Monday, April 13, 2015

Practice technique as we learn recital pieces

For all piano students and parents. Please take a moment to consider these practice techniques. It will make a huge difference as students learn their very challenging recital pieces. We talk about these practice skills every week during lessons, but I need parents to understand them as well.  

This article is about a study done at Duke University with 17 pianists. CLICK HERE for the full article. 

All pianists were given a 3 measure passage from a piano concerto. They were told to practice, learn, memorize the passage, and take as much time as needed. Time took to learn the passage varied from 8 1/2- 57 minutes. They were then told that they could NOT go over the passage for 24 hours. They came back the following day and performed the 3 measures and were rated on rhythm, accuracy, tone, musicality, etc.. The results will surprise you. 

Here are the findings. 

  1. Practicing longer didn't lead to higher rankings.
  2. Getting in more repetitions had no impact on their ranking either.
  3. The number of times they played it correctly in practice also had no bearing on their ranking.
What did matter was:
  1. How many times they played it incorrectly. The more times they played it incorrectly, the worse their ranking tended to be.
  2. The percentage of correct practice trials did seem to matter. The greater the proportion of correct trials in their practice session, the higher their ranking tended to be.
And here are the top 3 strategies among the top 3 pianists. 
"1. The precise location and source of each error was identified accurately, rehearsed, and corrected.
2. Tempo of individual performance trials was varied systematically; logically understandable changes in tempo occurred between trials (e.g. slowed things down to get tricky sections correct; or speeded things up to test themselves, but not too much).
3. Target passages were repeated until the error was corrected and the passage was stabilized, as evidenced by the error’s absence in subsequent trials."
So.... as you are practicing your recital songs. FIX THE MISTAKES EARLY by slowing down and fixing the error, over and over and over, until the error is no longer there. This will speed up the time it takes to learn your recital songs. 

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