BrainLast week I learned some really neat ideas at my monthly local music teacher’s group which I thought I would pass on to you. The workshop was by Dr. Suzanne Schons. She shared how the brain is a very active and busy organ. Each day, 20% of the calories we burn are burned up by the brain.

The brain is designed amazingly well in that it can be taught to perform various tasks. Dr. Schons stated how “Every wrong note … played in sloppy practice strengthens neural connections for it.” She explained how the first time we try to play a new song, it is very difficult, but each time we drill a section, it becomes easier. The piece becomes easier because each time the brain sends the signal to play a note through the series of neurons, the pathway through the neurons is reinforced which sends the signal faster the next time.

Dr. Schons (plus a neat book entitled The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle) shared that when we repeat an activity multiple times, a substance called myelin coats the neuron paths allowing the brain’s signal to travel faster and with less interference. Although this is great if practicing correctly, this is sad news if consistently practicing mistakes or practicing in a wrong way.

Idea BrainBelow are some suggestions to help make sure you or your children are practicing in the best ways.

  • Practice the same day as the lesson. Before you go to bed after your lesson, practice before you forget what you learned. Unless we reference or practice what we learn, most of what we learn is forgotten within 24 hours after being taught.
  • Only practicing right before a lesson is not effective. Make sure you have been practicing throughout the week.
  • Children’s brains cannot focus and ignore distractions as easily as adults can. Therefore, make sure that the room for music practice is free of clutter or loud noises such as a TV or near a busy hallway.
  • Practicing in little segments is way better than practicing in huge amounts all at once. Instead of practicing a whole week’s worth in one day, spread out the practice each day.
  • Some schedules may not allow for practicing 30 or more minutes all at once. Try practicing twice a day for fifteen minutes each.

Are there other suggestions you have found to help you or your child practice? I would love to hear what works for you.

Question: The first Steinway piano was made in 1836. In which room of a house do you think the piano was finished? A) Kitchen B) Parlor C) Workshop D) Bedroom

Answer will be on the next post.