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!