Practice Pointers Pack

What is the Practice Pointers Pack?

Each week I will offer a different practice suggestion for you to add to your Practice Pointers Pack - a collection of ideas for you to draw upon when practising and . You could bookmark these posts, or print them out and save them in a beautiful binder (as a stationery lover, that's what I'd do).

 
 

What is Practice?

Hopefully this isn't big news to you, BUT I'm afraid practising is not the same as simply playing through your pieces or scales. Playing is enjoyable and (hopefully) sounds brilliant. Practising will not sound so good, because you are studying and working on a piece, taking it apart, repeating tricky parts... Practising is equivalent to training and drills for a sports person, whereas playing corresponds to playing a game or racing a race for that same athlete. 

Practising can (and sometimes should) be hard work. Your first step is to have some different strategies (equivalent to different training tasks or drills) to follow. This will 

  • give you a fresh way of approaching things which might help move you on to the next stage of learning with a piece
  • enable you to develop different areas and skills
  • provide the means to solve different problems

My ideas about practising come from my own experience of practising (as my 4 year old will attest I am VERY old), as well as from various pedagogical and instructive texts including: Graham Fitch's Practising the Piano eBooks, Jeffrey Whitton's The Art of Practising the Piano, William Westney's The Perfect Wrong Note and Nancy O'Neill Breth's The Piano Student's Guide to Effective Practicing.

This Week's Practice Pointer

To help you play fast passages or scales evenly try varying the rhythm that you use when practising. Eventually you want all notes in the passage to be short and quick. Quite often, however, students struggle to either maintain an even tone with fast passages, or fail to get every note equally quick.

As you are practising, vary the rhythm pattern with which you play these fast notes. Work through these alternatives. I think you will be pleasantly surprised that, when you return to the even equally quick rhythm, your playing should be both quicker and more even.

  • LONG short LONG short
  • short LONG short LONG
  • short short LONG LONG
  • LONG LONG short short
  • short LONG LONG LONG
  • LONG short short short short

Why does this work? Partly, your improvement will be simply because you've now had more exposure to playing the passage. The main gains however, are from first, having to spend time considering carefully each linked pair of notes (as you have to concentrate as to whether you are playing the note long or short). Second, your improvement comes from having practised each connection between two notes quickly, but not all connections in one go, so it has been far more manageable to build the passage up to speed evenly.

Has This Helped?

As always, I love to hear from readers so please let me know if and how this has improved your playing, by commenting below. Wishing you happy playing and productive practising!