Back to the basics


It is a new year and most of my students have not touched their instruments for six to eight weeks.  It usually takes up to a month to create momentum again and help encourage routine and regular practice.

I suggest that when tackling something new, it is best to be realistic and to set oneself reasonable goals.

  • Break tasks into achievable portions in starting something new.  When starting a new piece, learn hands separately first.
  • Try to master the piece in sections – either hands separately, or a page or phrase at a time.
  • When practising hands separately, remember to think about phrasing and dynamics.  (It is a much better use of your time to put these in from the beginning, rather than having to add them later.  It is also much more musical, even playing with only one hand, to play thoughtfully rather than just banging out the notes).
  • Start in small ways.  If you haven’t practised in months, then try not to expect 1 hours’ practice the first time back.  Be realistic and work on achieving small goals first.
  • Work incrementally.  Not much in life happens immediately, first attempt.  Concentrate on mastering a small portion, then gradually increase.  However, do not always start at the beginning and only work on the first 8 bars or so.  Sometimes start from the end or the middle.
  • Practise in rhythms.  Practise staccato/legato.  Practise in a different octave on the keyboard.
  • Enjoy, and reward yourself as each small goal is achieved!

As I’ve said before, most things in life take work and commitment.  Jobs, school, university, relationships.  These all require perseverance and studying a musical instrument is no different.

But what a joy to be able to start to succeed.  And when the job/school/Uni/relationship is difficult, we are able to express ourselves and process problems by playing music.  What fantastic therapy and what a blessing.




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