Should You Give Up When Practicing the Piano?

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This is and I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about how to know when to move on in your practice. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to stay with things to solve a problem and when to say, “Enough is enough. I will revisit this later on.” The crux of productive practice is knowing the point of diminishing returns. It can be very easy to give up on learning a difficult passage and say, “Oh, this is just too hard. I’m going to try this again tomorrow.” But, there are many things you can do first before coming to that point. If you can’t get something, slow it down. If you still can’t get it, try hands separately, and revisit the score. There are so many options! Try breaking things down into chords. Take smaller sections and piece the sections together. There are a myriad of things you can try.

You don’t have to stop memorizing just because you can’t get everything together.

The method I use and teach for memorizing music is to take small sections at a time memorizing each hand separately first. Then put your hands together and get a small section memorized. Then go back and connect the sections going back to the beginning. But, sometimes you can’t go back to the beginning. Sometimes you can just go back to the previous phrase and piece together every other phrase. So, you have the first four measures, then you connect them to the next four measures. Then when you connect the next four measures, maybe you can’t go all the way back to the beginning, but you at least connect to the previous four measures. That is one thing you can do to plow through. That’s an example of working past the point of diminishing returns. The next day you can get fluid on the longer sections, and get everything put together. So the general rule is: try to simplify and break things down to digestible chunks.

Eventually, you’re going to come to a point where you’re not making progress.

When you get to a point where you’re not making progress on a technical or musical challenge, and you’ve already tried metronome speeds, you’ve tried taking little sections at a time, you’ve tried different articulations, different phrasing, you’ve tried hands playing separately, you’ve tried everything, and you’ve made some improvement. But it’s not nearly where you want it to be. That might be a good time to work on something else. Then tomorrow, when you’re fresh, you start a notch under the tempo you were playing the day before. Sometimes just sleeping on it will foster growth in your music! You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that the thing you’d been struggling with the day before now comes much more easily to you. Because when you first learn something, it’s never secure immediately.

Music grows naturally with time as you reinforce your memory and refine your playing.

That’s the lesson for today. I hope this is helpful for you. It is absolutely essential to have productive practice so you know when to move on and when to keep plowing through. And generally speaking, when you run into problems, first, try to simplify by either slowing down, sectionalizing, or playing hands separately, so you’re still making progress. But when you’ve built things to a point and you can’t get any further, move on and don’t feel badly about it. Tomorrow’s another practice day!

I’m Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.
Please feel free to contact me with any piano related questions for future videos!