Making Repetition Fun for Kids

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Piano teachers need to devise ways of taking the sting out of mindless repetition.

To really learn the piano, you have to make short sections out of a piece, known as a “passage,” and then endlessly refine it through the process of repetition. Once mastered, the passage is then added to the rest of the piece.

But kids hate repetition. You might get away with saying, “Play it again,” but to a child, that is rather pointless. Try saying that five times and the child will run screaming from the room.

The younger the child, the more effort you will have to put into it. You’ll have to use humor and games to get the child to repeat.

But what is the point of repetition, anyway?

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Ultimately, repetition leads to continuity, which is what makes music enjoyable, even to a child.

No one wants to listen to a performer who halts and stalls.

Thus repetition familarizes your brain with every little convolution of the piece. You are really driving the material into your subconscious brain.

How do we disguise repetition for the youngest of kids?

Piano teachers have devised many ways to do this. Below is just one example.


This games makes the child produce their memory of a group of pieces as fast as possible.

First, teach the child fragments of six pieces, like Jingle Bells, Twinkle Twinkle, Pop Goes the Weasel, Mary Had a Little Lamb, London Bridge, Alouette. It doesn’t have to be the whole piece.

Then write the names of the songs on a piece of paper and number the titles.

Take a pair of dice (or just one) let the child throw and find which song they have to play, each song being associated with a number 1-6.


Bait and Switch Game. Work on a song, then pretend to be bored when you see the first signs of fatigue. Work on another song and then suddenly come back to the first. They will feel refreshed to try the song again.

The Betting Game. Start to make wild bets that they can’t play a certain passage or song. Bet your car. Bet five bucks, bet their Mom’s sofa, but make it ridiculous.

As they try the song, to win the bet, make a few casual comments, perhaps a suggestion of fingers here, remind of a forgotten element.

Now take all these ideas and combine them, and you will have created a child friendly manner of “practicing” that will lead to accomplishment.

The truth is that you must be something in between a drill sergeant and a master of ceremonies. Too much drill sergeant and the child will wilt.

Offer fun and work in equal measure and you will have a contented student.

Copyright 2010 Walden Pond Press

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