The Importance of Repetition

Unless you were born with or developed perfect pitch and perfect recall, or something close to it, you will most likely have to learn music like most of us do. By repetition.

From the beginner, to the master of music, that is how we learn music. Usually in this order

1. Try to play the music all the way through.

2. Go back and try to play the music all the way through slowly, and notice the problem areas.

3. Start at the beginning and play the first phrase VERY SLOWLY (you have to be able to see the notes, to play the notes).

4. Gradually, and perhaps with a metronome, increase the speed slowly (one more click of the metronome) to get the first phrase up to speed.

5. Learn the next phrase the same way.

6. Put the two phrases together (you will most likely have to slow down a bit) and work until you can play both phrases together at the tempo you want.

7. Keep doing this until you have learned the whole piece.

8. Play the piece a few times and enjoy your commitment to excellence.

It's like learning to talk when you are a small child. We learn by saying back to our parents what they say to us. Repetition!!!

Having laid this method out, realize that when you come back the next day you most likely won't be able to play it perfectly, and you may have to go through the whole process again, either a phrase at a time or with the whole piece. This time it will be a little easier. Keep doing this until you own the music.

Repetition is not only something we do with the music, it is something we do on a daily basis. So repetition is repeating what you practice from day to day, as well as repeating it as a way of practicing.

Some people serious about practicing a piece of music, will play it until they feel comfortable playing the music from the page. Others will memorize it. Either way the ultimate goal is to take the music off the page and own it in your soul so it does not sound like you are reading music, but that the music is coming from within you...or the universe.

What I have described is learning music by reading it from a page and looking at it.

There are some people who learn another way. By listening to music, and then trying to play it on their own instrument. That is called learning BY EAR. However, though they don't read music, the learning process is much the same. They imitate what they hear on a recording of some sort until they have learned it. It is easier for these people to make the music sound like it is coming from inside themselves because they skipped the exercise of reading the music first.

If you repeat something long enough, sooner or later it will be memorized to your delight, and without the music you have a better chance of sounding like the music came from your soul.

I am not suggesting that you have to memorize everything you practice, however, in preparation for learning tunes, or a concerto, which are usually performed by memory, why not memorize something occasionally along the way, so it's not a surprise when you become an advanced player. The act of memorizing will improve your ability to listen.

Most instrumentalists learn the reading way. If you learn enough pieces this way, one gradually learns to play the music as it is coming from their soul while they are sight reading the music.

I was fortunate in the way I was taught. I learned the clarinet first, then after several years took up the saxophone, after another several years. took up the flute, and finally took up the oboe. In the meantime I was messing around with the recorder. In each case I had to start from the very beginning with long tones, whole notes, half notes, eighth notes, and sixteenth notes etc. I went through the exercise books to train my fingers and the literature to get up to speed on what was required of me. So each time I picked up an instrument I learned to approach music again from the beginning.

For the beginner, this is all more difficult than for the advanced player, as they are not only trying to learn music, they are trying to learn an instrument too. They need to think about holding a foreign object, perhaps how to breathe, to do the muscle building for holding the instrument and creating an embouchure, and to learn how to find the right movement for their fingers. All of that can be slow and arduous task. After many years of playing, performing and practicing, these are still all concerns of mine, and I am looking for constant improvement.

I always advise the beginning student to practice slowly and learn how to listen to their notes and their body. They simply can't practice as long in the beginning, because there is so much to learn, and so many muscles to train. The answer to this dilemma is to include dedicated listening to improve their concept, and find, or revive, the love of a finished piece of music. Also practicing in shorter time periods, a few times a day, rather than forcing improvement seems prudent.

Work on practicing one minute a day. Let the problems of the day, the things that are pulling on us, the procrastination, and all the other little things that make it difficult for us to approach our instrument go away. Pick up the instrument and play until you are tired. In the beginners case that may be a few one minute sessions. For the more seasoned player it gets to be longer For those that can't afford the one minute a day really don't want to do it anyway. It is work, and there is solitude in learning. As Jack Wheaton used to say, "learning is a painful process."

It doesn't have to be painful with only a minute a day (or more). Your instrument can charm you, and that is the beauty of practicing. Get a little better with repetition, and know that repetition will yield results, and that make us feel good.


I have kept a journal for many years and have collected quotes that I think have a message of some sort. I have also included some of my own musings about life and music. I hope you enjoy them and find them helpful.

I also urge you to keep a journal as it always inspires me to add something new or use the journal to keep my own thinking positive.

The first sound after silence should always be your best. In a perfect world every note would be your best, but the first sound after silence is the one that will be remembered.
...........Arnold Jacobs - Chicago Symphony

Music is not the notes, but in the silence between..

Music is the silence between notes

What is best in music is not to be found within the notes.

A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.

The art of not playing in tempo-one has to learn it.
..........Pablo Casals

You make your mistakes to learn how to get to the good stuff.
.........Quincy Jones

In music silence is more important than sound
...........Miles Davis

And from my book of quotes:

Laugh about the pain.

Life is the most important thing to have.
.............Luciano Pavarotti

Sometimes I think there are more worthy musicians,
than there are stars in the sky.
.........Lester Perkins

Jazz on the Tube

Building muscles is the same no matter what kind you are building,
Physical, Mental, or Emotional