random practicing


Imaginative Play

imaginativeplay-in-piano-lessons

 

What is Imaginative Play?

Imaginative play, or pretend play, involves the child role playing situations that they have seen before. By doing this, they experiment with behaviours, problem solving, and empathy. For example, a child might pretend play to be the parent of their teddy bear, and has to deal with topics like feeding the bear and cleaning the bear. There has been substantial evidence of increased intellectual and emotional development through this method of learning.

Can We Have Imaginative Play in Piano Lessons?

Andrea from Teach Piano Today has advocated for the use of imaginative play in piano lessons. By introducing music knowledge in themes that kids are familiar with, they are more comfortable in asking questions. Andrea also notes that there should be a balance between imaginative play lessons, or “traditional” piano lessons; instead of building a curriculum on pretend play, piano teachers can strive to incorporate this kind of play once in a while to add excitement and variety.

Bridging the Gap

Serious music education can be very daunting for young kids. Quarter notes? Half notes? Pivot? Allegro? All of this with the challenge of coordinating their fingers.  For students who are beginners, it may feel like every concept introduced is impossible to understand. This is where imaginative play comes into play (no pun intended). While children may not understand (yet) why a strong solid tone would build their technique, they absolutely do understand that if they will fall if they do not grip on to the monkey bars tightly. While children may not understand rhythm is the blueprint of music, they absolutely do understand when someone is talking too fast for them to understand.  By using imaginative play, we let the children know that same knowledge they are learning everywhere else is applicable to music, so it is not so scary!

 

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Music Practice

RandomVSBlockPracticing

 

This article on how musicians should practice captured my attention the other day. For those who love podcasts as much as I do, check this podcast with the writer of the article, Dr. Christine Carter,  interviewed by Andrea from TeachPianoToday.

What are we talking about?

More often than not, musicians (me included!) find that after a grueling practice session of repeating a difficult passage many times and finally making progress, all the progress disappears the next time. Even worse, you look like you didn’t practice in front of your teacher. What Dr. Carter talks about mainly, is the difference between block practicing, and random practicing.

What is Block Practicing?

Block practicing is repeating a difficult section over and over again, until improvement is obviously evident. Sound familiar? This technique is the most standard way to practice a tricky part. More commonly, it is heard in this way:

“Do this section 10 times correct in a row”

What is Random Practicing?

Random practicing is repeating the first difficult passage a couple times, then switching to another difficult passage (even if the first passage has not been perfected). Return to the first section afterwards, or skip to another difficult passage first.

For example:

Practice bar 1-4 three times. 
Practice bar 8-12 three times
Practice bar 1-4 three times again
Practice bars 16-20 three times
Practice bar 1-4 three times again

Which is More Effective?

Based on Dr. Carter’s research, students who do Random Practicing experience better results than students who do Block Practicing.

Why?

Although block practicing reinforces muscle memory, and shows evident improvements during the practice session itself, it does not promote learning efficiently. This means that the progress made with block practicing is often temporary.

Our brain also becomes “bored” of repeating the same passage over and over again, which negatively effects our focus, patience, and overall productivity.

Random Practicing allows for more variety in practicing. Practicing different sections randomly means a more interesting practice session. Because our brains must reset each time we approach a new section ,this promotes more learning, and more long term results.

According to Dr. Carter’s research, random practicing is twice as effective as block practicing, even though the time spent practicing is the same.

 

Let’s get to random practicing then!