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In this blog, I’ll give you a few simple yet highly effective tips for practice. Smart practicing ensures that you can learn to play something you thought you could never master. It helps you avoid those annoying mistakes that keep coming back. It contributes to more enjoyment while playing and less nervousness before performances. So, leave behind the excuses like ‘I’m too old,’ ‘I started too late,’ or ‘I’m not musical,’ and remember that you primarily want to find the right method.

This time, I’m providing tips based on the book “Lezen, weten en niet vergeten” (Reading, Knowing, and Not Forgetting) by Mark Tigchelaar. The principles he explains should be generally known but aren’t yet. I’ll translate these tips into the context of music in the upcoming blogs. Here’s the fourth principle: Connect.


Random data is harder to remember than data that is connected; 123456 is easier to remember than 492756. The underlying principle is that our brains want to connect information. Imagine you want to study a new piece of music and apply this principle. It would be very impractical to go through all the pitches separately first. Because what is the connection? You might recognize this as my pet peeve by now, but first, take a broad look at the music in front of you. It’s about the context of the music, within which the elements become a comprehensible whole.


Another variation of this ‘connect principle’ is this tip from the book to structure. You remember a large number of words more easily if they are grouped in words that belong together. All ‘tool words’ together or everything related to animals, for example.

In music, you can apply this by focusing on one component and examining its coherence. For example, the form; if you realize that the song consists of an intro, verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, outro, you already have a much better grasp of the piece. Also, consider dynamics in this way: suddenly, you see connections and differences. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed before that the same theme is softly repeated later. Or that the dynamics build throughout the piece, getting louder until the end where it becomes soft again.

Break down

Another handy tool that Tigchelaar mentions in this chapter is breaking down information into understandable pieces. A long name in another language like Csikszentmihalyi is difficult to remember. Break this name down into words that are understandable to you, like “chick send me high,” and now you can remember the whole.

In music, there are sometimes long sequences of notes and rhythms that are challenging to store in your mind at first. Break the sequence into small pieces, for example, 5 notes that belong together like a kind of word or phrase, and then piece them back together. A tip here is to play each piece 5 times in a row to anchor it. So: doobadooháá 5x, dap-dadadap 5x, tagadadadá-doedat 5x. And then doobadooháádap-dadadaptagadadadá-doedat.

In summary:

* Connect; first, create an overview so you know how to place all the notes and symbols. For a ballad(e), a slow tempo, legato play, and soft dynamics fit. You feel the tempo and mood, just like a conductor indicates. Analyze the rhythm and then play the melody. You will now automatically play it as a ballad(e) (slow, soft, legato, etc.).

* Structure; focus on a component such as the form, and you will see more connections.

* Break down; break long lines into small, logically sounding pieces that are easy to learn. Then play the whole thing in sequence.

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