Improving study techniques in MUHL classes


Work with a study group, ideally meeting on a regular basis throughout the semester. Do not wait until just before an examination to do this. Pick your study-group colleagues carefully: are they organized? Conscientious? Making a contribution? Detailed?

Develop good lecture notes (see handout on this separate topic); where necessary, reconstruct good lecture notes from others’.
When working with others’ lecture notes, do the following

  • Read them
  • Highlight or check-mark both important AND any unclear passages
  • Ask the author to talk you through the notes
  • Consider re-writing, re-typing, outlining, or otherwise re-working notes in your own words

Memorization (dates, names, titles, etc.) works better using the following:
  • Practice
  • Consistency (analogy of physical training)
  • Processing information more than one way:
  • a. Read, write, discuss, drill, do reading quizzes, make timelines and outlines, flashcards
  • b. Learn to identify and play to your memorization strengths, and to identify and improve your memorization weaknesses

Organize, re-organize, and repeatedly re-work sequence and presentation of information

Try to over-prepare for Reading Quizzes. Do the reading first, and then take the quiz.

Employ timelines, outlines, and especially flashcards:

  • For genres: identify the key compositional forms of the particular time period and develop a flashcard for each form. Each card should include, at the very least, the name of the genre; its approximate chronological time span; examples of composers working in the genre (early-middle-late); and specific pieces (early-middle-late). Example from Romantic survey:
  • a. Genres: symphony, symphonic poem, concerto, solo piano work, solo chamber and orchestral song, opera, quartet, other chamber music
  • b. Flashcard for symphony:
  • i. Romantic symphony. c1803-1888. Composers: Beethoven-Berlioz-Mahler. Beethoven 3, Berlioz SF, Mahler 1.

For individual pieces: identify specific pieces that will be tested and develop a flashcard for each one. Each card should include, at the very least, the name of the piece; composer; date of publication or premiere; a few words describing key innovations, traits, formal structures, or programmatic associations. Example from Romantic survey:
c. Mahler Sympony #1. 1888. programmatic, alludes to funeral march in Eroica, quotes klezmer and minor-key version of Frére Jacques, ironic/parodic, diverse styles and mood.
© 2006 Dr Christopher Smith