Learning to practice effectively has many benefits. First benefit? Learning a piece well before you get completely sick of it.
I was helping a Grade 10 student review her practice habits. Her exam is in June, she is feeling stressed. I asked her to practice as if I wasn’t watching. I’d give her some feedback at the conclusion.
1. Start playing at near performance tempo.
2. Make a mental note of errors of concern.
3. Review these areas after completing the piece.
a. Repeat, repeat, repeat
b. Then on to the next area
Progress is slow
1. Collect the materials needed for effective practice.
b. Professional recording for reference
c. Recorder to self record
2. Listen to the professional recording while watching the score, making notes of dynamics, tempi changes, pauses and any notable events in the performance.
3. Play very slowly with the professional performance fresh in the ears.
4. Mark in the score the areas that need work.
5. Listen to the professional play the problem area.
6. Mentally rehearse the passage after considering what is the problem: fingering, rhythm, etc.
a. Write in the fingering, if fingering is the problem.
b. Clap the rhythms, if rhythm is the issue.
7. Turn on the recorder.
a. Start playing. Repeat slowly until your version approximates the professional version in flow and expression, even if it is slower.
b. Listen and evaluate to each attempt.
Progress is quick
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.