Through the years, many people have asked me how they should practice.
Here are three things that can make a big difference.
Slow and deliberate from the beginning.
The key is to slow down the process of learning a song. Breaking a piece into sections, or using
phrases as a means of practice is most effective. When beginning a phrase for the first time,
there must be a caution, a caring, an almost sacred reverence. This caution and complete focus, will ensure that the first time a student learns a passage, it is learned correctly. Certainly, one of the keys to success is to go slow enough to ensure that all notes and rhythms are correct. If possible, try to work in the larger motions and the dynamics initially as well. Once it is right, the temptation is to rush into playing the phrase quickly. This must be avoided. One great teacher once told me, do not take the cake out of the oven before it is fully baked. Similarly, the mind and the body need time, and especially the body, to develop memories. Any sense of rush or frustration with this process will deliver unwanted results.
Are you starting at the beginning every time?
Remember how exciting it was to start learning the first measure of a new piece? There is no special magic that makes that first measure better from the others. In fact, the rest of the piece may be much better music. Each day, start in a new place rather than repeating what is already learned. Remember, this is practicing, not performing. Starting over and over from a place that is already well learned lacks courage and adventure, and this can, overtime, bore the student (and the teacher).
How do you stop your practice?
Many people don’t consider the importance of stopping practice, and how you walk away.
To create the best memory, you should walk away with a perfect repetition. This is the opposite of how many students leave their practice session. Many begin carefully and slowly, and then as their focus degrades, they begin to push frustrated by lack of immediate results. When returning the next day, the playing may have even degraded further towards, fueling more frustration.
By leaving parctice at the very best moment, your mind will recall and repeat those right results, and you may be surprised with an improved start the following day.
Nathan Pangrazio, founder of Pangrazio Music