Multipurpose practising

One of the main tasks of teachers is to instruct pupils how to practise on their own. How can the teacher ensure that the homework is successful and rewarding? In the following we put forward some thoughts and guidelines on the subject.

When you practise, try to keep the number of repetitions within reasonable limits. Identical repetitions of a motor activity do not promote learning as efficiently as varied practising. Say you are working on a particular run, you may vary






Discovering other practising modes than just playing through the score is beneficial to memorising, it is motivating, fun, and may provide new information about the piece.


•Play only the first and last beat of each bar. This enhances your perception of continuity across the bar lines and helps you to discover the natural pulse of the music.

•Play certain beats with the left hand alone. This teaches you to pay attention to important harmonies, for example.

•Play the score emphasising certain parts, i.e. inner lines. This refines your listening capacity and helps you to play with technical accuracy. It is particularly efficient in slow pieces, as it requires you to pay special attention.

•Leave out part of the score. This simplifies and facilitates learning.

Random practice promotes a flexible attitude towards the task and is an efficient way of refining your inner hearing.

•Vary the tempo! Deliberate variation, excessive rubato, is an extremely efficient device for boosting your autonomy, for instance in relation to a virtuoso piece, in which the tempo easily starts leading you instead of the other way round. In other words, you, the player, are subordinate to an external factor called pulse. This is particularly important when you already know the piece quite well and when you practise a lot.

•Transpose! By transposing music you can monitor your understanding and inner hearing.

•Tell stories! Refining the episodic, experiential memory is essential especially with children.  Share a memorable trip through the composition with them. The child then creates a personal relationship with the notes and harmonies, which thus acquire subjective meanings that he or she re-lives and remembers in performance..

•Improvise! Improvisation is the only way of getting an idea of what playing the piece as a whole is like until you know it thoroughly. By playing a version of it, complete as far as tempo, effects and intensity are concerned, but independent of the notation, you can get a picture of how playing at speed and with the required intensity may feel and of what kind of psychophysical attitude and state it requires.

•Create variations! Composing your own variation of the piece you are practising bolsters your self-conception as a player: you may see the composer as a colleague, who at the time made his own decisions about the musical elements.


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