Teaching Music Practice
Published in Ensemble Magazine, National Association of Music Teaching Professionals, UK Nov 2015
How do music teachers at your school teach practice? Or is this assumed, perhaps implicit in the lesson structure? Learning how to practise is crucial. Nothing is as important in the process of becoming a musician. The greatest factor that drives the motivation to continue practising a musical instrument is making progress. If students do not make progress, they will give up. Hence, teachers must provide students with the tools to improve. The first issue is whether the teacher has a clear understanding of the fundamentals of practice, and why they work. For instance:
- Why is repetition the number one practice strategy, and how does it change the brain? How do you vary repetition? What is spaced repetition and why is it twice as effective as blocked repetition? What is myelination of the brain and how is it related to musical proficiency?
- Why must we work only on short passages at any one time, and how is it that music theory is related to chunking, a strategy that fast-tracks learning?
- Why is it that telling a child to practise slowly never works, so how do you effectively teach this?