Practicing is different than playing.
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. Learning each hand separately is sometimes the best.
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.