Piano Blog

Practice and Productivity - When is it Time to Change Course?

Have you ever practiced and practiced a certain song or technique or chord progression and just couldn't get it right? I think we've all experienced this in one form or another. Shouldn't we just keep it up and wait for those synapses to kick in? When is persistance in practicing actually NOT a good idea?

Yes, sometimes we need to just go over and over a difficult passage. Repetition, repetition...But other times we need to step back and look at how we are approaching the challenge. Repetition is not always the answer. Maybe you need to have a new attack.

For example, if you are having difficulty going from one chord to another without fumbling, doing this over and over again will help but perhaps breaking it down further would be better. Take one finger and look at how that finger is moving from the first chord to the second. Then add the next finger and do them together. Play with speed. Count to three and hold the notes and go back and forth. Then count to two and hold so you are gradually increasing your speed. Try closing your eyes and doing this to build muscle memory. Here's another technique that I just learned yesterday.

I was teaching a young 10 year old girl. She was working on a song and wanted to "pass" it by getting a sticker. Every time she played it, despite how hard she was concentrating (and she really was trying), she would make more mistakes. She was thinking so hard that it was actually working against her. Her brain was in the way! Here's a very simple technique that worked. We let it go.

We started practicing something else entirely. Then I distracted her by talking about summer vacation for about 2 minutes. 10 minutes later, I asked her to try it again. Her brain had been refreshed, she wasn't over-thinking and voila, perfect! Had I kept her going too long on that song, the concentration would have led to intense frustration and negativity and she never would have the success that she craved.

The lesson here? Persist,then try a different approach, then let go, distract with other topics or activities, then come back to it with a clean slate. I find this is helpful in other areas besides practicing the piano.....like trying to get my children to do their homework!


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