This perspective on practice is sad. It shows a common but unrealistic and unfortunate understanding about practice. Actually I enjoy practice at least as much as I enjoy performing the finished piece! Practice is fun and rewarding, at least from the way I look at it and experience it. so let me share my experience with practice.
I practice almost every day, morning and night. I love it! It is in practicing that I gain the joy of seeing myself progressing. I find it fun to "improve." Here's how I practice:
- If I can, I listen to a recording of the piece from a quality performance. This gives me the "big picture" as well as smaller sections of the music.
- I work my way through the entire piece and then back to any of the sections that are definitely a challenge to me.
- While I'm working through the piece I start memorizing the overall structure of the music and the various sections. This happens automatically without me really trying to memorize anything.
- Then I work through the challenging sections. Here is where I slow the tempo way down and I move through the fingering and chord changes slowly enough to insist on accuracy! I cannot stress enough the importance of making accurate (and efficient) movements of the hands fingers, hands, arms, (well entire body! :) ). It has been said, "Practice makes perfect." But in learning and becoming able to play an instrument well, that statement is a death wish! Don't follow its advise. Instead, learn this statement and follow its advise, "Practice makes permanent."
- What ever you practice you get better at. So, if you practice in a sloppy fashion, you get better at playing the piano sloppy!
- Slow down and be absolutely stringent and precise with you fingering and finger movements. It is actually fun to see and feel how your hands can stretch and reach the notes. But it gets even more fun as you begin to experience the challenging section submitting to your mastery. And this does not take long. Just a few times (3-5) times through a section at a controlled and accurate tempo and you will find yourself gaining ground fast.
- Practice small sections (from short motifs to perhaps 4-5 measures).
- Select the section you choose to practice on the basis of it making sense musically. Typically I find that if I am practicing a single measure or a single run, etc., it is best to finish with the note(s) that begins the next measure or the next musical idea.
- In summary, Practice slowly and accurately. If you do, it will be just a few minutes before you can start increasing the speed and still play it well. As a word of caution, speed up slowly, only to the speed where you can maintain an accurate performance of that section of music. Soon, the new speed will become very easy and you can increase the speed again.
- Finally, somewhere near your beginning practice speed, definitely start adding expression, such as dynamics and even tempo variations (but only purposefully for musical purposes. Do not allow yourself to slow down because the music is too difficult. instead slow down to the tempo you can maintain even through the difficult part.
Practice slowly with fun and
you will perform at tempo with excellence.