Robert Pace: Productive Practicing

Clavier Magazine

July/August 1992
Reprinted by Permission

Recently I read an article about a father who started music lessons in order to appreciate what his 11-year-old daughter was experiencing in piano study. The impetus for this adventure came from listening to her practice; although he wanted to assist these efforts, he admitted, “When it came to helping her, I was useless.” Practicing is an art in itself, and too many students could use help in making practice time more productive. Those who practice ineffectively will generally play at a mediocre level, which provides them with little enjoyment; students who do not enjoy playing usually drop out of lessons.

Teachers generally attribute poor achievement to a combination of factors, including competition for time from other after-school activities; a fragmented practice routine that leads to ineffective preparation. While these problems may seem beyond teachers’ control, in my experience when students learn to accomplish more during practice, they derive more satisfaction from music study and begin to allot more time to practicing.

If good daily practice is essential to progress for students, the same is no less true for teachers, who as professionals should continue to grow musically. It is only reasonable to require of ourselves what we expect of others, yet many of us fail to practice what we preach. We may allow extraneous matters to intrude into the daily practice period, assuming one exists. Instead of a well structured session with a variety of materials representing different styles and periods, practicing may be an end-of-the-day struggle with tired technique and resurrected repertoire. With a sharp focus on the music at hand and a better understanding of how to practice, both teachers and students should be able to accomplish more in the available minutes of daily practice. (If good daily practice is essential to progress for students, the same is no less true for teachers, who as professionals should continue to grow musically. It is only reasonable to require of ourselves what we expect of others, yet many of us fail to practice what we preach. We may allow extraneous matters to intrude into the daily practice period, assuming one exists. Instead of a well structured session with a variety of materials representing different styles and periods, practicing may be an end-of-the-day struggle with tired technique and resurrected repertoire. With a sharp focus on the music at hand and a better understanding of how to practice, both teachers and students should be able to accomplish more in the available minutes of daily practice. (Next >>)

Copyright 1992 by Clavier Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

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