How to Manage Repetition in Practice

manage repetition

When practicing the piano, or any instrument for that matter, repetition is a common method used to further learn a piece of music. However, there are some ways in which this can hinder progress on a piece. Whenever you are using repetition to practice, you want to be sure you are using it in the most beneficial and productive way possible. Graham Fitch of practisingthepiano.com shares his thoughts on the subject:

Before we repeat something, we need to pause a while and think what it is we aim to achieve in the repetition. Hear it vividly in our imagination, and mentally rehearse the passage before we put our hands back on the keyboard (this part of the process is extremely difficult to commit to, and takes a lot of concentration).

I really like the point Graham makes here. When I was in college, I would use repetition as a practice method rather consistently. That doesn’t necessarily mean I was making the correct progress, though. I would run through a line over and over without pausing in between to think about what I may have done incorrectly.

Repetition helps to build your muscle memory. Since I was practicing the same thing over and over, my muscles were slowly learning that pattern. If I had learned the pattern incorrectly initially, and then continued to repeat it over and over incorrectly, it would have been very difficult for me to go back and fix it later. My professors always told me, “practice makes permanent,” and this couldn’t be a truer statement. When practicing repetition, as Graham mentions, you want to be sure to take time to reflect on what you are playing and mentally rehearse it in your head. This will help you to learn the pattern correctly the first time and every time after that.

The trick with repetitions is to focus the mind on something very specific, varying the focus with each repetition. If you are refining a tricky spot in a piece you have already learned, your brain should be consuming a lot of energy as you concentrate on what is necessary to edge the passage closer to where it needs to be, rather than simply hacking away at it hoping it will eventually yield (this requires far less concentration).

Yes, yes and yes. We all know how daunting and boring it can be to do the same thing over and over again. Your mind starts to wander and your productivity level decreases. But, there are ways to overcome this in practice. Switch up the rhythm a little bit, mess with the dynamics, or try the passage in a different tempo. Doing so will help keep the passage interesting while still allowing your muscles to gain memory of the pattern.

Graham Fitch is a pianist, teacher, adjudicator, examiner, lecturer, writer and commentator. He blogs regularly at his site http://www.practisingthepiano.com, has produced a multimedia eBook series on piano playing and is the main contributor to the Practising the Piano Online Academy, an online resource for pianists and teachers. To learn more about repetitive practice, please visit the original article here: https://practisingthepiano.com/how-to-manage-repetition-in-practice/

About Cassidy Vianese

Cassidy is the Digital Marketing Manager at Making Music and has recently begun her career in the music industry. In May 2017, she graduated from the Crane School of Music with a double degree in Music Business and Music Theory. Upon graduating college, Cassidy did an internship with DANSR, Inc. in Illinois before moving to Southern California where she was the NAMM intern for six months. Her favorite instrument is the clarinet, but she also enjoys dabbling with guitar, piano, ukulele, saxophone, and flute.

2 comments

Greetings, happy holidays piano is my friend since I have studied piano I have become much happier. My deppression told me to be sad in my early days of frustration. However during my bouts of Down time I would believe I would never be any good I would not practice for weeks because making progress did not appear to be possible. Well some how I would get up find more info to motivate myself next time at the piano I would oroctice longer and longer enjoying my lessons more and more. I hope my story incouragement some other piano student and gets them back to the keys. One love Ana Song Ji Ho.

I seem to have a problem with 1 comment, that is this thing about muscle memory, now correct me if I am wrong, how can muscle remember something if that ball on U’r shoulders that contain the brain does not trigger a response to activate the muscle. Now I don’t know where this muscle memory thing came from, but if the brain does not give a signal to activate these muscles, are they going to respond???? Thaks

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