More basics

It is the beginning of Term 2, and fortunately the two week holiday has not seemed to break our momentum too much.

However, a few reminders about effective practice are always timely.

  • While it is good to play songs through completely, this should not be the only way you practise.
  • If you make a mistake, make a note of it and come back to work on it.
  • Play the tricky bit 5 – 10 times until it is correct, then a few times to check that it stays correct.
  • In this repetitive practice time, speed is not at all important.  Slow down so that you can get it right.
  • Gradually increase the speed every few repetitions.
  • When you have played the section correctly a few times, try incorporating it smoothly back into the piece.
  • You may need to practise the transitions slowly to make sure they are smooth.

This kind of sensible and disciplined practice will always be more fruitful than playing once through your pieces and ignoring all the mistakes.

If there are consistently many mistakes, or places where you have to stop and correct yourself, you are probably trying to play too fast, or maybe you should even go back to playing hands separately.

Well done for aiming for excellence!  Disciplined application will always lead to success, and is the means by which a  more musical performance will be the result.

Be kind to yourself


I have had several students in tears recently and it wasn’t my doing!

These children were so frustrated with themselves that they were furious at not having reached a certain goal in an impossible amount of time.

It’s interesting because I am a perfectionist, but I need to start modelling to my students that the journey is also important.  It has taken me years to appreciate the journey, and to realise the important place that it has in the formation of a performance.

I am writing this blog to encourage and equip students in practising effectively, but I also need students to know that while practise does succeed, it still takes time.

The students who have been frustrated have been practising and achieving small goals, but have had expectations out of measure with their level of experience or length of tuition.

I’ve had experiences where I might be practising for 2 or 3 hours daily for months, and not much progress appears to be occurring, but then, with perseverance, there is a breakthrough and the piece goes to another level.  I have had to learn to be gentle with myself and sometimes my expectations need to be adjusted.  Sometimes, I just need a day off!  (Although I am not sure that this is such a problem for children who do 10 minutes’ practice a day!)

As I have said before, anything worthwhile does take time and effort.  However, as part of this process, we do need to learn to be kind to ourselves and as I said last month, celebrate the wins along the way.  Even if the journey takes longer than we might expect, I do not think that anything is wasted, but can be part of the learning process and can enrich the final product.