RECONSOLIDATION - The Scientific Strategy to Fast Learning

A huge part of life is learning and gaining new skills. It is what helps us progress and brings fulfillment into our lives. In an era of exponential advancing artificial intelligence, anybody can learn anything they want at the click of a button. We have so many resources at our fingertips today it's almost as if we're competing against the content, trying to absorb as much information as we can.

A word of caution. We have to make sure that access to a lot of content does not mean that we can surpass and take the short cut from the fundamentals of PRACTICE. As I got higher into my classical piano training days to writing my own songs, playing for other artists and performing, I learned that the time put into practice is extremely valuable but it is also the way you practice that is just as important.

The way that most people practice a new skill like myself was through repetition - practicing the same movement or memorizing a speech over and over again hoping that through this repetitive motion that these skills gets ingrained into our memories. There is value in repetition and consistency however I have since learned that mastering a new skill practicing like this can slow down and sometimes hinder progress.

In a Johns Hopkins Study, they learned that small changes and modifications to the way we practice and also the environment we practice in can speed up learning. This is called RECONSOLIDATION - "a process where existing memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge".

"In short, each time you practice, you make the conditions a little different. That primes the reconsolidation pump — and helps you learn much more quickly."

Be careful to not make MAKE TOO MANY CHANGES TOO QUICKLY and ONLY SMALL MODIFICATIONS. If we do many changes we create new memories NOT reconsolidated ones.

Neurological research found that it takes on average 6 hours for new memories to reconsolidate. Therefore in theory we should space out practice sessions with these modifications by at least 6 hours!

Here is a simple example of how to learn a new skill and master it quicker based on SCIENTIFIC Research!

** Next week I will demonstrate and share these tips and tricks with you on my YOUTUBE series: All "Key" Things Tutorials: Believe with Natalia Chai"**

Scenario: Practicing a new song!

1) Rehearse the basic skill: Practice the correct fingerings specific to the scale you are learning and run through it a few times.

2) Wait at least 6 hours for your brain to create and consolidate the basic skill - so this would mean wait till tomorrow!

Next time you sit down and practice here are a couple small changes to help RECONSOLIDATE your new skill...

3) Practice a little FASTER this time. Even if your fingers aren't quite set on the correct fingerings speed up your tempo just slightly. This will mean you will make more mistakes but that's ok because you will be merging the old with the new memories and create foundation for improved learning!

4) Practice a little SLOWER this time. This time around you can refine your techniques, hand, wrist placements!

5) Practice in SMALLER SECTIONS. Divide your piece into 2 or 3 smaller parts and practice each section as if they were their own entity. Pick apart each section, practice the "problem areas" specific to each section and master it! Then put the whole piece together from start to finish and you would be surprised how quickly you have learned your new song!

6) If feasible, change WHERE you practice. Have you wondered why when you're practicing at home you would be able to play and perform perfectly, but when it comes time to play the same piece at your piano lesson, or during a recital or for examinations your performance just isn't as perfect! By changing your practice environment from time to time, this will also help modify and reconsolidate your existing memory and skill that you've already learned but to also prepare you for interruptions and the unexpected!

This can be applied to learning any new skill! Practicing and putting in time is extremely important - even if you are the most talented at something, without practice and putting in the work your skill will not be at the level you would like it to be! Practicing effectively and efficiently is the key! Saving time (and other resources such as money) while making the fastest progress is the ideal formula!

"Don't do the same thing over and over again in hopes you'll improve. You will, but not nearly as quickly as when you slightly modify the conditions in subsequent practice sessions — and then give yourself the time to consolidate the new memories you've made. 

Keep modifying and refining a skill you already do well and you can do it even better. And a lot more quickly!

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