Methods for learning

There is a type of musician that has very good intentions around practice. They enjoy their lessons, listen attentively to their teacher and are enthusiastic about playing. Their problem lies in not practising the right things. The teacher describes what they need to do, they’ve read this site and yet still they have problems. Put simply they have a mind like a sieve – lots of information goes in but it doesn’t stay there. Does this sound like you??

Methods-For-Learning-MusicWhilst people are naturally able to remember things to different degrees there are things you can do to help yourself. It is also useful to understand the ways in which humans learn best and the methods of instruction you can use to put information firmly and permanently in your brain.

Take a look at the diagram. You will see a number of different ways of learning along with how much of what you are being shown/told you will remember afterwards.

If you listen to someone it is likely that you will remember only 5% of what they said. This may increase a little when you are concentrating but it is clear in isolation being told something is not the best way to learn it.

When you read your tutor book on average you will remember 10% of the information.

Viewing things on TV/Video will enable you to remember 20% of what you are being told. The number is getting better but it’s still not great.

If you are like most students you will have a lesson where your teacher will do an amount of demonstriation. This can be quite effective and mean that you remember 30% of what you are told.

Discussion Group
We’re now up to 50%. By talking about your instrument with friends and colleagues you will retain 50% of the information you receive.

Practice by Doing
The next statistic shows the importance of practice. By practising something over you will remember around 75% of what you are doing. Beware however this is a double edged sword. You might also remember 75% of something you are doing wrong!

Teaching others
If you do go on to teach your instrument you will appreciate the extra degree of understanding you will need to have in order to tell others about your subect. On average you will retain 90% of what you tell others.

What does all this mean to me?

During your lesson you will most likely receive a lecture (5%) and some demonstration (30%). This will mean that on average you will leave your lesson retaining only 35% of the knowledge the teacher has tried to impart.

What can you do to improve this?

There are some easy steps you can take to improve dramatically what you are told in your lesson which in turn will mean you practice the right things between lessons.

1. Write it down!
As soon as you leave your lesson spend a few minutes writing down everything you can remember from the lesson. If your teacher has made some notes in a notebook then add your own notes to these (it is YOUR notebook after all). This works on a couple of levels. Not only are you making a written note but you are also going through the lesson again. So you’re now 10-20% better in terms of remembering.

2. Record your lesson
If your teacher does not object you could record the whole of your lesson on one of the mini DAT or mp3 recorders that are widely available now. When you listen back to the lesson afterwards you are giving yourself an extra 20% chance of remembering the information each time you listen.

3. Talk about your lesson
Entering into discussion both in your lesson and afterwards will really help you internalise what you are trying to learn. The internet (this site!!) are good places to discuss music and practice with other people.

4. Practice straight away
Don’t be one of those people that does all their practice at the end of the week just before the next lesson. You will have forgotten most of what your teacher said last time. Instead practice immediately after your lesson and certainly the next day. This way you will have the best chance of remembering everything.

Give yourself the best chance of remembering everything you are taught in lessons – use a variety of methods and the information will stay in!

Enjoy your practice!

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