Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Interleaved Practice

When I started working in LA, the pace was crazy and I'd often get thrown into the deep end. We'd get maybe one or two rehearsals in---sometimes none at all---then start gigging. There'd be lots of mistakes on the first show or two. We just had to play through them (no do-overs allowed of course!) and try to keep the crowd with us.

But I noticed that the mistakes disappeared within just a couple shows. It was nerve-wracking, but the memorization happened much faster there than in my home practice, where I'd play one thing over and over until I thought I had it down cold. This confirmed what I'd been told by my teachers: one hour on a gig is worth ten of rehearsal.

But the research suggests that it's not just the high-pressure environment that makes you learn faster. It's the interleaving-induced forgetting and remembering.

If you have 30 new charts to memorize by Saturday, the traditional approach would be to take all day, going over each chart several times in a row, until you can play it perfectly from short-term memory, probably spending 30-60 minutes per chart. This, however, is no guarantee that you will remember it on the gig. You'd probably just remember the last few songs you worked on Saturday morning.

With interleaving, you play each song once per session, letting your brain know what its eventual target is. Take about five minutes for each song. You allow yourself to make mistakes, because you have to move on. Do that with all 30 songs, then sleep on it, and do it again. Force yourself to remember, and relearn what you forgot. It's more effective.

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Barrett Tagliarino

Barrett Tagliarino