I have a student who has been working on a wonderful Sonatina by Beethoven. Progress, however, had been slow over the past 5-6 weeks. At her most recent lesson, she played the 2nd movement beautifully, a huge leap from the past week. When I asked her what had made the difference in her playing, she thought about it and said, “My mom. She made me play it over and over and over.”
Thanks to mom for making this student realize that hard work pays off. I hope the lesson sticks!
Practicing is different than playing.
Here are some practice tips for students:
1. LEARN IN SMALL SECTIONS. When beginning to learn a new piece, learn small sections or phrases and repeat them 3 times before going on to the next section.
2. START SLOW. Begin with a slow tempo when learning a new piece. When practicing, if you make mistakes in notes or rhythm, start over at a slower tempo.
3. GET THE RHYTHMS RIGHT. Clap the rhythm of the music while counting out loud.
4. USE CORRECT FINGERING. Many mistakes can be eliminated with consistent fingering.
5. WORK ON TROUBLE SPOTS. Play through the piece and note where you have trouble (these are called “trouble spots”). Now go back to the trouble spots and play them over and over until you master them. Then play one measure before the trouble spot and continue until one measure after the trouble spot. Do this over and over until you have mastered it. Then move on to the next trouble spot, or back to the beginning of the piece.
6. PLAY EACH PIECE AT LEAST 3 TIMES. Each time should be better than the previous time.
Strive for perfection, which means:
- Correct notes
- Correct rhythms
- Correct articulation
- Correct fingering
- Correct tempo
- Communicating the dynamics to the listener
- And finally: memorization
Many students make the mistake of practicing a song UNTIL they get it right. But you must practice until you can play it correctly many times. Stopping when you finally get it right doesn’t make up for all the times you played it wrong. Or said another way, practice until you CAN’T play it wrong.
All of my students are able to perform at Minneapolis Music Teachers Forum (MMTF) recitals, held on Sunday afternoons throughout the school year. Four of my students will be performing at the Feb. 24, 2013 recital.
Students must perform music written specifically for the piano (no pop arrangements), and must play from memory. Judges write critiques of the students’ performances and share these with teachers and students. Students earn certificates, ribbons and trophies for their performances throughout the years.
The MMTF recitals provide an excellent experience for young pianists. The challenge of performing from memory for an audience of other students and parents is one that all students should attempt at least once. They also benefit from listening to the other students performances. The critiques offer insight into the student’s playing beyond that of their regular teacher.
Here is a link to a video of one of my students performing at an MMTF recital in 2012. http://youtu.be/43Vxf2KR41M