5 tips on effective practice for the busy piano student
1. Make a plan:
A good teacher will set an appropriate amount of homework. Look ahead at what homework is set for the week and plan what task will be completed by when. It helps to write the date on the page or line of music that will be worked on. You may also use a practice diary.
The idea of practice is for our hands to learn the music along with our brains. Muscle memory takes repetition, how many repetitions may vary. When learning a new piece play one bar at a time and repeat it again and again till the hand remembers it. Then move on to the next bar. Then play two bars together, then a line, then a page. Do this with each hands separately first; then repeat the process with hands together.
Always use a metronome, either a mechanical or digital metronome will work as long as it can be heard over the piano. When learning a new passage, set the metronome to a slow speed, slow enough to play the passage without any mistakes. Play the passage at this speed a few times using correct fingering and technique. Next, increase the speed a little bit. Play the passage at the new speed until there are no mistakes. Repeat this process increasing the speed a little at a time until the passage can be played to tempo.
4. Keep going:
Once we’ve memorized the piece with our fingers play it from top to bottom at speed without stopping. If we make a mistakes keep going. If we stop when we make a mistake we will be practicing the act of stopping rather than keeping going. When we get to the end of the piece we can go back to the area we made the mistake and practice that more; then begin the piece from the top.
When we are tired our brains take in less information. Therefore practicing when we are tired is less effective than when we are alert. If we’ve been practicing for a while or a tired we are better off having a 20 minute power nap and continuing our practice when we are refreshed.
Article by Kate Finkelstein-Piano teacher and Piano consultant at Pat’s Music