The Power of reviewing old material

In my opinion, a healthy rate of musical growth is a prime goal. When we begin learning an exercise, etude, excerpt or solo, things are a little difficult, but we learn at a fast rate. But when we start to master the difficulties, our growth begins to slow down. Many of us, who practice the same thing for a long time (months or even years), aim to achieve more refined and reliable approaches with our music. This is generally a good idea, but can stifle our growth, as can be seen in this expertly-rendered graph from the Trumpet Journey research lab:

Chart of musical growth vs. time

On the other hand, if we allow enough time in which we do not practice an exercise or piece, our quality control will unfortunately go down. But our potential for musical (or physical) growth will increase!

Therefore, as an alternative, we could choose a cyclic scheme for practice, in which we keep coming back to previously-learned repertoire, but allow for some rest between specific repertoire.

As an example, this is one reason I rely on a weekly rotation for practice and warmup. Instead of practicing Jimmy Stamp patterns everyday (even though they are really great for fluidity and tone), I work on those only on Monday. Then on Tuesday, I work on a Claude Gordon routine for strength. On Wednesday, I delve into Michael Sach’s wonderful Daily Fundamentals, and this turns my attention back to fluidity and tone. On Thursday, I work on a collection of Carmine Caruso exercises–again focusing on strength. On Friday, I get out my Cichowicz Flow Studies (fluidity). Then on Saturday and Sunday I usually work on John Daniel’s fabulous Special Studies for Trumpet (focusing on “efficiency”).

My weekly rotation may not be the answer for every trumpeter, but the fact that I keep changing materials allows for continuous, high-end growth everyday.

Another example: in the Suzuki approach to musical study, students are encouraged to do reviews of books that have already been finished–this brings back all of the good techniques and musical insights that the student learned alongside those older pieces.

We can also experience high growth if we keep coming back (after some rest) to our etudes, solos and excerpts that we already learned.

Good luck with your reviews!

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