Piano Practice Tips: Practicing SMARTER

Practicing can be really fun, but occasionally, after practicing so long, students can start to feel stuck or that they can’t do what their teachers are asking them to. Yes, practicing is hard work, but is there a way to make it more effective? According to Peter Brown, there is! In his book Make it Stick, he explains what it takes.

Brown begins by saying that when trying to learn more about a subject, there are many ways to research and remember information. Some techniques are more effective than others. One strategy (that we have probably all done before) is to read from a textbook and highlight stuff and hope you remember what you read if there is a test. Peter Brown explains that when all we do is read and highlight, we trick ourselves into thinking that we know the material when in reality we do not.

One study performed found that “after one week a study-only group showed the most forgetting of what they initially had been able to recall, forgetting 52 percent, compared to a repeated-testing group, who forgot only 10 percent.” Being tested can increase your performance by 43 percent, according to those results.
This method is also very effective when applied to the piano. From a musical standpoint, performance is better when practiced in small intervals frequently rather than a long time once. Similarly, when trying to memorize a piece, it would be easier to memorize by playing and testing frequently rather than having a four-hour-long memorization session.
The reason more frequent small sessions are better than infrequent long sessions is because “the act of retrieving a memory changes the memory, making it easier to retrieve again later.”
Practice smarter, not longer.
(Brown, Peter. Make it Stick. Harvard University Press/Belknap. 2014)
By Colin Rubow