The Self Improvement Checklist: Robert Dumm

Self Improvement Checklist:

Many folks are aware of learning to play the piano via chording techniques. Some of the old traditional methods of reading music and practicing scales are of the past. Some people find that playing the piano is very relaxing and it gets their mind off of things. More and more, kids and adults are taking piano lessons and discovering the many benefits to playing for their own enjoyment, to performing in public and serving with the music ministry at their church. We know we need to practice, right? Here's a wonderful article I think you'll enjoy!

The Self-Improvement Checklist by Robert Dumm

"Do you feel stuck? Are you making the kind of progress in your playing that you really want? Many people don't realize it, but self-evaluation during practice is the most important step towards progress... so it's important to think about what kind of critic you are. What do you consider a super performance, a so-so or  poor one? What do you mean when you say, "The technique was fine, but the rest left me cold?"

To find out what is wrong, you must keep score by listing what exactly went wrong or right with your performance. Have courage! After the agony of self-criticism, there's always the ecstasy of success. None of this is dull. The game of self improvement is the liveliest game of all!

Here is a checklist to help you in your self-evaluation.

1. Tone Quality: Are the sounds that reach your ears full, rich and soothing or are they forced and noisy?

2. Rhythm: Is your tempo right? Do you keep a steady beat?

3. Phrasing: Do you make each phrase clear... is there a beginning, middle and end... do you allow each phrase to breathe?

4. Dynamics: What extremes of loud and soft are right for the piece you are playing? How much dynamic control do you have? Do you use dynamic nuances in small phrases?

5. Tone Balance: Do your high notes sing out over the bass? Can you hear the occasional inner voice when it is important?

6. Touches: Are your legato lines seamless.... your staccato notes clearly separated... do you try for varied touches to produce different colors?

7. Rests: Do you sense rests as alive, like spoken punctuation?

8. Pedaling: Do you wipe out your touch distinctions with too much pedal? Why are you using the pedal? For rhythm? To enhance sonority? To connect two sounds? Do you find yourself unconsciously depending on the pedal?

Answering these questions will help you gain valuable control of your musical resources, and make changes for the better in the performance of any piece. 

Robert Dumm is the author of Pumping Ivory and Instead of Scales 

For those who enjoy working on their technique and polishing up finger skills, you may be interested in playing Hanon Exercises

photo credit: The Spirit of the Music via photopin (license)

"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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