How do you practice? Do you run through your pieces? Play scales? Mindlessly repeat a difficult passage? People often say practice makes perfect, but that is not often true. Practice makes permanent holds more truth in it’s words because this way it forces one to evaluate how one practices to make perfect. Here is the continuation of our post about practicing! Last post we explored how to cultivate motivation for practice, and now we will explore strategies to be top practicers! We will look at the 3 most common ways to practice a passage of our music: Practice Slow, Isolate and integrate, and Repetition.
1. Slow Practice
If you think practicing your piece slowly is boring, you are most likely practicing incorrectly. There’s a reason why many teachers ask for slow practice! Slow practice is the chance you give yourself the chance to play the piece accurately. This is the opportunity to check: are the notes correct? Is the rhythm right? Am I keeping a steady beat? What do my muscles have to do to make the jump, to play evenly, to build a crescendo etc.? And so on and so on! There’s so much to check technically, physically, and mentally there’s no reason to be bored!
2. Isolate and integrate
You’re playing through your pieces and there were a couple of sticky spots that made bumps along the way. This is when you isolate the problem area. Take the passage in question out of context and work out the problem. Use different practice methods to fix the passage. It could be slow practice, hands alone practice, or other methods that will help identify the reason for this problem area. There are endless practice strategies to experiment that can solve these sticky spots! Once the error has been corrected, you have to put it back into the context of the piece. This will make you think about where you are coming from and where you will be going to from the spot you just corrected. Play the phrase, but be sure to also include the next downbeat. When putting the sticky spot back in context, you might want to practice the phrase slow first to make sure things flow at a tempo you can handle before trying it in tempo.
Lastly, the most common exercise that should happen in regular practice: repetition! Repetition is the key to get your motor skills working! Mentally you read the notes, you listen to the tone and nuance of the sounds with your ear, but you need to teach your fingers, hands, wrist, arms, back, foot, and etc. the necessary movements to play those notes and to shape them. Repetition is the best way to get those notes into your muscle memory. Now, if you repeat something a lot it can get boring. Our brains prefer novelty and pay more attention to something when it is new. So after repeating your passage one way to mastery, try it another way. A different way that makes you hear or think of it differently that will ultimately aide you to where you want your music to sound. Don’t fall into the trap of just trying to play something over and over again til you get it right. Always play it correctly (even if you have to slow down or take pauses) and with intention each time. Make a goal for each repetition. After each repetition you must reflect on what went well, and what you should try next time!
Do any of these practice strategies ring a bell? If you are not already doing these exercises in your practice, add them now! This only covers the smallest piece of what your practice could be! Ask your teacher for some new and different ways to practice to enhance your learning and routine!
If you want more to read, visit the links below to see what top practicers do differently to achieve their goals and another that explores how to look at practice in the micro (technical) and macro (big picture) manner.
For beginners and non-beginners, the idea of practice can sometimes seem like a dreadful and boring task. But what is practice? And how can we make practice more motivating? When you say, “go practice” there are many tasks that can occur in this practice time. “Practice” is a vague blanket statement for what a person should exercise in order to accomplish their goal. The problem we will tackle today is how we generate motivation to practice. And to follow up, we will also tackle the idea of how to practice to get results.
Motivation! This is probably the most difficult hurdle to get things going! How do we create this sense in ourselves to set time in our day to sit at the piano and practice?
The easiest way is the power of incentives! Especially for younger musicians, incentives like special treats, stickers, and other rewards can be just the thing to start motivation. We love being rewarded for our hard work! Here at the piano academy we have 2 practice incentive programs that encourages students to practice regularly. For group classes we have The 88’s Club and for everyone else we have The Music Mall. Ask your teacher about our practice programs if you are interested!
Performing is also a great motivator for practice! No one wants to be the one on stage, in-front of a large audience, feeling unprepared and lacking confidence. To ensure we have as little negative feelings as possible when we walk on stage, we practice to ensure our mentality, concentration, and muscle memory know our music so well that little mistakes won’t throw the entire performance away. The only fool proof way to do this is practice! Ask your teacher about performance opportunities! You will see the amount of practice increase dramatically as performance day arrives.
Let’s finish with one more motivator: The power of choice!!! Everyone is told what to do all the time and that can get tiring! Help your child be more engaged and involved with practicing by letting them choose when they want to practice that day. Simply ask, “When would you like to practice piano today?” All you have to do is make sure they follow through with their set time because they chose this time to practice, they should feel responsible to their obligations. Don’t just stop there, during the start of their practice, ask them “What piece(s) will you be practicing?” This way you help your child to focus their practice time on something concrete rather than hearing them rashly play through all their pieces. Lastly, ask them “What would you like to be able to do by the end of your practice? Meaning, what goal(s) do they want to master this practice. This one is a little tricky, you might want to help direct them. For example, by the end of practice, I would like to be able to play my right hand from beginning to end without stopping! Or I want to play half of the piece hands together by the end of practice. Whatever seems attainable at their stage of learning the piece would make a good goal. Help them choose something small and easy to master during this practice time. We don’t want them to feel like the goal they chose to tackle will take hours, at least 5-10 minutes for younger beginners or 10-15 minutes for late beginners to intermediate.
What we hope will come out of this, is the idea of self improvement and the satisfaction of accomplishing big and small goals will be enough of an incentive for ourselves to continue our practice towards mastery!! Stickers and candy rewards holds its affects for only so long, but this is a good way to get things going! Next post we will further explore effective practice techniques during the practice session. Read more for other ideas by clicking on this article! >>>>>>https://takelessons.com/blog/motivate-your-child-to-practice-music-z15
Have you or your child been taking piano lessons for a few years and is now interested to learn another? Maybe your child is interested in joining the school orchestra, band, or choir. Do you choose to trade instruments or learn to play two instruments? That’s the question we will tackle today here in the Music Room. Piano is a wonderful instrument to first learn about music; building a solid foundation that can lead to learning other instruments in the orchestra. If your child has interest and time, learning a secondary instrument can enhance their music education and offers more opportunities to engage in your community music groups. Let it be a youth orchestra, a band with your friends/family, or just for fun (now that you can play an instrument small enough to carry around with you). Learning another instrument along with the piano provides a different level and well-rounded approach to learning and playing music in different styles, interpretation, and sounds in general. Another little benefit in learning a new instrument, is that you get to start over fresh. Not only do you learn to play a new instrument, you also continue to build and enforce your musical knowledge that you already know! Improving in areas such as reading notes in a specific clef, complicated rhythms, or voicing in melodies and harmonies. Here at the Eugene Piano Academy we now provide more than just piano instruction! We now offer instrument lessons in guitar, strings, brass, and woodwinds! So maybe you feel more comfortable now to start learning another instrument, why not schedule a lessons with one of our instructors today and expand your musical possibilities!
Like to read a little more? Below is a wonderful little article that explores the readiness of learning a second instrument and how to find time to learn both!
A mini guide for toddlers and beyond
There are so many great benefits to gain when you or your child begin to learn an instrument. Many scientific studies shows how music can increase memory skills, improve brain areas that deal with reading and math, and how music even teaches us how to be better humans by learning discipline, self expression, and responsibility along the way. So now we ask the questions: How old can I start my child in music classes? Which instruments would be good for beginners? Am I too old to start learning? Below is an article that explores the best instruments to start engaging with base on age from young toddlers and beyond! Here at the Eugene Piano Academy, we offer beginning classes and lessons for all ages that start at the toddler age of 2 years old to classes for elementary students and beyond. We even have expanded from piano studies to include other instruments like guitar, flute, violin, brass, and more! Music and rhythm is much more integrated in nature and our lives than we may have ever considered; from our very own heart beat to the singing birds. Consider joining one of our upcoming classes that fits you or your child and spark that curiosity and exploration for music!
The summer break has finally arrived!!! We wish you all the joys and fun on your summer break, but please do consider some music making among your summer plans. In these next couple of months everyone, teacher’s included :), will experience a change in routine; and during these times it is easy to drop everything to be listless and carefree. The summer months are filled with great opportunities to experiment, create, and learn in a less structured environment. We are sure your teachers have given you summer projects to learn and master over the break, but along with that, why not make practicing feel less like a chore to complete a task and more about music making in general. No need to slave away on hard passages and repetition, though maybe a little if necessary ;) Change it up by trying to learn a song you heard on the radio by ear, watch a summer concert or videos of great musical performers, try composing your own original song that one day may become a smash hit in the music world, or just find a friend or two to play in an ensemble with. The key is exploration and freedom to do so. This way you get to use your musical knowledge you have learned all year in another constructive method. The summer months are easy to lose all the great progress learned over the year and we wouldn’t want it all lost! Think about signing up for one of our summer camps or attend a drop-in class this summer! We have camps that cater to all student playing levels and interest for music to keep things fresh and fun!
Even the pros of the music world sometimes think practicing is unpleasant. Read the article below to see how this 7-time grammy award winning pianist makes practicing “less of a slog”.