Principles of Efficient Practicing

In light of our current topic, today I’d like to talk about principles of efficient practicing. This topic will especially apply to busy moms with clambering children, working adults with limited time, teenagers pulled in all directions by extra-curricular activities, young piano students just learning how to practice…ok, so basically, this is for EVERYONE!!

When practicing time is limited, how can we accomplish more in a short amount of time? Even if practicing time is not as limited, what are some ways we can get much more out of our practicing? Here are some ideas:

  • Have a goal – if you don’t have a specific goal in mind during a practice session, you won’t accomplish as much! A great goal is to learn a specific, short section of a piece.
  • Pick your fingering – Decide on a fingering from the get-go and stick with it! I like to write in a lot of my fingerings to make sure I play it the same way each time, which helps me to learn a piece much faster.
  • Make it musical as you go – Learn articulations, phrasing, and dynamics as you learn the notes. Don’t learn notes and rhythms for the entire piece and THEN add in musical elements. Why not learn it right the first time? 
  • Small sections – Learn a piece in SMALL sections, right hand alone, left hand alone, together
  • Memorize from day 1 – Ideally, if you are learning a piece that you love and you really want to learn it well, it is much easier to memorize it as you learn it! When I do this it helps me to learn the notes much better and more efficiently. 
  • Analyze as you learn the piece! Notice and write down chord progressions, scales used in melodic material, bass notes, etc. This is also a great memory tool. It also ensures you are not learning it purely by muscle memory
  • Work on a different section at each practice session. Don’t always just start at the beginning.
  • Stay focused! You will be surprised how much you can accomplished in just 10 or 15 minutes.
What are some principles of efficient practicing that you have learned and that work well for you?
Jennifer Boster

2 Responses to “Principles of Efficient Practicing

  • Jenny – These are some great suggestions! I hope your readers take them to heart. So glad I came upon your website (thanks to Twitter!).

  • It is validating to see you list almost the exact same practicing tips that I repeat to my students lesson after lesson. (Except the memory and analysis ones, but those are good ideas too!) Simple but effective principles that every pianist should practice by! Great post!