Today we’re talking about The Music Season. Musicians generally agree that spring is at least as busy a season for musical events as the Christmas season. If you have children who are taking music lessons, you no doubt hear them practicing their recital piece over and over. Please be patient (or wear ear plugs!)–not only must they learn the music with their brains, but with their fingers as well.

Did you know that we have muscle memory as well as brain memory? That’s why you don’t have to consciously think about how to pick up a pencil or rise to a standing position from a chair. Musicians use their muscle memory to play passages that are much too fast to think about one note at a time.

They must train their brains to do many tasks simultaneously. Each note is a shorthand symbol that tells which note to play, how long to hold it, how loudly to play it, what touch to use, and which finger to use. That is a lot of information packed into one symbol!

But pianists have an additional challenge. Often, a student pianist can play his music one hand at a time, but he cannot play the piece with both hands. This is because his brain hasn’t learned to cross-pattern effectively for that particular music yet. This is why so much repetition is necessary.

The most useful practice habit, as with any memory-training activity, is to work intensely on a short passage, reviewing it several times each day. Thus, he brings it constantly back to the front of both his brain memory and his finger memory. These short, frequent sessions are much more efficient than occasional hours-long sessions. They also help the student feel a sense of accomplishment as he masters each section.

Remember what Grandma used to say: “By the yard, it’s awful hard. By the inch, it’s a cinch.” I remind students, “By the score (complete musical composition), it’s a chore; by the measure, it’s a pleasure.”*

I think there’s a message in that philosophy for all of us. Enjoy this season of music-making. Maybe you will decide it’s time to dust off the keys and play a little yourself.

*For more music teaching insights, visit

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