Below are some of the many different aspects involved in learning
how to practice effectively.
METHODS OF PRACTICE
The act of singing various parts of the piece usually helps
students to hear the melody and/or harmony better. Singing also
facilitates the process of memorization.
Parallel Practice means taking two similar sections, or passages
within a section, and practicing them one
after the other to become more familiar with their similarities
and differences. Going back and forth between theses passages
will strengthen the understanding of each of them.
Backwards Chains may very well be the most dreaded form of practice
for many of my students.
However, most students will return the next week and sheepishly
admit that 'backwards chains' really help.
Decide on many different starting places within the piece or section
and number them starting at the end and working your way towards
the beginning. Working backwards, begin at the first 'starting
place' closest to the end, and play to the end of the piece (or
the particular section). Once you have mastered that, go to the
second 'starting place' which occurs prior to the one you just
did and play from there to the end. Continue to work your way
backwards until you reach the beginning of the piece (or section).
Being able to start at various places in the music helps the performer
to feel more secure with the finished product. This also assures
that the end of the piece will be as 'polished' as the beginning!
It often helps to take a small section of music and review it
until it feels comfortable before going on to another section.
It is also a good idea to start a little before the section and
end a little after the
section to avoid having obvious seams later on. If you continue
to make mistakes, perhaps you are playing too quickly, the section
is too long, or you are not ready to be playing it both hands
Improvisation and Transposition
Unfortunately, the study of music has become much more compartmentalized
than it was in the past.
Although today's jazz musicians improvise all the time, many classically
never have the opportunity to explore this medium.
As a classical musician, I am interested in using improvisation
as a valuable tool for self growth and exploration. In the right
environment, improvisation can be extremely fun and rewarding.
An ideal environment would be a place where the student feels
comfortable to experiment; safe from criticism.
Students with some knowledge of theory and chord progressions
might want to try improvising on a chord progression which has
been extracted from one of their pieces. Perhaps you might prefer
to make up your own chord progression. A great way to get the
sound of a particular melodic line in your ear is to transpose
it into all the keys. Taking this idea a step further, as you
become comfortable improvising on a simple chord progression you
might want to try improvising on the same chord progression in
Transposition is extremely helpful in developing the ear, however,
different keys will often require a change in fingering. Consequently,
transposition is most effective when it is applied during the
early stages of the learning process so that the student can begin
to focus on using consistent fingering as soon as possible without
interfering with kinesthetic memory functions.
For difficult runs, or passage work, try beginning with the first
note and add one note at a time so that each time you play the
passage you increase the length with an additional note. This
can also be done in reverse by starting with the last note of
the run and working backwards, each time adding the preceding
note. Make certain the fingering is consistent.
Variations in Rhythm and Articulation
Rhythm: try changing the rhythm of a difficult passage; use a
dotted-eighth, sixteenth rhythm or reverse it and try a sixteenth,
Articulation: Try playing staccato passages legato or vice versa.