Practice Tips

Spot practicing
Another mistake I’ve often seen students do is to start at the beginning of the piece when a mistake is made, no matter where they are in the song or how they played the song at the beginning. I like to think of problem areas like a tangle that you need to straighten out, so playing the entire piece is not going to get the tangle out, and in fact, sometimes reinforces the mistake and it then becomes a learned error rather than a mistake. Here’s the order of learning a new piece that I’ve always found to help me:
1. To begin, play the piece all the way through, no matter how many mistakes you make, so you become familiar with the song and where it’s going musically.
2. Divide your song in sections to learn. If you’re a beginner, your song will probably only be a few lines to just one page at most, for higher levels, you may have several pages to learn. Use your own judgment on how long of a section you would like to learn at a time. Since you’ve learned to practice in short segments, you may choose to only play the one section per practice, then at your next practice session, move on to the next section.
3. One you’ve finished practicing all the sections, you can now play the piece in its entirety. However, there will always be sections that will give you more trouble than other parts. This is where spot practicing comes into play. Once you’ve determined the parts that give you trouble (this may be one measure, an entire line or several lines), determine to use your entire practice session to just go over that particular part, then work outward. For example, let’s say you have one measure that gives you trouble. Play that one measure repeatedly (at least 5 times in a row) until you feel more comfortable with it, then play the measure before and after the troubled measure, than play the entire line. Sometimes the problem is not just that part, but going into and out of that part.

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