Cedar Grove Piano Studio is operated by Mary Cumming near Alexandria, Ontario. Mary offers piano lessons to students from age 4 to 94. The music lessons give a well-rounded approach to learning and include theory as well as the chance to learn classical, pop, contemporary, and jazz/blues styles.
Sunday, 11 November 2012
Some practice tips
Practice tips for students past their
first or second year of study
How to practice a new piece of music
– Mary’s Efficient practice method:
– so I admit it – although I always was good to do my practicing as a kid, I decided
early on that I really loved to PLAY the piano – and so learning a new song had
to be done FAST so that I could just play it and have fun!So I inadvertently developed the following
practice method which I later found out was and perhaps still is, used in
Europe.Give it a try – worked like a
charm for me!
the piece into 4 bar sections.Take the
first section and play a few times hands separately. Then slowly play it hands
together ten to twenty times, watching notes, fingering and timing until you
can play it quite well.MY idea of quite
well is nearly perfect… and almost up to speed.
Two: take the first section and review at least
five times.If it is going very well,
then you can move to the next 4 bar section. Play hands separately a few times.
Then again, like you did with the first section, play it hands together ten to
twenty times. Play the whole 8 bar section once through at the end of this
practice. At the end of each practice session, the whole should always be
reviewed at least once through.
Three:review the first 8 bars about 5 times.If it is going well, then continue with the next 4 bar section like you
did on day one and two. If it is not going well, take the time to review parts
that are difficult for you extra times and let that be your practice for that
Four and on:I think you get the idea of how this works now… each day another 4 bar
section is added so thatin five days
you have learned well about 20 bars of music.If some of the bars are similar or repeat, as
music often does, then you can use intensive practice on the next 4 bars that
you come across that is different. Each day the “old” sections are reviewed and
a new one added. A new section should not be added unless the old sections are
mastered. As well, if the four bar section is too difficult, then only do 2
bars at a time until the music becomes easier.If the 4 bar section is very easy, then perhaps if you have time, you
can do two 4 bar sections.
With this method, a piece of music can be
learned quite quickly and efficiently. Of course at this point we are mostly
focusing on the basics such as notes, fingering and timing. But it is extremely
rewarding to be able to accomplish something concrete each day and come back to
your lesson proud of the amount you have learned.
Practice method for pieces that have
parts that need correcting or are slow:
If you have some circled notes or bars that
just never go well, then it’s time to address those problems. First you need to
know and understand what the problem is.If you don’t know, then you need to get some direction from your teacher.
Really listen to what you are being told.Is it fingering that is the issue, or notes, or timing?Once you know, then you can really move ahead
to fix the issue.
Take the phrase or notes by themselves,
slowly… this is the key… going slow. The definition of insanity is repeating
the same thing over and over expecting a different result.And so it goes with piano practice that
involves a lot of repetition. You actually must fix the problem.You are wasting your precious time if you
repeat the same mistake over and over.So play the bar or section over and over gradually increasing your speed
as you fix the mistake. Be picky. Then you must fit the section back into the
music. Take a bar before and after the problem section and practice fitting the
bar into the parts of the music you know.That should fix the problem – and a lot quicker than just playing the
piece through from start to finish, stumbling through the crappy part.
Practice method for pieces that get
worse toward the end of the song.
practicing.This is similar to the efficient practice method described above….just
do it backwards.Start with the last 4
bars.Practice them 5 times through –
then move on back another 4 bars and practice straight to the end 5 times.Again, move back another 4 bars and practice
to the end 5 times.This way, the end of
the song gets a whole lot more practice than the beginning and so the whole
song improves. Very effective, very efficient.
Often a piece just needs some polishing, there
is nothing particularly wrong with it, but perhaps you are preparing it for a
performance.In this case the piece
should just be played through from start to finish while focusing on the
expression and getting through to the end, in spite of the mistakes that
occur.This is useful in learning how to
keep going even if you make an error – focusing on the performance… not the
Dividing up your practice time
Do take a moment to see what you need to
cover in a week.Scales, old pieces,
trouble spots and new pieces.Each day
try to accomplish something in your practice.Start with your scales to warm up – 5 minutes
at least.Polish an old piece in 5 to 7
minutes. Take out a trouble spot in another 5 minutes… you may have more than
one trouble spot – but deal with at least one… eradicate it!Then move on to the new piece and use the
efficient practice technique to get a portion of that piece done. Working this
way, you’ll find that you move ahead very quickly and feel great about what you
are doing every day.
Short of practice time on a certain
Try finding 10 minute sections of time
where youcan focus on a particular
problem… 3 of these make 30 minutes!Even 15 minutes on something that you need to fix will make a difference
when you come into your practice session the next day. For students that have
tests or exams that interfere, use a little piano time to take a break from
your studies.A change can be just as
good as a rest and those short 10 or 15 minute practice sessions can make a
huge difference in your songs.
Hope these tips help to make your practice
time more efficient so that you can just get to the FUN of playing…. Also remember
to enjoy the process of learning a new song… it’s what we musicians do most –
learn tons of new songs!