Practicing is different from performing.
Practicing is finding and solving problems in your playing.
1. Play the whole piece. LISTEN to the sounds and FEEL the movements you make.
- How did the music sound and feel?
- Is my posture (back, head, legs, arms) healthy and appropriate?
- Did the music flow? Could someone clap to my steady beat or is it too inconsistent?
- Did I hear appropriate breaths, rests, and ritardandos?
- Did I communicate the climax of each musical phrase?
- Am I paying attention to dynamics?
Mark any problem sections with a pencil: areas where the music doesn't sound or feel good, where there is a symbol you don't understand, or where you feel frustrated or confused.
2. Play a problem section that you marked. What is causing the problems in this section?
- I don't understand the printed notation (notes, rhythm, symbols, etc.).
- I don't know how the music should sound.
- The fingering feels awkward.
3. Tackle the problem section in various ways, such as:
- Hands separately until you achieve perfect notes and counting.
- Hands together slowly with metronome. Increase speed after correct play.
- Play staccato to enhance note clarity
- Play with stops, for better awareness and control.
- Play quietly (or even silently), for evenness and control.
- Sing/hum to find the climax of each phrase and the breaths between phrases.
- Write down questions in your notebook to ask the teacher at your lesson, or email her.
After working on the problem sections, play the whole piece again.
Relax and keep breathing!
Polishing Your Piece: Questions to Ask Yourself
- Do my physical movements feel comfortable as I produce these sounds?
- Have I tried different dynamics and articulations?
- Have I experimented using more or less pedal
- Do I know the title, key, meter, tempo, historical period, and composer?
- Have I labeled the structure and cadence points of the piece?
- Am I paying attention to dynamic balance between the hands/voices?
- What am I thinking about while I play this piece?
Preparing for a Performance
- Use various tricks that circumvent "muscle memory" and force constant awareness.
- Learn to handle distractions: play with your tongue sticking out; recite the alphabet, have people carry on a conversation in the room, etc.
- DO NOT STOP if you make an error. You must practice extricating yourself from the problem. Keep going no matter what!
- Rehearse walking to the piano, finding your hand position, and bowing afterward.
- Try on your outfit and shoes to make sure they are comfortable and appropriate!