Is repetitive practice a good or a bad thing?


A prolonged, sickening and monotonous repetition of a section of music or the legitimate means of mastering a difficult passage? Joseph O'Doherty weighs up the two sides.

Should repetitive practice be abolished or should it be retained in pupils' home practice? One cannot not answer these questions properly unless it is clearly understood what exactly is meant by 'repetitive practice'? Does it mean going over a difficult section of music a few times (as we all do) to get it right? Or does it mean a prolonged, sickening and monotonous repetition of a motif, a bar, or short section of music?

If one wants to be absolutely literal, then any repetition of anything from twice onwards would be repetitive practice, but the more sensible usage of the term implies too much, or extreme repetition, causing monotony, mental fatigue and other unpleasant results. It would also imply using this type of practice at the wrong time, and with the wrong material.

It simply would not be logical, of course, to deny that some degree of repetitive practice is necessary, otherwise we should never have learned our arithmetic tables at school, or our scales on the violin. Let us now consider what is good in repetitive practice and what is bad, also when it should be used or applied, and when should it be avoided?

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