Piano Practice Tips

"NAMING or LABELING what we are doing in routine practice seems simple. By naming the activity or practice technique, we are giving it credence as something to be applied in different music practice situations. The name gives a label to use and apply and then apply it again. It allows us to transfer the skill from one piece to another piece and, thus, produces a higher skill of comprehension and practice skills.

WHOLE VERSUS PART PRACTICE: A skill or piece may be practiced as a whole or it may be practiced in pieces. Part practice in the beginning stage of learning a piece often is the most effective. Later, toward the end of mastering a piece, whole practice situations come into play more often.

CHUNKING: Chunking practice is essentially "part practice" - taking chunks of a piece & working them out individually. Determine the chunks or parts to practice before combining chunks into the whole. Take chunks of a piece of music & work them out methodically.

PROGRESSIVE PART PRACTICING: In this skill, practice the first step of a skill, & then practice the second part & put it with Part 1. Then, practice part 3 & put it with parts 1 & 2 and so on. A name here makes it possible to identify the specific skill to use when practicing.

BACKWARDS CHAINING: Practice from the end to the beginning, in other words from the last step to the first in a progressive manner but in reverse order. Learn the last "chunk" or part of a piece first, & then learn the next "chunk" followed by combining those two parts. Learn the third to the last section, & then combine the three sections. And so on.

SANDWICH PRACTICE: This practice technique is used when one wants to definitely master a certain difficult section in a piece. One might practice it (chunk it) many times in a single practice session, sandwiching it between compositions or practice segments. The chunk to be learned is reinforced over and over within a single day of practice.

SHOULD SOUND PRACTICE: The premise is this; if one could play accurately up to tempo, then one would not need to practice so much. The point is not to practice up to the tempo, but to practice the sound, and then the tempo will come in due time if the practice tempo requires relatively the same practice motions as the up-to-tempo version.

STOP PRACTICE: Play single measures or two in succession, up to tempo & stopping for several beats of rest between the groups before beginning the downbeat of the next unit that is played up to tempo. Imagine what the phrase will sound like.

PENNY PRACTICE: The premise is that one plays a certain passage correctly a specified number of times in a row, moving a penny from one side to the other side for each correct playing.

PLAY, HEAR, PLAY: This practice technique, used mainly in memory security practice, requires that you play one measure, internally hear the second measure, & then pick up, in tempo, & play the third measure, followed by aurally hearing or singing the fourth measure & so on. This establishes the security in starting a work on downbeats of measures.

PLAN, PLAY, EVALUATE: The step often missing is the accurate hearing or evaluation of what has just been played, so you discriminate what and how to practice next.

ONION SKIN PRACTICE: Play a phrase & add onion skins of sound as the phrase crescendos, and take away onion skins as the phrase decrescendos. This helps you to see, hear & then achieve fine gradations in sound variance.

ADD A GROUP PRACTICE: Play each beamed group of notes plus the first note of the following group. Work on this & then continue to add groups individually until all groups are linked.

RECORD/PLAYBACK PRACTICE: One of the best ways for you to objectively hear where you are & what you need to do next is to tape-record & play back your performance. Then listen to the music just played & practice from the tape recording. You'll discern what needs to come next in the practice from objectively listening to your own playing.

These are interesting and "CATCHY" names for various practice techniques. I hope these names give some SPICE and ENERGY to your practice!

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A Note After the Fire

Upon returning to my home from a mandatory evacuation, I had time to look around me and to be truly thankful for everything! Catching up on my email, a friend sent this to me... I'd like to share it with you.

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Rice Canyon Fire

My life is forever changed from the fire evacuation. The thought of not knowing if I would lose my home was devastating. Being forced to evacuate at midnight was a rough start and a feeling of being displaced.

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