PIANO: Practicing Perfect Poise
Happy Holidays! A short and sweet post for today.
Repetition is a KEY component of our work as practicing musicians. A lot of teaching methods recommend giving students a set number of times to practice a passage (3X, 5X) etc.
I agree with this to a certain extent. It depends on HOW you’re repeating. If a student has a bad habit or rhythmic inaccuracy, he/she is simply ingraining the bad habit more and more. So in that case, the student would be better off practicing less…
I go back to the old adage, “Practice Makes Perfect.” I’m sure you’ve heard this before. A more accurate statement would be “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.”
We need to think of practicing piano, of creating art as just that……creating art. When making a painting or pottery, we can’t just mindless run our brushes or fingers. I’ve learned too many times the hard way that you can overwork a painting——go over a portion so much that the colors turn to mud and the only way out is to start over. For painters and potters, deliberate care must go into every stroke, into every step. (Otherwise, we end up giving our pottery ashtrays and paintings of mud as Christmas gifts.)
It’s the same for us. We’re creating art in sound. It may not be tangible as a sculpture; however, every stroke, every repetition, every emotion matters and either moves us closer to our vision or further away.
We know the dynamics, we know the flow, we have an idea of how the section “should sound.” However, the desire to “get it,” to “be right” makes us run our repetitions over and over (and over and over) until somehow the passage is worse and MORE full of mistakes than when we started.
Here’s a simple suggestion: incorporate poise into your practice. Take time BETWEEN reps to reset, to breathe, to start the passage as if you were performing it. Even TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF THE PIANO in between reps. (This helps to reinforce location memory, as well as give you time). It also encourages you to reflect, and to be more deliberate about what you’re creating.
Can’t stress it enough…..our process as musicians is no different than an artist’s. And in a sense, we must take MORE care because our process becomes part of us: part of our psyche, part of our emotions, even part of our muscle memory.
Short and simple! Let me know if this works for you and/or your students. Happy Holidays.