Have you noticed how sloppy practice ingrains mistakes that are seriously hard to get rid of later, and come back to haunt us? It’s a bit like careless eating when you end up wearing your food – I don’t wish to contradict the detergent commercials, but those stubborn stains aren’t always so easy to shift. When I was a student, I had to learn certain works very quickly to meet lesson and exam deadlines and I was not always scrupulous about organising the best fingering. When I pick those works up again now, my old fingering will come back after a day or so – most of it is fine but there are one or two places I can now see I was in a rush and didn’t come up with the best solution. Now, I can of course take the time to work out a better fingering and practise it in, and it’ll hold. But when I shelve the piece again, the next time I go back to it my original fingering is still likely to be stronger than any subsequent reworking. The same is going to hold true for more blatant errors such as wrong notes or incorrect rhythms. The pianistic equivalent of baking soda to remove practice stains is slow, conscious work but it is far better to avoid errors in the first place by spending some quality time during the note-learning stage at The Speed of No Mistakes. I wish I had come up with this term, but it was in fact coined by my colleague Lucinda Mackworth-Young, whose book Tuning In: Practical Psychology for Musicians should be on all our shelves. Before I go on I want to distinguish between accidental mistakes that happen in performance (and that might include a performance in a lesson situation), and mistakes that arise […]