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?

Already subscribed? Please sign in

Subscribe to continue reading…

We’re delighted that you are enjoying our website. For a limited period, you can try an online subscription to The Strad completely free of charge.

  • Free 7-day trial

    Not sure about subscribing? Sign up now to read this article in full and you’ll also receive unlimited access to premium online content, including the digital edition and online archive for 7 days.

    No strings attached – we won’t ask for your card details

  • Subscribe 

    No more paywalls. To enjoy the best in-depth features and analysis from The Strad’s latest and past issues, upgrade to a subscription now. You’ll also enjoy regular issues and special supplements* and access to an online archive of issues back to 2010.


* Issues and supplements are available as both print and digital editions. Online subscribers will only receive access to the digital versions.