The importance of review is basic to all learning strategies. You will find review (or practice) listed as a key element in most education and teaching strategies, and it is no less important in teaching/learning music.
So, when the music teacher asks your child to review a piece for another week, or to practice a piece again for the next week, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your child did not play the piece well.
Let’s look at some of the reasons your music teacher might have for asking your child to practice a piece for another week.
Reasons for Review
First of all, perhaps your child didn’t practice the piece well enough during the previous week to learn it. Maybe there were just too many errors that needed to be corrected. Not being judgmental here; that happens. Maybe the child didn’t understand the instructions or new concepts. Maybe your child was sick half the week and couldn’t practice much. Or maybe there were a dozen extra things happening during this week and there just was not enough time to practice. That happens sometimes. (As long as it isn’t every week!)
Maybe it was just a harder piece that takes longer to master. It’s not the end of the world to practice a piece for a second week. In fact, as your child’s music gets harder, it will eventually take much longer than a week to master a piece! I remember working on a piece in high school for a year. And I didn’t even like the piece. Of course, by the time I had learned the piece enough to play it well I had to grudgingly admit that I did like it but was not interested in playing it any longer!
Sometimes a teacher will ask a student to play a piece for another week to reinforce some previously learned concepts. Perhaps the music contains a new technique which is important for the student to be very comfortable with. The technique may be something used in music all the time, so it is important for your student to be well-prepared for that technique in the future.
Also, reviewing a piece of music allows your child to advance his musicianship skills. When first learning a piece, your child’s attention is probably focused more on the notes, the rhythm, the articulation and phrasing. After those things are all learned the student is more easily able to think about making music with the piece. Make it sing. Make the melody shine through. Pay more attention to dynamics and phrasing. Listen to what the music is trying to say. Learning those skills is just as important as the notes and rhythm. But it might take an extra week (or more) to accomplish all that.
Review can also be a great confidence booster. Going back and playing a piece that has already been learned can remind your student how much they enjoy playing. Review can do that – give them a chance to just play something that sound nice without all the effort involved in learning new music.
Another reason for review could be that the music teacher is using a previously-learned piece to teach a new concept. Maybe the teacher is teaching transposition skills. By using music your child has already learned, he can focus on the transposing without thinking about new notes or rhythm problems.
Remember, review is a good thing! Review is your child’s friend.
Importance of Review
Review is important for several reasons. First, review strengthens connections among material already learned. Learning about accompanying a melody with selected chords? Reviewing a piece that uses that skill cements the thinking and associated sounds of that skill in the mind of the child.
Also, review helps with recall. If your child is learning new dynamic or tempo markings, review of the piece will give them additional practice remembering those new terms and symbols.
Review also aids in preparing your child for new techniques. Perhaps the music teacher is preparing your child to play scales. On the piano, one of the required techniques for playing scales is being able to pass the thumb under other fingers, or other fingers over the thumb. Being able to do that well, easily, and automatically is critical for playing scales and scale passages in advanced music. So additional review on that skill is important for your child’s future success.
Another benefit of review is that it helps us give more attention to detail. There is more time to focus on the little things. And attention to detail matters in all of life, not just music! Learning to look at the little things and improve the little details will help your child with his schoolwork, with tasks assigned at home, and with his future jobs!
Learning new concepts requires some base of understanding. Each new concept learned increases that base of understanding. Review of those new concepts strengthens and reinforces that base.
Learning is like building a tower. Previously learned material is the base of the tower. Each reviewed concept reinforces the base. Each new concept learned adds to the total tower.
How to Encourage your Child to Review Music
First, make sure your child knows exactly why she is reviewing a piece. Can she give you the reason? Review will not be helpful if she does not know a reason for the review. If she doesn’t know, if the reason is not written in her assignments, see if you can get a good reason from the teacher.
Also, have your child record himself playing the music right after the lesson. Have him listen to the recording and make sure he hears the reason for the review. Then, record him again at the end of the week, and listen for improvement. Did he accomplish what the teacher was looking for?
Another idea is to have him perform the piece for you, or for grandparents, at the end of the week. Performance often brings out the best of us – we tend to play differently in a performance than we do just in practice. A planned performance might prompt your child to really concentrate on what needed to improve.
Don’t let your child be discouraged by review. Help him to see how it will make him a better musician. It will even help him to become a better person!