Today we are going to talk about why it’s crucially important to practice your music thoroughly as opposed to just quickly. You might think if you can practice something quickly it would be a big benefit to you but that’s not always the case.
I am actually someone who is very much in favor of short cuts wherever they can work. I’ve talked about methods in the past such as The Band-Aid Approach to practicing music that is a method in which you focus on the trouble spots of your performance in order to save time. This is not to say that this method isn’t a form of thorough practice; it’s just incredibly efficient focusing 80% of your time on 20% of the music which needs most of the work. I once had a student whose former teacher told them to play an entire piece through at a slow speed with the metronome and then speed it up one notch at a time playing through the entire piece again and again. This is definitely thorough practice but it wastes your time since only sections of the piece may require this kind of approach.
So what do I mean by thorough practice? Sometimes you’ll be learning a new piece and it’s not up to the level you want. You might find yourself jumping into random spots and trying to fix problems – this can be a mistake. Instead of moving on, go to the first spot you have difficulties with and stay focused on it. Stay with this section and keep working on it until you have it absolutely dialed in, perfect and reliable. If you stay with a section until you have it mastered as described above, you will find yourself playing it correctly even after time has elapsed. Even more importantly, the techniques you learn in that section will help you throughout the rest of the piece. There is rarely a piece of music you will encounter that doesn’t contain a repetition of ideas, techniques, harmonies and textures. So, the thorough work you do on one section will translate to other parts of the piece.
As you move through the piece perfecting trouble spots, you will find that your practice becomes incredibly productive. As opposed to just going through the piece and working on random trouble spots, find the origin of your problems, start there and practice it so completely that you can play it accurately with ease.
To recap, work on the difficulties you encounter early in a piece of music and you will be rewarded later in your practice. Thorough practice is what will make you a more accomplished musician. It is so gratifying to perfect a small part of a piece and continue on that path than to plow your way through without refining your work.
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