By Laure Struber
Efficient practice is key for musical development as it allows students to absorb and deepen the musical skills they learnt with their teacher, and it creates
a lifetime partnership between them and the music. Reciprocally, unfocused piano practice can be detrimental to the musical development by creating feelings of frustration and discouragement.
Here are some helpful advices to students who are struggling with their practice:
Spaced Practice. Space out sessions throughout the day if possible (ideally on mornings and evenings). If it does not work with your schedule, take a break in the middle of the practice session. Get away from the piano for 10 minutes and don’t think about piano during that time. Do something else. Once you come back, new ideas will come, and thoughts will be organized.
Unplug, unplug, unplug. Concentrate entirely on practicing piano, and remove all distractions during the practice. There should not be any cell phone and if possible, no background noise around the practice space. While playing, only focus on the music and don’t think about what’s going to happen after practice.
Be creative. For instance, mix up practice assignments. Practice a scale a few times, play a piece, go back to another scale, play the piece at a different speed or in a different key, work on a new piece, then end by creation (play something you love, compose new music or improvise).
Work on trouble spots. Mistakes won’t fix themselves magically! When working on current repertoire, there should always be a first play through (without stopping), preferably cold at the start of the practice session. Afterwards, pick trouble spots and work on them separately (at slower speed, hands separate, subdividing rhythm in the head).
Reset the music by playing slow. Playing at a slow speed is incredibly importan
t because it helps create a clear picture of the music in the mind. Especially before a performance, playing slow prevents students from picking up unexpected bad habits and it helps the hand play with more control. Repeatedly practicing at full speed is the single biggest cause of mistakes because a large amount of confusion is introduced into the memory.
Practice musically. Don’t practice hard just for the sake of practicing hard: try to connect each bar or each phrase to the next, play with dynamics, find
characters and moods for each section of the piece. Always listen to your music by closing your eyes, record yourself, or play for someone. Imagine a conversation between left hand and right hand, improvise a beginning of the piece, or a new ending. Away from the keyboard, be able to play the music mentally or sing it. Practicing musically will make the practice session feel much shorter, and it will also strengthen the memory.
JUST DO IT. There are thousands of distractions in our current world and it is so easy to procrastinate. If you keep telling yourself you will practice in 30 minutes or the next day, chances will be you will either not do it, or you will feel rushed and stressed when you actually do it.