long-term memory


A game of “Terminator” in full swing! From left to right, Lauren, Amanda (Mom) and Alisha Adams

Let’s be honest! Who enjoys learning a long list of Italian terms for their music theory exam? Not many! Here’s an idea for making learning music terms fun! Enter “Terminator!”

Giving the activity an exciting name is half the battle. The two girls pictured are currently preparing for their grade 2 theory exam so we called the game “Terminator 2.” Lauren and Alisha have downloaded free buzzer apps onto their phones and their Mom, Amanda, has really embraced the role of game host giving the girls a fun way of learning their terms several nights a week between lessons in the lead up to their exam.

There are lots of ways of calling the  [···]

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Light Bulb MomentA 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   [···]

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Hammer & Nail“Practice makes…perfect!

I have to say that I completely disagree with this commonly used saying! I have yet to meet the perfect musician or hear the perfect performance. At the very best, practice makes progress and worst, incorrect practice just makes problems!

So why does the expression “practice makes perfect” roll so easily off the tongue when it might not be so technically correct? The reason is simple: repetition. We’ve been repeating this saying over and over since the 16th century! That is a lot of repetition!

As discussed in earlier articles, remembering important information is a challenge. Helping our brains and those of our students to retain concepts in our long-term memory requires a lot of deliberate effort. The three main methods that help us achieve long-term memory can be summed up as PRS: Patterns, Repetition and Stimulus.

In this article we will focus on how good quality repetition leads to progress in remembering.

Knocking the Nail on the Head

Practice can be likened to knocking a nail into a piece of wood with a hammer. It takes lots of  [···]

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