practice strategies

The six practice strategies listed below come directly from the cognitive psychological scientists at LearningScientists.org. Megan Smith and Yana Weinstein hold doctorate degrees and have systematically applied current research on the brain and how it learns to the classroom setting.

I’ve taken their learning strategies one step further and applied them specifically to practicing an instrument. A good portion of the following paragraphs closely resemble their findings and I greatly appreciate their inspiration for this post!

The main point of their research is how the brain remembers best. It’s not through repetition nearly as much as through retrieval of information.

“Every time you leave a little space, you forget a bit of the information, and then you kind of relearn it. That forgetting actually helps you to strengthen the memory. It’s kind of counterintuitive, but you need to forget a little bit in order to then help yourself learn it by remembering again.”

-Weinstein from TheCultofPedagogy.com

You may find the list below validating like it was for me. I’ve encouraged most of these tactics for years and am thrilled that they are now scientifically proven to work thanks to Dr. Smith and Dr. Weinstein! Perhaps you’ll feel the same? Each strategy is first defined in the clinical terms found at TheLearningScientists.org. Next, you’ll read how I relate them to practice. I’ve also connected visuals to each strategy to help practicers understand and recall each one. [···]

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Quality

Between lessons, music students are left to fend for themselves and practice without your nagging–oops– I mean guidance. The minute they walk out of their lesson, it’s almost as if they walk into a black hole. We cross our fingers and hope for the best. If you want quality home practice between lessons, it begins with the teacher–yes YOU!

It’s hard enough trying to fit all the concepts that need to be covered in a lesson but if you want students to progress, THE most important concept that you need to teach in EVERY lesson is…HOW to practice!

In the first weeks and even months of lessons with a new student, I feel that 60-70% of my lesson is spent on practicing with them: clapping or moving to the beat, playing hands alone, hands together in small chunks, playing a portion 3x and aiming for the 3rd time to be perfect and other games and drills. [···]

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