PracticePrompt Blog

The 1-2-4 Memory Rule

Posted in Repertoire Building and Maintenance by elwynrees on October 7, 2009

brain

It is a well quoted commonly held truth that one way to “really” memorise and maintain in repertoire a learnt piece is to play it regularly for a while and then drop it completely.   Leave it alone, so that eventually it is completely wrecked and unplayable (6 months or more).  Then relearn it thoroughly from scratch (which it is said should go much more quickly than the first time).  Play it for a while and repeat the process, play it for a while and repeat….

Others recommend playing pieces through everyday to maintain them in memory and current repertoire (however, I’d definately tire of any piece doing this approach).    

A few thoughts on this below….

Last Sunday I was not able to practice. This was the first planned day away from the current piece and followed the first set of memorisation studies. On Monday, the first task was a slow cold play through from memory. The first attempt was a bit of a stumble and scramble, as I tried to remember the various sections and find the notes.  But it came back quite quickly. The second pass went much better.  

Since this “memory lapse and review” I feel that I am now playing it even better than before. In fact, it is almost as if forgetting it slightly, then reviewing the piece in detail has helped to improve my current understanding and recall of the piece (which still needs a lot more work).

So rather than the “play it every day” or “wreck it and relearn” approaches, is there a third way?

Tony Buzan’s book “Use Your Head” recommends a review pattern for a one hour period of study:

After 10 minutes: 10 minute review
After 24 hours: 2 – 4 minute review
After 1 week: 2 minute review
After 1 month: 2 minute review
After 6 months: 2 minute review
After 1 year: 2 minute review

Many people are aware of Mind Maps for note taking, but this review algorithm seems to get little mention.  Now, I’m not suggesting, that you can review a piece in 2 minutes (even though it may not last much longer).  But there are some principles that are worth exploring and playing about with.

  • The review period is a lot less than the initial learning period (ratio 1 to 6).
  • Review’s are a complete in depth overhaul of the work studied. 
  • Reviews should extend the knowledge and understanding of the work studied.
  • Reviews take place at increasing time intervals (almost exponential).

To review a piece of music, lets say it took 10 weeks to learn it originally, including to memorise and get it to a level where you could record it.  Then a 1 week review would sound “sensible” best guess. So we need an algorithm that we can easily use to manage slotting these reviews in to a study plan at exponentially increasing times.

Having given it some thought, I’ve come up with:

The 1-2-4 Piece  Maintenance Algorithm

Taking the lead from my one day break a rough guide would be:

Phase 1 (Days)

After initial studies and the piece is learnt and memorised:

Take a break from the piece (1 day)
Review the piece for the remainder of the week.
Take a break from the piece (2 days)
Review the piece for the remainder of the week.
Take a break from the piece (4 days)
Review the piece for the remainder of the week.

Phase 2 (Weeks)

Take a break from this piece (1 week)
Review the piece for one week.
Take a break from the piece (2 weeks)
Review the piece for one week.
Take a break from the piece (4 weeks)
Review the piece for one week

 

Phase 3 (Months)

Take a break from the piece (1 month)
Review the piece for 1-week
Take a break from the piece (2 months)
Review the piece for 1-week
Take a break from the piece (4 months)
Review the piece for 1 week

…and so on. (8, 16, 32 months etc)

This approach embraces forgetting and relearning but the intent is not to loose it from memory completely. There are 9 review periods.

Any volunteers to check this out?

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2 Responses

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  1. Jennifer said, on October 8, 2009 at 03:09

    I think this is useful for anything you are trying to accomplish.

  2. […] poco me encontré con un blog que hablaba acerca de la regla del 1-2-4]. En dicho blog, el autor hace referencia a un libro titulado “Use Your Head” de Tony […]


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