Apr 28, 2009

Topics coming up

Topics I'm thinking of writing about soon:

* why you need a teacher
* the value of music critics
* why it's a good idea to have an occasional lesson with another teacher

Apr 19, 2009

Make your own daily exercises

Some time ago I wrote here that I was looking for a good source on daily exercises for the piano. Later, I realized that I should just do what I always do: create my own. So here's an overview of how to do that.

You can create a daily exercises from any difficult spot in a piece you're currently working on. First, isolate the difficult spot and divide it up into segments of one bar or less. Next, if you haven't already done so, decide on fingering. Make sure that the fingering you work out still works when you're connecting the isolated segment to the previous and following segments. You don't want to end with a fingering that only works on an isolated segment but needs to be changed because it doesn't match up to the bar before or after.

Now start practicing one short segment. Repeat it several times, and don't stop between repetitions. In other words, create a cycles of the segment you're studying. After you've repeated the segment a few times as written, create variations. The purpose of these variations is on the one hand to make you realize what exactly your weak spot in this segment is, and on the other hand to translate what you learn from this segment also to other similar segments. To give you an idea of the type of variations to use, look at the following list:

* Play the segment several times completely with 'f' dynamics. Do the same with 'p' dynamics.
* Play the segment completely legato, or completely staccato. Make sure to repeat several times before changing the articulation. Next, you can also vary articulation, for example 2 dotted, 2 slurred (on groups of 4 sixteenth notes), or 1 dotted, 2 slurred, 1 dotted, etc.
* Practice the segment backwards. This also helps to check if you've memorized it correctly!
* Transpose the segment to other keys.

Once you feel you're getting the segment under control, connect the segment to the surrounding bars. Work this way through the entire piece, starting from the end and working your way backwards.

Remember: don't practice what's easy, but focus on the tough spots!