For many students, practicing is a dirty word. They hate it. But they know it needs to be done.
The big question, however, is 'how much.' How much time needs to be spent in practicing a musical instrument
Before answering that, let's get our understanding of the meaning of 'practice' in place. Then you can see that this is far easier than most people realize.
There needs to be a recognition that playing a musical instrument is not practicing. When great performers appear on stage, they are not practicing. They are performing. They are bringing to the audience the months and weeks of practicing into a single performance that is the culmination of every moment that has gone on in the past, including past performances.
The great pianist, Vladimir Horowitz, in his younger years advised six-eight hours of practice a day. In his later years, he had dropped that down to two hours or less.
Why the change?
Because Horowitz, in his later years, knew how to practice. He did not need as much time to achieve the same result. He had learned what it is to become good at practice, which, in turn, made him great at performing.
Here's the key. It's simple, easy to apply, and will make all the difference.
Practice is training the hands, fingers, feet, arms and the body's nervous system to respond to the commands that are issued by the brain.
Practice, therefore, is primarily spending time on something you don't know, not playing music you do know.
So much time is wasted by students who want to go over and over a piece because they already know it, the work is easy. What is needed, however, is the tenacity to take on something that is not known.
Too many students copy my earlier mistakes. I started at the beginning of the piece every time they sat down to practice. Eventually I'd come to a passage I could not handle, struggle over it, continue to the end, and maybe start the process again.
It was only later that I would go straight to the part I did not know properly, could not play well, and work over that short section until I had it down error free. And then I would play the portions of music either side of it.
When the child starts at the beginning all the time, she quickly gets into performance mode, not practice mode. One is governed more by emotions, while the idea of practice is intellectual work. 'I must make this movement to achieve this result. And I must be able to do it on demand, first time.'
Look over your child's shoulder when they sit or stand with their musical instrument and encourage practice rather than performing.
Less time can produce quicker and better results. Try it and hear the results. Then sit back and enjoy the performance.
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