was called the “torture chamber” but that’s another story!)
So if stimulating the senses has such an impact on long-term memory, how can we as music teachers exploit this knowledge to help our students learn new concepts better?
10 suggestions to involve more senses [···]