November is always a busy time of year for teachers who are putting students through AMEB exams. However it shouldn't be the ONLY busy time of year! Preparation for a music exam, whether it be for piano or any other instrument, isn't something which can be quickly crammed into the few weeks before an exam. It takes consistent practice over the course of the year to be prepared come exam day.

There are two types of practice: massed practice (essentially cramming, involving a lot of practice in a short amount of time) and distributed practice (practice which is spaced out over longer periods of time). While distributed practice over time is most beneficial when learning an instrument and preparing for a music exam, massed practice does also play an important role in the learning process.

Distributed practice over time results in more effective learning for musicians. It also allows for the development of correct techniques, and a feeling of fluency and confidence with the piece which only time can bring. Distributed practice should be used when arranging practice schedules throughout the year. Massed practice however, should be used within each and every practice session. This type of practice is very effective for short, simple, discrete tasks. By identifying personal problem areas in a piece of music, massed practice can be used to improve upon these sections. For example, a string player may be having difficulty with an interval requiring a shift up the finger board. Within a practice session, the student should focus on playing that single interval over and over again. Similarly, a pianist can improve a quick finger passage by repeating it many times within a practice session. In this way, massed practice can be very beneficial to improving a student's technique and perfecting a piece of music.

I recommend that student's (along with their parents) develop a practice schedule for each week which can be followed throughout the year e.g. half an hour of practice before dinner, and theory before leaving for school in the morning.

Combining the principles of both massed and distributed practice in the right way will result in effective learning and a very polished performance. I hope this helps you in your preparation for the November exams, as well as all future exams!

Best of luck!