I am very pleased to announce a new video lecture series on the practice tools available now on the Online Academy.
The Practice Tools
What are the practice tools?
There are some instances where in a lesson a word of instruction can cause the playing to change immediately, but there are plenty of other occasions when we need to go through a process in our practice room to achieve a certain intended result – learning notes, finessing and polishing, and correcting sloppiness. This is rather like a course of medication, one pill will probably not make that much difference – it is the cumulative effect of the whole course that counts.
Another analogy is that of a gardener. If I am planning a new garden, I will first need to have a vision of how I want the garden to look when it is finished. Then I will need to prepare the soil, which will probably involve a bit of spade work and some hard graft. Now, the real gardener will tell you that all this is part and parcel of it, taking pleasure in all the stages from start to finish. There is a certain amount of patience needed to delay gratification and not to skimp on the first stages. If I don’t fertilise my soil, aerate it, add worms to it or whatever else gardeners must do, I can’t expect my plants and flowers to blossom, grow and withstand the frosts and hardships of winter.
So when I outline a specific practising activity, I also underscore the importance of doing this type of work daily with full concentration, resisting the overwhelming temptation to finish off the practice session by playing the piece at full speed. This can immediately wipe out the benefits of the careful practising, in one fell swoop. Have other pieces to play through.
Having put my seedlings in the soil, I will need to feed and water them daily, and protect the ground from pests, trusting that if I do this patiently, they will have the best chance to sprout and grow. Once the garden is in full bloom, it will take regular weeding and pruning to keep it that way. So it is with our playing of a particular piece, no matter how long we have known it or how many times we have performed it.
In this series of video lectures, I describe and illustrate the various practice tools one by one. As with any tool, you have to know how and when to use it. You will be able to apply the tools to every piece you undertake, no matter what age, level or standard you have reached in your piano playing. If you use the tools correctly, you will be practising with consummate skill, efficiency and effectiveness, and will notice significant progress.
It is said that success breeds success; because your progress will be tangible, practising will become infinitely more satisfying and enjoyable!
In the introductory video, I stress the importance of a certain amount of background work on a new piece away from the piano. When we look at the score, we find patterns, designs and shapes both on the macro and on the macro levels (the piece as a whole, and the piece in its details). Analysing music like this is creative and individual, there is no one correct way of doing it. In this video snippet of the introduction to the series, I illustrate two ways of analysing the subject from Bach’s F major Invention – one text-book style, the other much less formal, and more imaginative.
Other videos in this lecture series include time management in the practice room, the importance of forming habits and reflexes from the very start that we are going to use in the finished performance, how to use The Three S’s (slowly, separately, sections), how to develop speed, quarantining spots from your pieces that cause problems, and the importance of the feedback loop in all that we do.
The complete Practice Tools Lecture Series which includes a further ten videos is available for once-off purchase here or with an Online Academy subscription. Please click here to find out more about subscription options, or click here to view the series index if you are already a subscriber.
Further Information & Resources
- The Practice Tools Lecture Series (click here to view the series index)
- Practising the Piano multimedia eBook series – Part 1: Practice Strategies and Approaches (click here for more information)