“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”
Plato

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


On Practicing (Again)


A student writes: "So I play every single day, at least 3 hours and some of the time feel like I am in control of my playing completely, while other days I feel like I never played piano. "


Well, everyone has a bad day. But what this student describes probably has as much to do with focus at that particular moment as with preparation. 


But I suspect the quality of his practicing is deficient in some way. This is a valid subject to bring up with a teacher. How should I practice? What should I do with a given passage?


Briefly: For me, most practicing is under tempo and in small segments. In this way details are more easily absorbed. I begin with the most problematic spots; I almost never begin at the first measure (unless that's a problem spot). Then, there is another type of practicing called "performance" practicing, in which I play through without stopping and then take stock of how it sounded and how it felt.


A lesson, for me, is not necessarily a performance in which the student plays through a piece. I would rather the student show me the places where he/she has trouble, rather than try to hide problems (as one does in a performance). We can then work on the problems together.


Ideally, the working-out process protects us from making errors. If we first decide on technical solutions (fingerings, shapes, what the hand needs) and then work these solutions in gradually from slow to fast (not slower than you need or faster than you can), then the learning process is always positive. I point out that a learning process is always taking place whether it's right or wrong. So, it behooves us to practice thoughtfully and with deliberation. Avoid rote playing at all costs.


(See my post On Practicing elsewhere in the blog.)

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