Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is why looping sections of music doesn’t work in piano practice. It seems counterintuitive since you want to repeat things over and over to solidify them. Many times, I see students struggling, looping something over and over again, and not getting anywhere. Why doesn’t this work? Well, it comes down to the simple fact that practicing has some physiological component to it, but primarily:
Practicing is a thought process.
Take the time to stop and listen. Let’s say you’re working on a piece of music. Everything’s going fine, but then you get to a section that you can’t play up to speed, or it’s sloppy, or uneven. So you start practicing it. You just keep looping that section hoping to make it better. The problem with this is you’ve turned yourself into a robot! You’re just a machine playing it over and over again, without giving yourself the time to listen to what you’re doing. You’re not stopping long enough to make a judgment. Listen closely, then stop and ask yourself if that’s the way you want to play it. If the answer is yes, great! See if you can do it that way again. If the answer is no, decide specifically what you want to do differently next time.
Looping a phrase doesn’t give you time to listen.
When you loop a phrase, your mind can be anywhere. It’s not a thought process anymore. It’s just a mechanical motion. You might get a little exercise for your hands, but are you going to get any real value? Are you going to clean up your playing? Are you going to make it more even? No, you’re just repeating the same thing again and again. So if it happens to be exactly the way you want to play it, great! But if it isn’t, you’re cementing a poor performance. Your hands now know how to play it the way you don’t want because you never stopped to listen. You have to listen each and every time you repeat the phrase so you can determine whether it is what you want. And if it’s not what you want, you need to know exactly what to listen for the next time and find a solution.
Give yourself the time to listen to each repetition of a phrase rather than mindlessly looping it over and over again, because that accomplishes very little.
You’re not really refining your music when you’re just repeating things over and over in a loop fashion. So avoid those loop situations, unless it’s so perfect that you want to loop it again and again, perfectly. At that stage, there’s nothing wrong with looping. But make sure it’s the sound you’re after, because you’re going to cement it into your hands and your ears. If it isn’t exactly what you want, it’s going to be 10 times harder to undo what you have learned. Motor memory is very strong! It takes great intentional work to undo motor memory that’s ingrained in your hand. So looping can be dangerous! Be sure you are mindful taking time between repetitions when you’re practicing sections of music. That’s the lesson for today! I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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