Rule #5 Prioritize

One of the greatest lessons a student can learn in the course of learning to play a musical instrument is the importance of prioritization. In every weeks assignment there are greater and lesser difficulties and higher and lower priorities. Learning to order one’s work so that the maximum is accomplished with the greatest efficiency is one of the keys to success in life. Musical study provides a microcosm where you can learn this lesson.

Each week there are some items which are critical for immediate master (recitals and contests provide these nicely) and other items of less importance. Learning to address the critical without neglecting the less important is a life’s lesson we all can revisit.

Andrew Remillard
President
ANRPiano.com



Rule # 4 Hard Stuff First

As a river will seek the route of least resistance, left to our own devices we will do the same. It is much more pleasant to play music which is easy from either being not very challenging or has been previously learned. Trying something new or especially hard requires much more discipline than playing a piece learned many years ago.

This also applies to difficult sections within a piece. A difficult passage may require four, five, ten or a hundred times as much time and effort as the rest of the work. If that extra effort is not made, the passage will never become as easy as the rest of the music. Unless it is attacked early and hard it will always be the weak spot within the larger work. We all know where these problem areas are; if we start with them and work on the “hard stuff first” the piece will progress evenly and quickly without the constant drag of the “hard stuff”.

Andrew Remillard
President
ANRPiano.com



Rule #3 Different Perspecitves

Ask anybody whose job involves a significant amount of problem solving and one of their most important techniques is to look at the problem from as many different perspectives as possible. Sometimes it is only after taking a fresh and different perspective can we find an answer.

In music learning this can take the form of studying melodic development or harmonic patterns, especially if this material had been neglected up until now. It could also mean memorizing a passage backwards, ie, the last measure, then the next to last measure and so on until the passage is learned. This is great for Bach Fugues.

Andrew Remillard
President
ANRPiano.com



Practice Rule #2 Limited Material

As someone whose eyes have always been larger than my ability or time available, I have had to learn the value of limiting the amount of material I work on at a time. I also discovered through my cognitive psychological research that there are some pretty strong scientific reasons for limiting the amount of material one studies at a time.

There are no hard rules as to how much material can be handled but there are a number of principles which impact this. To start with there is the size of our short term memory (STM), when the STM is full (usually 5 – 7 “chunks” of material it will begin to dump information and unless it is immediately rehearsed it will be lost. The amount of material, or number of notes which can be put into a chunk (the technical term BTW) is influenced by our ability to recognize patterns and group notes by these patterns. Theoretically you could hundreds of notes into a chunk. I would imagine the stories of prodigies such as Mozart reflect his ability to quickly recognize note patterns and identify and store them quickly and efficiently.

I have toyed with writing a book about this whole process, but seem to need to limit my material at this time. This is a long and complex subject, but the key point would be to try working on shorter segments at a time and see if your learning rate doesn’t improve.

Andrew Remillard
President
ANRPiano.com



Rule #1 Limited Time Frame

We have all heard the axiom “A job expands to fill the time allowed.” This can be expressed differently: “Limit the time to do the work and the work may still get done.” One of the inherent flaws in the weekly lesson template we all use and grew up with is the lack of tight time limitation. If something is not mastered this week, there is always next week, or next month or even next year. This can be mitigated with recitals, festivals, and competitions. However, even with these, we still can put off our work until most of the available time is gone.

In my own playing, once I took my first church job which required me to have hymns, preludes, postludes, etc. ready every week without fail, I found my ability to learn a significant amount of music quickly an absolute necessity for survival. At first, I was not terribly successful and relied upon the art of “fake” more than I should have. But through the years there has been more “play” and less “fake”.

Andrew Remillard
President
ANRPiano.com