Principles of Practicing

Principles of PracticingStudents, teachers, and parents sometimes face a battle over getting students to practice. Regardless of how students feel about it, practicing is the main way to learn and improve on an instrument, and there are many ways to make practice more interesting and productive. Piano lessons in Houston help students form good practice habits to ensure that they are successful.

Purpose of Practice

Students practice to improve their skills, and practicing correctly helps reinforce concepts learned in the lesson efficiently and will allow lessons with their piano teacher in Houston to progress faster and more smoothly. A piece can take anywhere from a few days to a year to master, but most beginning and intermediate pieces can be accomplished in a few weeks to a month. The amount of practice needed depends on the student’s level, age, instrument, and performance goals. For beginning piano students, ten to fifteen minutes a day, four to five days a week, is plenty of time to work on the basics. For older students or more advanced students, more time is necessary to master the concepts and pieces. However, practicing correctly and efficiently will help students accomplish their goals.

Many students practice incorrectly, resulting in time-consuming, slow progress and lots of frustration. With the right amount of focus and use of practice techniques, pieces can be achieved in a short time.

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Practice to Learn

There are many different ways to practice efficiently, depending on the type and level of the piece and where the student is in the learning process, but these methods can be divided into three main phases: practice to learn, practice to polish, and practice to perform.

Practice to learn focuses on mastering the basic elements of the piece. This part of practice will take the greatest amount of time but will show noticeable results quickly. When first starting a piece, slow, methodical practice, focusing on accuracy of notes and rhythm, is crucial, since repetition builds muscle memory. Otherwise, the last steps of practice will focus more on relearning sections because mistakes were built in from the beginning.

Repetition is one of the best ways to master the basics, but there are ways to break up the monotonous repetitions. One common way is to use different rhythms and patterns, especially for sections of the piece with consistent note values. Another method is to break the piece up into smaller sections and practice repetitions with the smaller sections before combining them. Practicing in smaller sections will allow for greater attention to details and will allow the brain to process the details more fully. Once a few sections are mastered to approximately the same level, combining a two or three sections at a time until the whole piece is mastered will improve both details, muscle memory, and continuity in a piece.

Practice to Polish

When practicing to polish a piece, the focus shifts from mastering the basics to focusing on phrasing, speed, and articulation. Listening to recordings and score study will help the student form an individual interpretation of the piece. This phase is one of the more challenging phases, since progress seems slower as a student becomes more familiar with the basics and is adding in more complex elements. Practicing by phrase and by section is one of the best ways to master this next level of detail.

Another technique for this phase focuses on speed and reinforces muscle memory. By using a metronome, working a piece or section up from a slow tempo to performance tempo takes some repetition and lots of accuracy. Begin with a section at a low tempo and then gradually increase the tempo with each repetition. Depending on the length and level of the piece, the performance tempo might not be achieved in one practice session. However, if the student starts at a slightly higher tempo at each piano practice session, the muscle memory and focus on accuracy while increasing tempo will ensure that the student can play the piece at a high level at tempo.

Practice to Perform

Practicing to perform is the last step in working on a piece. Depending on the student’s practice goals, the piece might be finished. If the piece is for a recital or performance, practicing performing the piece straight through regardless of mistakes is the next step. Once this is comfortable, performing in front of one or two people before a larger performance will help work out the last few kinks. The more informal performances a student can do with a piece, the more comfortable they will be in the actual performance.

For more information about piano lessons or music lessons for other instruments, contact us today! Our staff will be able to help you set up lessons or answer any questions you have about piano lessons in Houston!

By: Abigail Bracewell

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