More thoughts on Practicing and Studying

Attention students: you may have thought I was crazy when I have you play mock auditions for me, but there is scientific evidence to back me up that this works!  The Wall Street Journal’s article “Toughest Exam Question: What is the Best Way to Study?” (by staff writer Sue Shellenbarger, from 10/26/12) discusses how testing yourself repeatedly before an exam teaches your brain to retrieve knowledge more effectively that re-reading a textbook.  This is why I teach my lessons like a mock NYSSMA or college audition: I drill you on what will be expected so you can experience getting flustered and having your heart beat a million times a minute at my house!  The article also covers basic bodily health that we so often ignore: eating well and getting enough sleep, and discusses some great ideas for calming down before a big event.

And an unintentional companion article to this, “Practice Makes Perfect – And Not Just for Jocks and Musicians,” by Doug Lemov, appeared in the Wall Street Journal on 10/27/12.  Rehearsed tasks free our brains for complex work, so once you’ve nailed that difficult run you can then add vibrato, a crescendo and identify its importance within the phrase.  The article also speaks of the effectiveness of immediate feedback.  This is why I like to see students for lessons every week, and why I’m so grateful that the NYSSMA adjudicators work hard to return the grading sheets to the students so quickly after their auditions.  We will all be better musicians if we “use” that feedback instead of just “taking” it.

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