Stop Timing Your Piano Practice!
This article details an effective music instrument practice methodology, constructive repetitions, that gets piano students away from looking at the clock and more involved in constructive repetitions and efficient practice.
As a piano teacher, it’s difficult not to tell students, “You should practice x number of minutes per day.” Students and teachers like to apply a quantity of time at the piano as being sufficient for practice to define what is expected, but in truth, this is not the best way for anyone to view their daily piano practice.
Remembering my own piano lessons as a child, I can still recall the exact feeling I had when my parents told me I needed to go ahead and do my 30 minutes of daily practice. You get to the instrument, and it can feel like a lifetime of watching the clock to make sure that you had practiced enough that day. The minutes drag on when you are counting down, and truthfully, when I was just trying to get a certain number of minutes done, my practice was not very efficient at all. The reason is I wasn’t thinking of the end result of the time I spent at the instrument. Instead, I was under the impression that sitting at the piano for a certain amount of time—no matter how I practiced—would lead to my improvement.
Well, that was a bit of a misconception. “Constructive Repetitions” are the answer!
Flash forward to a few years later when school and extra curricular activities picked up and it was difficult to get the 30 minutes or an hour in per day. That’s when I feel I really learned to practice piano efficiently, and I didn’t need a timer running to do so. Instead, I knew that if I could play difficult sections and certain phrases several times in a row, I would be able to pull it off in my weekly lesson, even if the time quotient wasn’t there. This was a gradual progression and didn’t happen overnight, but eventually, a timer wasn’t needed for practice, and many days, I ended up practicing even longer than was originally expected. The transition that took place went from me thinking that a certain amount of time spent on a piece equaled work towards the end goal…to understanding that in every piece or exercise, there is a certain amount of work to be done, and a song isn’t finished until those aspects have been addressed.