Practice matters

Practice works! You learn to play better the more you practise. It’s not just a question of putting in the hours, however – despite the ‘10,000 hour rule’. How you practise is as important as how much: if you learn a wrong note really well it will take just as long to put it right!

It is important to break up practice sessions into different parts, allowing some time for ‘playing’ and enjoying making music, and some time for the hard slog of learning notes with the correct fingerings and rhythms. It doesn’t all have to be done in one go. Sometimes it’s better to work on a short section for ten minutes then have a break. Practise hands separately, slowly (S – L – O – W – L – Y) in the first place so that your fingers will learn where to go. Building up tricky passages one bar at a time makes it easier. Practise backwards! Start at the last bar of the difficult bit – make sure you know the fingering where you start, and gradually begin from further and further back. Running at something and hoping the momentum will carry you through seldom works!

Practise every day. This really makes a difference: it’s better to practise for 10 minutes every day than an hour the day before your lesson. You can be struggling with one particular section on Monday and find you can play it without any problems on Tuesday – miracles can happen overnight but you usually need to have put some work in first!

If you are getting frustrated with something, have a break. Play something that’s easier, or that you know better. But don’t spend all your practice time playing the pieces that you already know – you need to spend some of it learning new things.