Whether a student is studying piano, flute, guitar, or any other musical instrument, the development of sound practice techniques is an integral and universal topic covered in a private, in home music lessons in Baltimore. The process of music practice is something that must also be taught in the same fashion as other techniques and note reading challenges. As an in home music instructor in Baltimore, it is clear that giving a student creative practice techniques to use when preparing a piece not only strengthens the results of their efforts, but makes practice more interactive and fun.
Why Is The Way You Practice Important?
Proper practice techniques are not as instinctual as one may assume when starting music lessons. Especially with younger students, practice is often perceived as simply playing though weekly assignments several times straight through for a set amount of time each day. Naturally, that makes sense, right? The goal is to play through the piece continuously with no stops or hesitations, so playing through many times will make it improve. Though a piece can ultimately be learned this way, it is not the most efficient way to practice from a time vs. results perspective.
Music is performed in a linear manner, but the study and preparation of a piece should not be linear. For example, if you are studying a piece and always start at the very beginning and go to the end, chances are that the beginning is the strongest part of the song, and the middle to end is the weakest. To avoid and remedy this issue, a music instructor can give examples on how to isolate a problem area or section and build continuity there without having to go through the entire piece. In a Baltimore in home music lesson, here are some of my favorite, creative practice techniques to utilize
1. Sectioning and Transition Practice
Some parts of a piece or exercise are inevitably easier than others. By dividing a piece into sections, a teacher can give a student small goals throughout the piece to master, which will lead to improved continuity. If I find that this practice method is beneficial for a certain piece of study, then I help the student in bracketing small sections where the musical idea, technique, pattern, etc. change and should be isolated and worked up to the same tempo and smoothness as other areas of the piece that may not be as challenging.
This leaves transition practice between the sections to bring them back together. To practice this, I like to have my students pin-point the transition area that is difficult and practice through a certain number of measures before and after that spot. The number of measures before and after the transition point should be incrementally increased to build it into the piece smoothly.
2. Sequencing / Looping
This is a favorite of mine for practicing a difficult pattern or jump—basically a smaller musical challenge area. Depending on the level of the student and the example at hand, I will mark a section for them to repeat in an unbroken way known as ‘looping’. This could involve playing a section 5 times through with no stop, or simply seeing how many times you can play a passage free of mistakes.
Sequencing is slightly different and more challenging, as it involves moving a pattern up or down a note on each repetition so that it is isolated but changing. The benefit of this method is that it makes the practice area musically interesting, because it does not stay exactly the same each time.
3. 4-3-2-1 Trick
One of my piano teachers, Dr. Robert Henry, taught me this practice technique for isolating difficult transitions, and it is a great systematic example of how to practice constructively. If you have a transition that is tough, you mark a point where a break is created around either side of the difficult area and a pause is inserted. First you play to the stopping point, count down from 4 to 1 and then start playing again at the set tempo. After that, you remove a beat each time so that there is eventually no break. Not only is this a very successful technique that produces positive results, it significantly shortens the overall practice time needed to master a piece.
4. Continuity Practice
The final stage of practice is building continuity throughout, or the ability to play through a piece with smoothness from beginning to end. Though it is an ideal goal to have no mistakes in the piece, continuity practice really involves the complete idea of the piece and moving past any errors that present themselves in a fluid way. I encourage students to play through a piece without having warmed up and practice through maybe once or twice, then take a break and come back and do it again. This way, areas that still need extra isolated practice attention are revealed, and the fluency of getting past mistakes is built.
Musical practice in itself is a creative process full of variation and exploration with an in home music lesson Baltimore. When more contrast is introduced, the stronger the reinforcement of a difficult technique will be for the student. As music instructors, we have the responsibility of teaching students the correct way to practice to enliven and create success in a musical instrument study.
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