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Do people forget songs once they master it and don't practice it for months and years? I am practicing many songs and doing ear training and scales and chords and many things in parallel. Hence have charted out a routine for me. But I want to know how long should I practice the songs, how should I space my repetitions such that I recollect it easily whenever I need it. This is not happening as of now if I don't revisit the songs i had practiced earlier and practice it again. Does this happen to all? What should the routine look like for achieving above purpose?

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    This is unanswerable. Everyone is different, and all pieces are different. One piece may take one person years, another would have it perfect in a few minutes - and remember it years later. Practice routine differs greatly too. We should all be aware of what works best for us. – Tim Aug 5 '20 at 5:26
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    @Tim: I just can't resist: youtube.com/watch?v=O6rHeD5x2tI – Aaron Aug 5 '20 at 6:52
  • @Aaron Tee-hee! – Old Brixtonian Aug 5 '20 at 7:16
  • @Aaron - pretty well answers the question... – Tim Aug 5 '20 at 7:18
  • ok. Thankyou. I guess I will have to do a trial and error more often to iteratively build a routine that works for me. I just thought, somebody might have some guideline some suggestions to be followed. Hence the question – Bodhi Aug 5 '20 at 7:54
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There is no fixed repetition count. You will definitely know once it is embedded in memory.

The stages to embed a piece in memory are roughly:

  1. Play slowly. Play so slow, that your brain can keep up and you neither make mistakes nor need to slow/stop to prevent mistakes.

  2. Once you feel comfortable, speed it up a little. Again stay in a tempo with which your brain can keep up.

  3. Continue speeding up until you can comfortably play at concert speed or 20% above.

  4. Now you already memorized the piece and your brain only comes in at a few difficult points of the piece. Now isolate and practice these points (starting slow again)! Once you got it, expand the portion of the piece to a few bars before and after and practice again.

  5. Now you should be able to relax during playing and think about expression and feelings.

If you can think about what to cook for dinner or drift off with your thoughts while playing, you know you have the piece really ingrained in your memory :). I sometimes like to do this on purpose and try to talk, think or otherwise distract/interrupt me. If I can still keep playing like that, it is now embedded in my fingers.

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  • thankyou @morgler. It is certainly making sense. I will ensure that this is into my routine – Bodhi Aug 6 '20 at 6:36
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Excellent answer from Morgler. Your brain is constantly getting new input from all aspects of your life and some things tend to distract from what is already learned, so don't think something is memorized and have it perfect if you stop practicing it. As practice repetition seems to become dull, introduce more dynamics into it. Vary the speed somewhat as you go, to give it a non-mechanical feel. If you are new to your instrument, frequent short practices with emphasis on getting one thing right is better than trying to learn an entire piece at once. "Frequent short" would be 10 to 20 minutes 3 or 4 times a day, rather than an hour once.

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    All banter aside, this is a valid question. Repetition is not the only way to lock a piece of music into your memory. In fact learning by rote won’t guarantee success. Your ability to memorise a piece can be greatly improved by the way you learn it. I would recommend some analysis before you play a single note. What is the key centre? Mark out the phasing. Are there any recognisable patterns? What is the under lying chord functionality at any moment? – user30510 Aug 5 '20 at 22:25
  • Thankyou @kirke and ArtyTwist. I will certainly get this included in my practice – Bodhi Aug 6 '20 at 6:39
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I seem to remember that it was Arthur Rubinstein who said that he considered a passage mastered when he could play it 120 times without mistakes.

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