Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to tell you about the 3 most important practice techniques. There are hundreds of practice techniques. But the things I’m going to tell you today are quintessentially important. They’re points that I keep making again and again. They need to be cemented in your mind if you want to be productive in your practice. So listen to all three, because they’re all vitally important for taking your piano playing to the next level.
1. When something goes wrong, resist the temptation to go back and start again.
When you’re practicing, sometimes you don’t even have the score. You’re just practicing without the music. But you really should have the score in front of you for reference when you’re practicing. Not that you should play all the time with music. You might want to test your memory to see how things are coming along. But here’s the critical thing: when something does go wrong, resist the temptation to just go back and start again. Maybe it will come out well the next time around, but take the opportunity to check the score! Find your place no matter how painstaking it is.
You may think you could just start back four measures, because it’ll take longer to even find where you are in the music. It will take you longer, but it’s important. Whatever needs to be clarified, you’re not going to be able to understand from just playing the section again. Maybe you will get it, maybe you won’t, but you haven’t really figured out what the issue is. You need to find the solution to that weakness. So when there’s a mistake, study the score! Don’t just try again and hope for the best. By using this technique, whatever confusion you had can be clarified once and for all!
2. Practice slowly.
Any accomplished pianist knows about the importance of slowing down. You must practice slowly, incessantly! Eventually you can get the same level of comfort and security playing at a faster tempo. Playing over and over again just a little bit past your comfort zone only breeds insecurity in your playing. You still want to try things faster to see what they sound like and to isolate the weak parts. It’s very valuable to zero in on the parts that need work. But fundamentally, a great deal of practice is slow playing with the score, reinforcing the memory, and always looking at the score carefully in any place you have insecurities. So read slowly with the music, with the metronome, and without the pedal to cement the performance. This will give you clarity of thought and physiology about what you’re doing at the keyboard.
3. Expand your repertoire!
This is vital! No matter how long you play, if you are just going through review pieces, eventually you’re going to plateau in your playing. There is a vast amount of piano music. Some of the greatest pianists of all time, who learned more music than anyone else, still only scratched the surface. The amount of music that people like Alfred Brendel and Claudio Arrau have amassed is mind-boggling. And yet, it’s only a small fraction of what’s out there. There’s so much great music written for the piano, by composers you’ve heard of and composers you haven’t heard of. So expand your repertoire! You really need to be learning something new every day. You may be bogged down with trying to perfect what you’ve already learned, and that is certainly an essential part of your practice. But take at least a few minutes just to learn something new each day, because you’ll have so much more to show for it.
Why is it so important to learn new music everyday?
Let’s say you want to learn a new piece. But you wait until your current repertoire is perfected before you start, even if it takes weeks. And then all you’re doing is studying a new piece. Do you know how hard it is to learn and memorize something new? There’s only so much you can do at a time before it gets really hard. You get to that point of diminishing returns in how much you can learn in a 10 or 20 minute period. But if you were to do some work each day, when your mind is fresh, you take advantage of that time. Even if it’s only 10 or 20 minutes a day, it’s time that your mind is fresh. You can learn something relatively easily if you’re only learning a phrase or two at a time.
These are the 3 things to remember!
Always have your score handy. When something falters, reference the score. Don’t just try to play it again, study it. Figure out what’s going on. Clarify in your mind and your hands what the correction is.
Slow down. You should be practicing slowly, even with pieces you can play up to speed. From time to time, you must go back and recement the notes, rhythm, fingerings, phrasing, and expression by referencing the score, playing slowly without the pedal, and using the metronome as much as possible.
Be sure to expand your repertoire on a daily basis. You’ll have so much more to show for your work over time if you use these three techniques! I hope this is helpful for you! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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