A major goal of studying music is to turn several disconnected pieces of information or behaviors into one unified, meaningful idea or behavior. Such integration of many parts into integrated wholes is called chunking.
Chunking is a huge contributor to music mastery because it simplifies the work that our brains have to do. Chunking allows us to transform the impossible task of doing many complicated things at the same time into the easy task of doing just one or two simple things at the same time.
By the way, chunking is how you are reading these words. You are chunking individual, meaningless things called letters into unified, meaningful things called words. Musical literacy is the same thing. Here are some musical examples of chunking in action:
- Organizing groups of notes into scales.
- Organizing groups of notes into chords.
- Learning a left hand accompaniment as one unified idea, not separate notes.
- Instead of merely playing one note in your left hand and another note in your right hand at the same time, play both hands together as a single musical-physical idea.
The implications for studying and practicing are profound:
- When you study, look for unifying patterns that allow you to to turn many things into one or few.
- When you practice the chunked piece of music, practice the piece as one integrated idea or event, not a collection of separate ideas or events.