What Is Anti-Practicing and Are You Doing it?

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Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about anti-practicing. What is anti-practicing? Are you doing it? You may be. I’m going to give you 3 telltale signs today that you might be anti-practicing. What do I mean by anti-practicing? What I’m talking about are routines in your daily work that are destructive. Routines that actually build negative habits in your playing. There are many ways that you can be productive in your practice and an equal number of ways that you can be unproductive. One of the most telling signs that you may be damaging your work is playing too fast.

Playing too fast has so many negative repercussions in your playing.

One negative repercussion of playing too fast is changing your tempo. Let’s say you have a piece and it’s going pretty well. It’s fun to play it because it’s an exciting piece that you love, but there are just a few problem spots. So you accommodate by slowing down for those spots so you can enjoy playing through the music. Why is this such a bad thing to do? Occasionally you might want to try playing up to tempo to see how far you get and to see where the problem parts are so you can zero in and solve them. But if you’re in the habit of doing this on a regular basis, you get so used to playing it that way, making those accommodations, that it’s all but impossible to stop!


Obviously the metronome is an incredibly valuable tool. Find a speed at whcih you can play everything at that tempo and that will serve you really well. There are other techniques you can use as well, because you might not want to play all of it slowly all the time. Instead, play until you can’t keep up with the metronome and concentrate on those sections. You can simply do metronome speeds. Find the speed at which you can play the trouble passage, and increase by one or two notches at a time on your metronome until you get it up to speed. Or you can use other practice techniques, whatever solves the problems. Maybe you need to play hands separately. You can try stopping on a note that you always miss so you land on it a bunch of times accurately. Whatever it takes to feel secure in the parts that are giving you problems is worthwhile. Playing too fast is obviously going to be destructive if you do it on a regular basis without solving the underlying problems in the sections you can’t play up to speed.

The second telltale sign is going back just a little bit every time you make a mistake.

You’re playing through a piece and when you make a mistake you just go back and fix it. You think you fixed it, but of course you haven’t fixed it. All you’re doing is getting into the routine of going back slightly when you make a mistake. So during your performance you will do the same thing, because that’s what you’re used to doing. Solving this issue really takes multiple steps. You might think you solved it, but you haven’t. Because the next time, it’s likely to happen again. Those weaknesses are still there.

So how do you get rid of those insecurities?

First of all, when you have a little problem, you need to stop and get out the music to find exactly where the problem is. By the way, that’s the hardest part of all! You might think you’re the only one who has trouble finding where you are in the music. No. It’s hard even for me sometimes! But I take the time to do it each and every time because it’s the only way to know what the problem is and to clarify the solution in your mind. That way it’s not just a motor memory thing that you may or may not get, but intellectually, you understand the correction.

Once you can play the correction faithfully repeatedly, you get it up to tempo, it’s smooth, and you can play it at least three times in a row perfectly, are you done? No. You’re not done yet because you still have to put it into context. What I recommend is to go back a little bit first, maybe two measures before the part that you already got perfect three times in a row. Go back two measures before that and play that perfectly three times in a row. Finally, go back to the beginning of the piece or section and make sure you can think it all through playing accurately. Because strangely enough, even after cementing a correction, and even after being able to go back a couple of measures and get through it beautifully over and over again, you’re still going to find that when you go back to the beginning of the piece the same mistake will creep in again because you’re not used to getting there from that point. So you have to think it all through! Once you play through two or three times from the beginning perfectly, you’ve got it solved until the next part. So go to the next problem part and do exactly the same thing until you can faithfully go through the whole piece.

The third telltale sign is playing your mistake.

The 3rd telltale sign that you may be anti-practicing is playing your mistake. As soon as you make a mistake you wonder, “What did I do wrong?” So you go back and play it incorrectly again to understand what the mistake was. I know it’s so tempting to want to see what you did wrong, but all you’re doing is concentrating on the mistake. You’re cementing the mistake! This is the very definition of anti-practicing! You don’t want to think about your mistakes. You want to focus on the corrections!

Those are the 3 things to concentrate on!

Don’t play too fast! However, you can try your music up to speed, just to see where you need to focus your attention. Don’t just stop and go back a little bit and think you’ve corrected mistakes because you haven’t. You may think you have because you went back and played it correctly, but the same thing is likely to happen again unless you go back further and further incorporating the correction. And don’t ever try to find your mistakes. Instead, focus on the corrections! That’s what will be paramount in your mind and your performance will be stronger as a result. I hope these tips are helpful for you! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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