Oct. 7, 2018

Practicing and Memorizing, Part VI

(con't from Part V)
Every organist who is part of a staff of organists working for the same institution can sometimes find themselves having to sub for and take over the duties of the Principal Organist and Director of Music for an indefinite period.
The amount of advance notice given in these types of situations is often minimal, and there may be only a limited amount of time on the clock to get the music ready for an important event.
Because this world is so full of surprises like this and the day can be short (photo) it's helpful to have a plan in mind for how to make our practice time really count as such times.
When we have only two weeks to prepare for an event two days long, for example, and there is new learning and a certain amount of review involved, the question becomes, is it better strategy to 1) keep all the music from the entire event in one hunk, go through all the preludes, choral accompaniments, communion songs, altar music, hymns, etc. from it in their chronological order and practice them piecemeal every day accordingly as today's time will allow, then pick up practicing the next day where we left off, or to 2) break down the entire big event into several smaller but manageable sections, give concentrated practice to the first section the first day before moving on, then practice the next section the next day, perhaps by including a quick run-through of the previous day's work? ...
The results could vary from individual to individual, but this author has found the second method to yield more progress for the time and effort spent.
The probable reason for this has to do with the way the brain stores memory: it seems evident that it can do a better job of consolidating new memory, i.e. moving the day's learning from a temporary place of storage to a place of permanent storage (where it can be accessed in the future) when more repetitions are possible.
Repetition is the key; by breaking up the entire task into smaller chunks, more repetitions are possible each day in the same amount of time.
This little tip for making the best use of very limited practice time is often all it takes to eliminate anxiety as the event approaches and to boost one's confidence the day of, when the heat is on.