practice drill

Music Practicing 101: The Looping Drill

The Looping Drill is one of my favourite drills since it can be used at any stage of music mastery.

Music Practicing 101 - Alternating Hand/Bar Drill

My students and I started playing around with this practice drill last week. It's an accuracy drill to clean up notes, fingering and wonky timing. Try playing the left hand alone in bar 1 and then right hand alone in bar 2, etc. Check out this video for a demonstration.

Music Practicing 101: Every Other Bar Drill

This week, I've been working with my students to either increase the tempo of their repertoire or improve on the flow in their music. This is a drill that I did learn about at a piano teaching workshop or conference - the Every Other Bar Drill.

It also works well if you do every other beat.

Coping and Recovery Strategies

This month, my students are performing in our Winter Showcase. For some, this marks their debut performance. This week, we've been working on various coping and recovery strategies. As much as we would like to believe that we'll play everything cleanly, the reality is that nerves, distractions, physical and mental state, readiness and uncertainty can affect how our performance turns out.

This is what I wound up writing on my whiteboard one night - ways to avoid having a train wreck on stage. Photo by R-M Arca.

I'd like to highlight a couple of the strategies that I introduced to them last week. First - I had them drop a hand out for a phrase or two - just enough to get through a wobbly section. If you do it in phrases, then it sounds like you meant to do it that way. Just make sure that you don't drop the tune.

Another thing they tried was to simplify either the melody or the harmony (chords). A couple are playing solid chords instead of the funkier groove that is written. If you have to simplify the accompaniment to maintain the beat, so be it.

The third thing we've had to do this week is to shorten some of the pieces. I instructed them to play through until their ear "found" a logical stopping place (Those of us who have been in music for a while would call that a cadence). In one case, we added a tonic chord in as the next beat modulates to mark a new section.

For these to be automatic on stage, however, these strategies must be practiced at home. Not just once, but several times so that you commit it to muscle memory.

For when it comes down to it, no one really cares exactly what you play. They just care how you play it. So long as you don't miss a beat, the piece is recognizable and the tempo is close to the marked speed, you're set.