What IS Chunking???

Updated: Dec 20, 2020


Chunking is a deliberate, mindful practice technique where you zoom :-) in on about 5-9 notes of music.

You practice a chunk of music that is easy to play. This uses your short term memory. Gradually this will move into your long term memory, if you continue to practice in a deliberate, meaningful, mindful way.

Chunking music like this is a much less frustrating way to practice! Why? Because you are practicing chunks that you can play, making them easy, even if it is only 2 notes. And, you are not practicing in a way you do not want to for mindless hours.

When Chunking:

1. Select a chunk.

2. Choose a specific tempo.

3. Use a rest in between repetitions.

4. Give yourself a cue as of what to do when before you repeat it.

5. Repeat the chunk.


The specific tempo and the REST in between are very important.


Because when we talk to ourself, teach ourself, elaborate on what we are doing this is also a very significant way to Make It Stick.

This is based on another productive way we learn.


Elaboration: is the process of finding additional layers of meaning in new material and making connections with things you know and adding that layer to the new material. It fires up lots of neural synapses !!! And, we remember it more and more quickly.

What to cue yourself on?


Circle Of Observation

(free download a Creative Flutist Practice Card)

It will give you more ideas on observing your practice and then what you can focus on before each repetition.


Next: Add A Note

Do what I call, Add a Note to your chunk.

(Free download a Creative Flutist Practice Card)

Gradually add one note at a time to your Chunk. It takes patience to do this, but once you start to practice this way and hear the results you will be sold on it!

Chunking & Chaining

Also doing what we call Chunking & Chaining. Here is a Video from Jason Sulliman describing and practicing like this.

At Tempo Fast Practice:

Is the concept that if we playing a chunk of music at the desired tempo right from the start, it may only be 2 or 3 notes, that we are actually accessing the part of our brain and the way our muscles need to move, that we can ONLY do by playing it fast.

So, while going from slow to gradually faster tempi may feel like it is building our ability to play it and our confidence… we usually hit a wall at some point with the speed… and the concept is what if we start- at speed? BUT with just a few notes, chunks and add a note and chain them together…


THEN we are actually practicing it as we want to play it and using the part of our brain and physically, dynamic movement that we need to play it. INTERESTING !!!


Where did “chunking” originate?


George A. Miller’s,1956 Information Processing Theory has a concept called “chunking.” The basic theory is that short-term memory can only hold 5-9 chunks of information, 7 + or - 2… and a chunk is any meaningful unit of information. This processing theory and chunking concept has become a general theory of human cognition; the phenomenon of chunking has been verified at all levels of cognitive processing.


More recently we have the books by John A. Sloboda for science and psychology.


And from Anders Ericsson, The Science of Expertise


And in our flute community The Art of Chunking by the "Fabulous Flutists" Patricia George and Phyllis Avidan Louke.


I hope that gives you something to think about and some good information on CHUNKING and where it came from!!!


Happy, Meaningful, Mindful, Deliberate & Creative Practicing

~ Jennifer

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