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  • Writer's pictureRon Dickson

How to learn better Part 2

How do we get material into our brains better? It is one of the many questions that anyone studying asks frequently. The answer is relatively simple and involves varying the information to ensure it goes into our long-term storage.


As a teacher, it is one of my roles to develop these techniques with my students, and I am always looking for more information. Recently I took a training programme run by Gregg Goodhart at Musical U, who managed to simplify a lot of the information and supplied the phrase “Contextual Interference.”


To get a piece that we are studying into our brains, there is not much value in repeating it in the same way. We must vary that information within its context, and the differences are then stored along with the original to enhance memory.


We want to break down what we are studying into small practical sections and apply the following sort of ideas to vary the piece:-

  • Change the rhythm – every note the same length, shuffle beat, dotted rhythms, reverse rhythms.

  • Change the position it is played at but keep the same key

  • Change the key, but play in the same position

  • Change the key and position

  • Sequence all the notes in the piece

  • Play it blindfolded, backwards, in the dark, sitting down, standing up.

Anyway, you think that changes the context in which it is played.


I have heard the comment back, “But I have to keep repeating it to get it into my brain”, when teaching these methods.


I use the reply, “If you kept repeating 12 x 56 and getting the correct answer, would you get any better?” no, but you might get a sore hand writing it out…


However, if you did 10 x 56, 2 x 56, 5 x 12, 6 x 12, and 56 x 12, you would be able to do the sum more instinctively AND apply that knowledge elsewhere.


More about Recall next week.

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