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Practice Tips for Advanced Students

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#1 Love piano

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Posted 03 January 2019 - 11:42

Morning everyone, and Happy New Year. 

 

I've got quite a few students who are looking at the higher grades (6 - 8) this year, so I thought I would put together a 'Top Practice Tips' sheet for them, to help them get the best out of their practice. 

 

To get this started, I wonder whether I could start a discussion here on your top practice tips for advanced level students, and by implication may I have permission to incorporate your suggestions into this sheet please. 

 

In return I'm more than happy to share the finished product with anyone who would like it........

 

Many thanks. 


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#2 Latin pianist

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Posted 03 January 2019 - 11:57

I envy you the advanced students. After years of having students at all levels, the last 2 or 3 years I've hardly had anyone above grade 5 and the one I've got now is hardly practising.
One thing I found helpful for students learning long pieces is to divide them into sections of a few bars or lines depending on technical demands and label them from A to G eg. This helps in pinpointing sections of the piece and in making sure all sections are practised and problem areas are practised more.
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#3 ejw21

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Posted 03 January 2019 - 12:29

Not specifically tips, but I shave found the podcasts on https://heartofthepiano.com/ useful - they are available on iTunes etc (I use PlayerFM) and the episodes on practice mistakes were v good. They are lengthy though!


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#4 ma non troppo

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Posted 03 January 2019 - 13:00

Longer pieces - yes, split into sections of a few bars etc - but practise them in random order. Write them on cards and shuffle them.

Always know where you are going to stop when you practise and consider why you are doing that section again .... What are you trying to achieve?

A lot of work can be done away from the instrument. Play the music back in your head, imagine the sound you want to achieve.


All sorts of "standard" practising techniques - playing even runs in rhythms, learn the capitulation of a tricky phrase - learn how to get out of it. Shadow jumping for difficult chordal movements. Voicing chords and experimenting with balance by listening carefully. Identify the arcs of the piece, the structure, everything must have a thought. What is their thought? What character do different themes have? Sing them, improvise around them.

Loads and loads of things really..... And that's without getting too embedded in technique.
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#5 mel2

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Posted 03 January 2019 - 14:18

Nice idea. Can't apply the brain to it just now but I hope the thread takes root.
It miht have to be instrument-specific.
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#6 corenfa

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 02:53

This practise tip has done me well for study of any field not limited only to piano: Keeping an error log, ie. Why am I making those particular mistakes? On piano, it might be for example that I am misjudging a large leap and consistently undershooting. 


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#7 ten left thumbs

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 12:31

Of course, any 'tip' that is universally useful, you would have thought the advanced student would work it out for him or herself. Plus their own way of doing things. And for the things they don't work out, that's what a teacher is for. So I was never really convinced about the effectiveness of tips. However, in as far as they can go, and with the thought of planting the seed in a brain, here's my 'tip':

 

Don't think of key signatures as, now I need to remember such and such sharps or flats. Instead, think in the key you are in. Play the scale with one finger (non legato). Transpose a well-known song (Twinkle Twinkle little star) into that key. Get used to always knowing what key you are in - there will be just a few times it might not be clear - that is fine, just make sure you know why it's ambiguous.

 

Oh and one more tip:

 

Once you know the piece, but still need to practice is, practice it from the end. Practice the last bar. Then from two bars to the end. Then from 3 bars to the end. And so on. That way, you know the end the best, and you always feel like you're going into better known material. Never allow yourself to stumble from the beginning into the first mistake, and then from the beginning into a different first mistake. 


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#8 HelenVJ

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Posted 04 January 2019 - 14:19

I don't have any generic 'tips' as such- these can end up just stating the blindingly obvious. Each student has widely differing goals, amount of practice time available, work ethic and different ways of learning. So adjustments and practice suggestions are tailor-made for each student and will vary from week to week, according to the repertoire. The same 'tip' wouldn't apply to a Bach Prelude as to a Debussy one.

My youngest students are made aware of The 4 Ss - Slowly,Separately, in Sections and Several Times , but by advanced level this will be inbuilt, and the 'Separately' no longer applies  that often.


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#9 The Great Sosso

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Posted 09 January 2019 - 19:41

My top tip for the "I always make that mistake" problem, is to stop playing right before you make the mistake, then very carefully make sure you play the right note.  That avoids constantly reinforcing the mistake.  Eventually the gap between stopping and playing the right note gets smaller until it disappears.

 

Generally: Don't try to cover everything in one practice session.  Pick on one thing you worked on in the last session (a piece, a section, a technique, or whatever) decide what needs to happen (it needs to be faster, more articulate, better graduated dynamics or whatever) and work on that until you feel you have improved. Then, if you have time, move on to something else. 

 

TGS X


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#10 Dorcas

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Posted 09 January 2019 - 21:05

I am intrigued by this thread.  I have a couple of grade 6 students, about to move onto grade 7, which is very unusual for me, as my main focus is on beginners and intermediates.

 

I think one tip I would suggest is, give yourself permission to have a bad hair practise day.


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#11 BadStrad

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 18:53

Play as fast as you can, not as fast as you can't.
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#12 Aquarelle

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Posted 10 January 2019 - 22:31

Something I have found helps with students old enough or younger but mature enough, is to put them in charge of their own practice. I spend quite a lot of time in the early grades getting them to analyse their  problems and to suggest ways to solve them. It's really just teaching them how to practice in a valuable way. As they progress I like to get them to be increasingly responsible for sorting themselves out. I don't leave them out on a limb - I obviously guide them  -  but I do ask them what they think I should write in their practice instructions  and that can give rise to some interesting ideas.


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#13 Banjogirl

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 13:31

You could always give them Banjogirl's Bad Boy's method of perfecting a piece, which is to play it over and over again at top speed until it comes right. It used to drive me nuts listening to him but for him it worked!
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#14 ma non troppo

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 13:56

Practising at speed is an established method.
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#15 Banjogirl

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Posted 11 January 2019 - 21:38

Practising at speed is an established method.


Not necessarily from the start of learning a piece though, practising many wrong notes over and over again! It would never have worked for me.
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