Practice is hard work. Sometimes we need to step back and take a short break. Fatigue, physical and/or mental reduces practice effectiveness.
Over the long weekend I had a free hour to practice piano without other pressures impeding my focus. A couple of preliminary procedures helped to make it fun and productive.
1. With only an hour, I didn’t try to accomplish too much. A little done well is way more satisfying that a lot done poorly.
2. I sought out competent professional recordings of each piece before starting. When I found a performance that spoke to me, I listened and marked the score, noting the phrasing, dynamics, balance, tempi, and most importantly how the cadences were executed.
3. I played very slow, one phrase at a time, concentrating on the fingering and my initial artistic impression of the pieces gleamed from the performance I had briefly studied. Another way of putting it is this, I played what I heard in my head. My question was, “how do I get the sound in my head out of these notes?” Not, “I wonder how this goes?” Note, I didn’t plan to go back and work on the expression after I had “learned the piece”. As a teacher I suspect many students, lacking this initial artistic impression, end up playing the piece pretty much the way they practiced it in the beginning: flat and without much insight. Remember the key in learning to play is to model great performances.
Pieces I worked on or reviewed
· Allemande in E major from French Suite by JS Bach, new work. I can now play it half tempo
· Prelude in Bb from book 1 WTC by JS Bach first page focus on the left hand melodic development
· First movement from Beethoven’s piano sonata in F minor, with focus on the development
· A small amount of Impromptu in A flat Major (no. 4) by Schubert, focusing on the pulse.
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You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted percussionist and drum teacher.