As a teacher I’m always eager for my piano students to move forward. I can’t wait to get them going on the next new concept or the next new skill. On the other hand, I have to remember how important it is to review. Let’s take a look at why review is important, and how to build review into your learning so you can maximize progress and success.
The Science Behind Review
We know from brain research that when you do an activity or think a thought over and over, your brain actually changes. The neural connections involved in that activity or thought get wrapped with with myelin. Myelin is the white matter in your brain, and it acts like the insulation around an electric cord. The more myelin wraps around a neural connection, the faster and more efficient the connection becomes.
The only way to build myelin is repetition. This is why activities that you do a lot become easy for you. For example, when you walk you don’t have to think about it. You can be talking on your phone, looking around, thinking about what you want to eat for lunch, and you can still do this amazingly complex task called walking.
Review Leads to Mastery
When you learn a repertoire piece on the piano, it isn’t about learning to play it correctly once. To really learn the piece you have to play it correctly many, many times. This builds up the myelin, and makes it so you can play the notes without having to think hard about it. That frees you up to focus on making beautiful, expressive music. You can’t do this if you’re always pushing forward to the next song.
Kids especially love playing songs they already know. Chances are, if you have a young piano student in your house they have a favorite song that they play over and over. It’s what they do whenever they see a keyboard, and they’re able to play it fast and play it well every time. It creates a sense of mastery and accomplishment for them.
For Adult Students
Review can be especially hard for beginning adult students. You have to overcome the desire to master new tasks as fast as you’re used to mastering them. As an adult you can think abstractly and analytically, and that allows you to learn things faster than when you were a child. While this is true for some skills, playing the piano isn’t something you can figure out how to do by abstraction. It’s a physical skill, like learning how to walk. Be okay with that clumsy feeling. Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build myelin in a new place in the brain. Take lots of time to repeat and obtain mastery. You’ll learn faster overall if you repeat the basics until they’re mastered before moving on to more advanced skills.
I believe that review isn’t emphasized enough in music education. In the Hoffman Method I encourage students to review all songs in their current unit and previous unit. A fun way to do this is to play along with the Hoffman Academy practice album every day. If you’re a Premium Member, your daily practice sessions have review built in.
It’s important to balance review with moving ahead in your practicing. Have something new that you’re working on to keep your enthusiasm fresh. I like for students to have one brand new piece, plus one or two that they’re still building up to a full mastery level, then also have several pieces mastered and review them a few times a week.
Another great way to motivate review is to have a performance goal. At my music school we encourage students to put on a piano party. Every two or three units, take all the songs you’ve learned and put on a concert. You can do it in your house, invite friends, and have treats. It’s a fun and casual way to share what you’ve been learning.
Use the Power of Review
Make review a part of your daily piano routine, and you’ll not only have a repertoire of songs you’re ready to play anytime, anywhere. You’ll be taking advantage of the full power of learning the piano for brain growth and skill development. More than that, by freeing your brain from having to think hard about fingers and notes, you’ll be able to play with more expression and get more enjoyment out of playing the piano.
Check out Hoffman Academy Premium for Practice Sessions and Practice Tracks to make review part of your daily piano routine.
Watch Mr. Hoffman’s Live Video Chat on the Power of Review on Facebook.
To learn more about myelin and the importance of repetition for mastering skills, read The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.