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Piano Practice Tips - Optimize Your Practicing


Tip #1

The Challenge... That passage that's been confounding you ever since, well, forever. Nothing that you've done has gotten it worked out.

Isolate that one section. Identify the precise movement or movements where it gets out of hand. This is The Part. It shouldn't be more than a few beats- one measure at the most. Sometimes it's only two notes or chords. It can even be just one chord, if it's a wide stretch that you are training your hand to do.

Begin the note (or chord) immediately prior to The Part and the note (or chord) right after- it doesn't matter if it makes musical sense. This will be your focus for the next 15 minutes or so.

Play each hand separately- soooooo slowly that you can hardly stand it. Dust off that ol' metronome and set the tempo to Largo Ridiculoso and play one note per tick. Or one note for two tics. Or four. Play it over and over until you can play each note perfectly. Slow it down even more if necessary. Don't try to make it sound musical. Just NOTE after NOTE after NOTE (or chord after chord after chord…). Don't Sell Out On Yourself!

Repeat the process until just before you go stark raving crazy. (Stop before you do.)

When you are ready (remember- no selling out!), begin one or two notes earlier. Then play it adding the next few after. Finally, you can play through the entire phrase or passage.

This isn't music- this is exercise, pure and simple. The music will come.

When each and every finger is 100% clear on what it's job is for that passage, you can bring the tempo up to the proper place. Voila. Music.

Note: You can pretty much count on screwing up that very same part the next time you play it. That's just a combination of psychology, ontological expectation and simple muscle development. Stick with it. For particularly tough parts, this could take several "passes" through the process. Just remember how long you've been putting up with not being able to play it?

Don't let this scare you. Many times, you will gain the confidence and skill you're looking for with just a few minutes of this.

Check back regularly for new tips

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