THE RULES OF PIANO PRACTICE
If you're merely playing a song from beginning to end, over and over, you may not be using your piano practice time as efficiently as you might.
There are several unwritten rules that professional classical pianists use to maximize practice time, and you might do well to find out about them, regardless of the style of music you play.
You can adjust these practicing techniques to suit your personal style. If you use these ideas you'll soon find that your playing becomes polished more quickly.
These ideas apply to learning and practicing any style of music, not just classical piano. I use them with children of all ages and abilities, with great success.
The first rule is to practice only the hard parts you don't know, at first. A general rule of thumb is that the hard parts should sound as good as the easy parts, and until they do, don't waste your time enjoying the easy parts.
Invest your time in solving the difficult problems first. Pay these dues and many an "impossible" piece will be yours, and fun to play. Have a strategy for learning the piece.
The second rule is to play the difficult parts slowly and with hands separate for as long as it takes for each passage to be perfectly memorized and fluid, even if it is very slow. If you're looking at a page of sheet music during a hard spot, you defeat the whole purpose of learning the passage.
The purpose of piano practice is to CALMLY observe your hands and pay attention to where your fingers go, and see where the patterns of keys are.
Memorize first. Enjoy later.
The third rule is to divide the piece into sections and attempt to achieve a basic continuity from one large passage to another. In other words, all transitions between musical ideas must be rehearsed and thought out, so that they appear effortless and logical, instead of bumpy and at the mercy of various difficulties.
Even small piano pieces benefit from this approach.
Larger pieces, such as Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy or Liszt's massive B minor Sonata, are all but impossible to master without a similar approach, unless you're Liszt himself.
And there are pianists who have achieved that Lisztian, astronomical level of sight-reading, believe me. But I'm not one, and you're not likely to be one, either, with all due respect.
For us mortal pianists, the Rules of Piano Practice must be followed if you want to learn difficult material quickly.
by John Aschenbrenner Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press