Repetition is what a lot of us were taught practice was all about.  There is definitely a place for repetition in practice, but it is more like salt in your food…a little bit can work wonders, too much and you have to start all over from square one.  At its best, repetition can allow fingers to move faster and more accurately, and at its worst, repetition makes practice inefficient, boring, frustrating, and virtually useless.

  • Repetition is useful to make correctly learned chunks of music easier, and to build stamina (for instance, playing through an entire recital program twice a day, though note that this is only useful using periodization or there is a high risk for injury).
  • Repetition makes whatever is repeated more automatic: it is vitally important to repeat sections of music that are correct, otherwise mistakes will be automated as well- and will have to be unlearned and relearned correctly (which is at least doubly hard)!

Some ways to use repetition!

  • On new pieces, tiny chunks of new technique can be solidified through slow and careful repetition.  This is one way to use the “Five Guys Game” 
  • To develop speed, small chunks of music can be played slowly (two or three times) and then repeated at a faster rate (two or three times).  The whole process can be repeated a few times over.  Careful not to overdo this technique- it can get boring quickly
  • To memorize, small chunks can be played with music or recording, and then again immediately without.  Repeat with larger and larger chunks as confidence grows.

Usually it is not helpful to repeat large chunks or even songs over, and almost certainly it is not useful to repeat whole new pieces over and over.  It seems fairly common for novice learners to try and practice this way, and it leads to lots of errors firmly ingrained.

A note: remember that when practicing, it is important to remember why you’re doing something.  If you’re not sure, take a step back and re-evaluate.  Sometimes it is better to move on than to spend time working with no progress, or worse, frustration and boredom.

  • The purpose of practice is to repeat things so that they become easier.
  • Many parents who practice successfully with their kids don’t know anything about music.
  • Asking too much from practice can be just as unproductive as asking too little
  • Repeating entire songs over and over again is generally not a good way to practice

-the exception to this might be when working to build stamina, or memorize