Category Archives: practice

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions

January 1st is the day for making resolutions for the year ahead and I’m starting well by posting on my occasional blog! Given that none of my students will be reading this today – if at all – I wonder how many are committing to more regular practice this year? I’ve done a quick Google search on New Year Resolutions and practising the piano (or any instrument) doesn’t feature on any of the lists I found; Learn a new skill is the closest, but doesn’t seem so relevant when you have already been taking lessons for a few years.

Why is it necessary to remind students of the need to practise? You take piano lessons to learn to play the instrument but having a lesson every week will not turn you into a pianist without some practice in between. You improve your playing by playing more! Playing is a fun word, suggesting something that you want to do – you play with your friends, you play games – and not something that you have to do. The word practise is more dictatorial, implying hard work and effort, so it’s not surprising that there can be a certain amount of resistance to practising. But learning a new skill takes effort and when you do practise effectively, your playing will improve and you will enjoy it more. I have blogged before on practice and if you are in need of some strategies, please check my previous post here.

So, how to make those practice sessions more enticing? You could try a 100 day challenge: commit to practising for at least 20 minutes every day for 100 days – that will take you into April. (note to students who already practise for longer than this – carry on as you are!) Make sure you mix up your sessions – some sight reading, some improvising/composing, technical work, learning notes, memorising, playing through. Note the last in the list – should be saved for the end of your session and not forming all of it – and you don’t have to do all of these different activities every time! Practice of difficult sections involves repetition: learn the notes slowly then repeat at least twice until your fingers know where to go. The next day you may still need to play three times before it begins to feel easier. Set yourself mini challenges: play one bar perfectly 10 times, 20 times.  Get into the habit of practising so that it becomes as automatic as breathing – but stay focused when you are playing and listen!

Happy new year to everyone – and happy music making!

 

Practice matters

This section of the website is for my students (and their parents!) and will be an occasional blog on piano related matters. It won’t be a surprise that the first note is on practice.

Practice matters

Practice works! You learn to play better the more you practise. It’s not just a question of putting in the hours, however – despite the ‘10,000 hour rule’. How you practise is as important as how much: if you learn a wrong note really well it will take just as long to put it right!

It is important to break up practice sessions into different parts, allowing some time for ‘playing’ and enjoying making music, and some time for the hard slog of learning notes with the correct fingerings and rhythms. It doesn’t all have to be done in one go. Sometimes it’s better to work on a short section for ten minutes then have a break. Practise hands separately, slowly (S – L – O – W – L – Y) in the first place so that your fingers will learn where to go. Building up tricky passages one bar at a time makes it easier. Practise backwards! Start at the last bar of the difficult bit – make sure you know the fingering where you start, and gradually begin from further and further back. Running at something and hoping the momentum will carry you through seldom works!

Practise every day. This really makes a difference: it’s better to practise for 10 minutes every day than an hour the day before your lesson. You can be struggling with one particular section on Monday and find you can play it without any problems on Tuesday – miracles can happen overnight but you usually need to have put some work in first!

If you are getting frustrated with something, have a break. Play something that’s easier, or that you know better. But don’t spend all your practice time playing the pieces that you already know – you need to spend some of it learning new things.

Several of my students have exams coming up in the next couple of weeks, and most of these have increased the amount of time they are spending at the piano with amazing results – they are playing even better than I thought they could! This includes the one who complained that an hour was too long – you know who you are!