Practice Tips and Strategies

by Ricardo de la Torre, Piano instructor at The Lesson Studio

Your success at the piano is greatly determined by the way you practice. More important than how much time you spend sitting at the piano is how you spend this time. Quality means a lot more than quantity here.

It’s a good idea to make a plan to know exactly what you will cover in each practice session and what goals you want to achieve. When you don’t have a lot of time to practice, you need to make the most out of it. Having some strategies to make the process more efficient will help a lot.

Here are a few tips:

• Remember to practice in small chunks. You can take a section of your piece and break it down into smaller sections. Make sure these sub-sections make sense musically (they are phrases or parts of phrases that have a clear beginning and end). Work on one section at a time and then put them together. Reintegrate them into the whole by starting a little before and stopping a little after the section you want to improve.

• When things seem too hard at first, always simplify your task. There are many ways to do this (i.e. play hands separate, slow the tempo down).

• Consistency is very important. Try to make practicing every day a habit and stick to it.

• Don’t always start practicing at the beginning of the piece. This approach almost always results in a performance with a solid beginning and a shaky end. Try a different spot every day or start with the most difficult parts.

• By the same token, if you only practice the parts you like or can play well while neglecting the more difficult spots, the integrity of your performance will suffer. Have priorities and spend less time with the parts you can already play well while devoting more time to the harder sections.

• Make your goals attainable and realistic. If you are too ambitious you might feel overwhelmed and frustrated. By making steady progress with smaller goals at a time you’ll actually get the results you want faster than trying to get too much done at once.

• Only repeat a passage once you have it right (in terms of notes, rhythm, dynamics, articulation and fingering). If you’re unsure, it’s better to wait and ask your instructor. Practicing a mistake will fix it in your memory and will be very difficult to undo later.

• Use your ear! Practicing is mostly about self-assessment. Stop frequently and evaluate what you just did. Always have a purpose for repeating a passage. Mindless repetition is not very useful.

• Remember: playing through your entire piece from beginning to end several times in a row is not practicing! (Unless of course you’re in the final stages of preparing for a performance).

Ricardo de la Torre, Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Ricardo de la Torre

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