Because music is an art form and is appreciated audibly and emotionally, it can be easy to forget that a good performance is rooted in physical skill. Playing an instrument well takes time, dedication and that scary-but-shouldn’t-be word… practise.
In the past week I have had a few conversations with different students and parents about practise techniques, so thought it might be time for a refresher post about the main things to remember.
Repetition is the key. Muddling your way through a piece and finally reaching the other end doesn’t constitute effective practise; it’s just playing.
You want to always leave a practise session with at least a part of what you are playing sounding and working better than when you started. But that doesn’t need to be the whole piece. A small section of improvement is far better than a whole piece left at the same level. But something needs to improve.
Identify and isolate the area causing the problem and work on just that section for a practise session. Then try putting it back into a larger section, or the whole piece.
More, shorter practise sessions are more effective than one large catch-up. Once you have spent the time working on something, you don’t want to leave it so long that when you return to the piano, you have forgotten what you learnt. A small section you have been working on may only take 5-10 seconds to play, so every time you walk past the piano, play it one more time.
“Effective practise is consistent, intensely focussed, and targets content or weaknesses that lie at the edge of one’s current capabilities.”* Clicking on this link will take you to a great little video by Annie Bosler and Don Greene that explains how practising affects our brains and the positive lasting consequences of effective practise. At less than five minutes’ duration, and full of interesting facts, please take the time to watch it. It discusses practising for any task, not specifically music, so is useful in many areas of life.
Practise shouldn’t be a chore. It is an opportunity. This blog post I wrote twelve months ago outlines all the benefits effective practise brings to the student, beyond simply playing the piano.
There are lots of posts on my blog about practising, ranging from the how-tos through to ways you can make practising more engaging for your child. Search for ‘practise’ or ‘practising’ in the search box at the bottom right and I’m sure you’ll find some useful posts.
If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.
* – How to practice effectively… for just about anything – Annie Bosler and Don Greene