Updated: Oct 8
PIANO PRACTICE: HOW TO DEVELOP A MORE EFFICIENTLY PRACTISING TIME
An exemplary student: Mark Yeo performance of Haydn Bozner Sonata at WKMT Music Festival 18.11.2017 London - Fitzrovia
Not performing for long time-spams can prove to be detrimental to our artistic abilities. To be honest lacking time for practice is the worst enemy of any kind performer. Reaching the momentum once again can prove to be both very tedious and a quite disappointing process altogether.
As performers, we need to make a significant time investment to stay in tune with our abilities. The latter effort implies keeping up with our constant practising. We will see life getting in the middle of our way, but we will have to stay strong and continue practising regardless of our fears. In the end, this is the same challenge we face in a concert. We need to learn to blackout the outer world and commit to connecting with our conscious and subconscious selves.
We support our practising on three different pillars: patience, continuity and consistency.
CONTINUITY: Keep the continuity and the problems of not keeping up with it
Our fingers are built up from tiny muscles. As such, they can become under-exercised quite easily. On the upside, they also may come back in shape quite quickly. Both characteristics are two faces of the same coin - a coin that requires lots of attention -.
The physical dimension of our performance skill can be utterly demanding. For that reason, our practising and exercising should be oriented to keep up with its healthiest state.
We could be tempted to cluster our practising hours in one day of the week, or even two. This is not a good practice. The reason: piano requires constant stimulation. In that sense, studying one hour a day will prove to be far more effective than practising 6 hours one day a week.
Inconsistent practising can lead us to progress slowly. It takes some time for our mind to get in the momentum, that state in which we feel extemely productive. This type of insightful feeling is the one we need to train to access faster and faster. That's the main reason we need to practise more often. The ability to reach a musically insightful state of mind quicker and quicker is what we should aim to enhance the most. Developing that skill is what optimises our studying time more dramatically.
As a concert pianist, I advise dividing your daily practice into professional practising and repertoire work. I would always start with 15 minutes of piano scales, arpeggios, thirds, sixths and trills. Then, when our performance system - our hands - is warmed up, we start working on our repertoire pieces.
You should divide your repertoire training into two different sub-sessions: new repertoire and old-repertoire maintenance. When studying new "repertoire", you should focus on sections. Don't play the piece from beginning to end. On the contrary, when you maintain "repertoire", I recommend you to start from the beginning and very slowly. We should try and memorise even the name of the notes so that we can control the triggering to the maximum detail.
How much should we practise - Length of our practising sessions
I recommend my students to practice no less than six days a week. Either the study is on a digital or an acoustic piano, the amount of time we should invest in our practicing sessions varies significantly by our pianistic level.
I suggest the below practising times six days a week.
1. Beginners: 15 to 30
2. Intermediate (Grade 1 to 5 equivalent): 45 minutes minimum
3. Advance (Grade 6 to 8 equivalent): 60 minutes minimum
4. An advanced student (Diploma equivalent): 120 minutes minimum
Either the practice is on a digital or an acoustic piano, the precise amount of time the student needs to invest in their studies is subject to their personal, intellectual and physical abilities.
PATIENCE: Keep calm and study hard
Some days we will feel we are advancing a lot and some others we will feel frustrated, that's the life of the musician. Nevertheless, we should always keep on trying hard. Perseverance and patience are the most important talents in an artist.
CONSISTENCY: Follow one clear method
Changing your mind about the way you approach each passage in your piece can make your practising inefficient. For that reason, we need to apply a successful piano technique. At WKMT we use Scaramuzza technique. The fact that it defines five piano movements makes the challenge of resolving technical passages very easy. You might struggle to sort out a passage, but at least you know which move to perfect and use to perform it. Otherwise, we would end investing most of our time in trying to discover how to address each passage gymnastically.
Repertoire consistency is also something we should pay attention too. Maybe Martha Argerich and Horowitz proved the world that there are pianists who can play anything they want, but unless you are in that category of artists, it is a good idea to focus on one music style. The world we live in rewards excellence.