Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “Repetition is the mother of all learning.”
There’s a reason for this. Repetition improves speed, increases confidence and creates neural pathways in the brain that commit that skill into memory. Once we’ve been down a pathway before, it’s easier to find the second and third and fourth time around!
Obviously, repetition is an important tool in musical learning. When my piano students are working on a piece of music, I might ask them to play a section “one more time” to help them become more fluent in a skill.
But sometimes, I can tell a student is getting frustrated or even bored if I ask him to repeat a passage of his piano piece again and again.
This doesn’t mean that I abandon repetition as a learning tool, but it DOES mean that I have to find creative ways to incorporate repetition using different activities.
Here are some creative approaches you can use to help your student experience the benefit of repetition without becoming frustrated.
Repetition of Rhythm
Try isolating the rhythm and repeating it away from the piano. For a younger student, I might have him try clap or drum the rhythm on a rhythm instrument. (This gives his body a break from sitting at the piano bench, too.) For an older student, I might simply close the lid of the piano and have him drum the rhythm on the lid of the keyboard.
Repetition of note reading
For a student who really needs to work on becoming a more fluent note reader, there are many different ways to practice note reading skills.
Students inside my online piano lesson program have access to games that will help them repeat these skills in fun ways that don’t necessarily feel like a chore. If you’re not a student inside my program, there are also many fun note reading apps to choose from. (Check out a list of my favorite four here.)
Printable worksheets with note naming are plentiful upon a Google search. Having a student learn a new piece of music in the same key or hand position helps her become more practiced at reading notes while still keeping music fresh and exciting.
repetition with flare
Adding variety helps prevent your student from getting too bored when repeating a passage. Try some of these ways to “play it again” when you’re asking your student to repeat a passage:
- Play it one octave higher
- Play it one octave lower
- Play it like Darth Vader
- Play it like a mouse
- Play it while humming the melody
- Play it while sticking out your tongue
- Play it super slow
- Play it standing up
Finding ways for your student to change things up while still practicing the same piano skill isn’t something that requires a whole lot of preparation or innovation. Try out the simple strategies above to keep your student engaged while his brain works to create those important connections!