Oops, I forgot how to play that – How to help your child beat the forgetting curve.

Last week my nine year old forgot to pack his lunch box in his bag for school. It’s been a while since he has done that, so I quickly jumped in the car and drove it up to the school so that he would have something to eat for lunch.

It wasn’t always that rare for him; as a matter of fact, all my children forgot things during their early years of school. They forgot hats, lunch boxes, drink bottles, jumpers etc. and the result often meant lost items at school and money spent replacing things. Eventually, with our encouragement, our children developed routines and habits that meant less and less forgetting. Now it is infrequent in our house for something to be forgotten.

As teachers, we experience the same thing in lessons. “I forgot where my hands go Mrs, Collyer?” – “Let’s take a look at your music and work it out” is my reply, and together we begin to review our notes and finger numbers and to work out our hand position on the piano. Forgetting hand positions, forgetting notes on the stave, forgetting to hold minims and semibreves, forgetting what the dynamic means etc., are very common among beginner piano students. Forgetting things is very common for many children, and there is a huge reason why – the forgetting curve.

The forgetting curve, created by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus is a visual representation of how we forget learned information over time. It is interesting to note that within 24 hours of learning, we forget 70% of what we learned, and within 7 days, we have only retained about 10% of what we learned the week prior. It is no wonder young pianists can’t remember where middle C is, or the young violinist forgets how to hold the bow correctly.

But there is hope. Extending on his research Ebbinghaus discovered an essential key to remembering. If put in place, this key helps to maintain new knowledge learned, beating the forgetting curve.

The key to beating the forgetting curve is regularly reviewing newly learned material in regular intervals throughout the week. In doing this, students can retain 80 to 90% of the information learned in the previous week. Just three review sessions a week on days one, three and six after your child’s lesson will do wonders for helping them to retain and master material learned in their instrumental lessons.

One of the biggest reasons your child’s instrumental teacher is always talking about practice is because they know it is the biggest key to your child’s success. Outside of finding a great teacher and using age-appropriate engaging resources for your child, establishing a practice routine with your child at home from their very first lesson will bring your child many hours of joyful music-making and will help them to progress quickly and confidently through each stage of instrumental learning.

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