Mix it up

There are many ways to make practice more interesting.  Practice is work, but there are many ways in which we can ‘mix it up’ in order to make it less tedious.

I generally begin a practice session with scales or finger exercises, as a way to warm up my fingers, but even within this format, it is possible to have some variety: here are a few ideas

  • Practise your scales in a different order each day
  • Some days, begin with arpeggios or broken chords
  • Practise in different rhythms
  • Start (and end) the scale or arpeggio at the top of the keyboard rather than the bottom
  • Practise with different articulation (slurred or staccato or a combination of the two)
  • Try a different number of octaves – 2 instead of 1, 3 instead of 4!
  • Practise in contrary motion instead of similar motion

To be completely honest, as a child I used to wedge a novel open on the piano stand, and read as I thundered up and down scales.  Other times (when my mother was out) I turned the TV on mute and played my technical work.  Fun as that might be, it is probably not the most efficient way to practise, as the brain really does need to be engaged in order to make the best use of our time and skills.

These above principles can also be applied to repertoire.

In addition:

  • Sometimes begin practising at the middle or end of the piece
  • Even at an advanced stage, sometimes return to practising hands separately
  • Try playing the piece at a different tempo (speed).  It is good to change things a little and make sure that you do not always play a piece the exact same way.
  • You could always try a piece in a different place on the keyboard – an octave higher or lower, or even try transposing into a different key!
  • Practise the B section more than the A section; practise the end more than the beginning

As I noted with technical work, make sure to keep your mind on the task.  It is very easy for our fingers to move on automatic pilot.  I used to even fall into a reverie in concerts and come out of my daydream not knowing where I was in the piece.  This is far from ideal.

Keep having fun and being creative with your practice sessions.  Let us know of other ideas you might have tried which make practice sessions pass more quickly!

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