Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why Keep Practicing Songs You Already Know?

I remember when I was a kid and relatives asked to hear me play my flute. In a panic I tried to figure out what on earth I could play. My old songs were rusty, but I hadn't finished the piece I was learning at the time. It was frustrating to be working hard each week to prepare for my lesson, but not have anything in shape enough to play with pride.

Now I am a Suzuki teacher, a method of teaching that includes song review as a part of every practice. Practicing mastered songs doesn't need to be specific to a method of teaching. I've learned there are many benefits to playing old songs. The most obvious benefit is that students have a repertoire of songs ready to share with friends or relatives who show an interest. My students often report back with pride about how much their grandparents enjoyed listening to them play during a visit.

(Note from Angelique: If your child has a hard time being "put on the spot" to choose a song to play, avoid all that pressure - have them keep a list of mastered songs sitting on the piano or in their instrument case.)

Another benefit of song review is that students get to experience a feeling of competence each time they play an old song with ease. Forget what you may have experienced yourself as a child learning an instrument. Practice doesn't always need to be about struggling with a difficult new piece. The experience of playing polished songs is a huge confidence builder and balances out the frustration that can accompany learning new material.

Doesn't it make sense? When your child doesn't have to focus on the task of learning new notes and rhythms, she will naturally start incorporating recently acquired tone and phrasing skills into familiar pieces.

How much practice time does it take to keep "old" songs fresh? Beginner and intermediate musicians can start with just five minutes of playing a few old songs. A simple weekly schedule of songs helps keep practice sessions organized and "excuse free." As newly mastered songs are added to the list, older songs may only need to be played once or twice a week to keep them in shape.

Here is an example of a review schedule for 12 songs. It takes just minutes a day to keep all of these songs in performance shape.
(You get bonus points if you noticed this is a five day practice schedule):

Review Song Chart

How much review time do your kids put in during each practice? Do they like to perform for friends and family? We love to read your comments and Tweets, keep 'em coming.

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  1. I am so thankful that my boys' Suzuki violin teacher does this for me already. You are right, keeping mastered songs fresh is an asset when one is asked to play something.

  2. Hi Lara, Thanks for your comment. At one point we figured out that a Book 4 Suzuki violin student would have over 60 songs in their repertoire to keep fresh!

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