music practice

100 Days of Practice Challenge 2019 - Day 30 Check-in

100 Days of Practice Challenge 2019 - Day 30 Check-in

According to my practice trackers, I completed Day 30 of my 100 Days of Practice Challenge on Wednesday. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I decided to do a 100 Day Music Practice Challenge as well as a 100 Days of Budo Practice Challenge simultaneously. It has been an interesting journey so far.

100 Day Music Practice Challenge (Round 2) So Far

Very early on, I hit a couple of snags in my music practice challenge that affected working on my featured trio of pieces: Danza del gaucho matrero (Ginastera), Papillons (Schumann), and Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Iz’s version).

Our 30 Days of Practice Challenge

Our 30 Days of Practice Challenge

As I mentioned in my post about this year’s Maestro’s 2018/19 Studio Challenges, my students and I are are doing a new practice challenge this year. Last month, we started a 30 Days of Practice Challenge. The practice challenge was inspired by concert violinist Hilary Hahn and her 100 Days of Practice Challenge on Instagram

Maestro's 2018/19 Studio Challenges

Maestro's 2018/19 Studio Challenges

During my brainstorming, the following themes came through: technique, ear/rhythm/sight-reading, and practice frequency. To be honest, those are the key themes every year, but these are areas I really want my students to shine in this year. So, I had to tweak the student challenges and incentives a bit.

Reducing Hand and Wrist Tension at the Piano

Lately, I have been harping on my students about their wrist technique. Some are playing with locked wrists or excess hand tension, even with us working on it during their lessons. The bottom line is that we teachers can only help you so much in a lesson, the rest comes down to how you practice at home.

Here are a few videos by some of my esteemed colleagues on hand and wrist technique:

Irina Gorin and Wrist Relaxation Exercises:

I showed this to an intermediate student. He started to make some progress after viewing this. Irina has more useful videos on her YouTube Channel.

Josh Wright on Reducing Hand Tension

Although he still has some tension (those pesky octaves!), Josh does have some good points. Let's chalk it up to the fact that he's showing you a section that he is working on, so it's a work in progress.

Robert Estrin on Wrist Technique with Octaves:

Robert Estrin has a treasure chest of wonderful piano tutorials on his website. Every pianists should bookmark his site.

The Allan Fraser Institute's Lecture-Demonstration on Hand Tension and Proper Arm Weight Technique

Thanks to Brian Riker for sharing this one.

I promised my students that I would send them some clips to help them play with more relaxed wrists and a less hand tension.

Sometime during Christmas break, I will record some videos in which I deconstruct my piano technique. When I mentioned this to my students, they immediately asked if we could use the GoPro POV camera and the other cameras to film them as well. What a great way to analyze your basic piano technique!

I think I will start using an elastic band. Up to this point, I've either had my students put their hand on mine (or my forearm) to feel the arm weight and tension I use to play their trouble spots. Or, I'll hold their forearm and won't let go until I sense they have relaxed sufficiently.

We've been using imagery a lot too. That's something you might want to try if your teacher hasn't asked you to yet.

Last night, I asked a student to imagine that he was in a pool and he was dragging his arm back and forth in the water. Then, I asked him to imagine that his arms were made of air and that gravity was pulling his hand down towards the keys.

Make sure you stretch regularly to reduce hand tension and prevent musician injuries. Finally, I will leave you with something I say regularly to my students: Spongy wrists, firm fingertips.

Professional Musicians Talk About Practicing

I tracked down three neat (and short) video clips of professional musicians discussing practicing music. There's some neat practice tips and ideas.