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Small Bites: Effective Piano Practice

Thursday, October 12, 2017 by Betsy Breaker | Uncategorized

PRACTICE is working on something for the sake of learning and improvement. A student who starts at the finish and plays through to the end is playing that piece, not practicing it. At lessons I often ask them NOT to start at the beginning; many pieces have small sections marked either by Post-It notes of by a pair of slashes on the score. Also, students should be looking for areas needing improvement, marking them or stopping to fix them right away as they practice. When you play a piece, you don’t stop for mistakes but do circle back to fix them afterward.

So much time is wasted by simply playing a piece. The portions of the piece that are in great shape get just as much practice as the difficult spots. As a result, difficult spots improve at a glacially slow pace – they only get played once per practice session. Imagine if each difficult spot was played 5 or 6 times each practice session before the whole piece is played! Much greater progress would be made, without much more time invested, and progress is our ultimate goal. 

Piano Maestro’s Learn Mode is the perfect example of how to practice. I can’t emphasize enough how fantastic that app is (iPad only), and many students are ignoring my direct instructions in their lesson books to use Piano Maestro Learn Mode. If your child has Piano Maestro at home, please make sure they are using it for their Lesson Book assignments. The majority are just using it for fun - which is better than not at all – but they’re missing out on a great tool that can really help them advance their skills.