Practice Tips

To improve learning skills in daily practice, look on each session as an opportunity to progress on your own in developing the ability to think musically and solve musical problems intelligently and independently. In studying each new piece, ask yourself how the composer intended it to be played rather than how a teacher told you to play it.

To keep the experience positive, never play a piece more rapidly than you can correctly execute everything on the printed page. No significant progress can be made without first overcoming any wrong fingerings, notes, rhythms, touches, and other negative factors.

Find the difficult spots such as harmonic changes, technical problems, and complicated rhythms, and begin working on these immediately. This may involve skipping around in the piece to find the hardest passages or even working on the last section first; don’t always begin at the beginning.

Instead of repeating a passage with mistakes in hopes of eventually getting it right, play each phrase correctly the first time, albeit under tempo, and then repeat carefully for greater facility and polish. Learning a piece through mindless repetition is like memorizing a phone number by saying it over and over; once you stop repeating the number, you soon forget it.

Try using intense concentration to learn phrases or even sections of pieces more quickly. First study every detail of a particular phrase or section for a few minutes without actually playing it; then close the music and play as far as possible. With regular practice your success rate will improve. This activity also builds reading skills by developing the ability to absorb minute details of the score and play them correctly on the first try. With a better understanding of the music, you should be able to bring pieces to an acceptable performance level in less time and retain them longer.

Good practice involves both focus and sequence. While focusing on a certain piece or activity during a practice session, do not omit sight-reading, technique, improvisation, ensemble, or other components from the daily sequence. In each of these practice segments, analyze the task at hand and identify problems; then prescribe the most appropriate action for dealing with those problems. This might involve practicing each hand alone, taking a slower tempo, playing outer voices only, or blocking the chords. After a few minutes evaluate the results of this prescription for signs of improvement. Then decide whether to repeat the cycle of analysis, prescription, and evaluation on that segment or move on to something else. (Next >>)

Copyright 1992 by Clavier Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2014 by Lee Roberts Music Publications, Inc.