I once had to do up someone else’s tie and found the only way I could do it was to stand behind and pretend I was putting it on myself. I had simply forgotten which bit went over where, how the loop was formed, and so on. If you asked me how it was done, I wouldn’t be able to tell you, I could only show you. This is because the series of actions had long ago become unconscious and was now a muscular habit, a reflex. Playing the piano is a bit like this, except it is infinitely more complex! Let’s say a passage from a piece you have been playing for years suddenly goes awry for no apparent reason – perhaps the memory is giving you problems – one solution is to play it cross-handed. The left hand plays the right hand part, and vice versa. Do this extremely slowly, and maybe even arhythmically. Playing this way gives you a completely new experience of the passage, because you are using a totally different series of muscles. You have to think about each and every note, and its relationship to its neighbours – there’s no relying on motor memory. If you can do this, then you know the passage deeply – inside out, back to front and sideways. More to the point, you know you know it! Use this sparingly – it is certainly worth experimenting with, if you can bear it. SYMMETRICAL INVERSION There is another practice technique, whereby you create an exact symmetrical version in one hand of a passage you are playing in the other. You match identical fingers and intervals and play the mirror image of the other hand simultaneously. Virtuosos such […]