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What Are Your Practice Habits? (The Good and the Bad!)

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How many hours a week do you practice?

Less than 7
2
13%
7-14
8
53%
14-21
1
6%
21-28
2
13%
28-35
2
13%
35-50
0
No votes
More than 50
0
No votes
 
Total votes : 15

What Are Your Practice Habits? (The Good and the Bad!)

Postby PJF on Sat Aug 19, 2006 7:27 am

I thought I'd revisit the topic of practicing. These are a dozen of my good habits. I know I have bad habits, but I don't know what they are. I haven't identified and fixed a bad habit in many months.

I learn from watching the masters. An enormous amount of information is conveyed through actually seeing a virtuoso at work.

About practice:

#1 Always approach the piano with reverance. When I start a practice session, I always stop for a minute to realize that this instrument is capable of producing the most beautiful music. My only task is to set that music free from the cold strings.

#2 Find your center. I do this by meditating on the phrase, "IT CAN BE DONE" I put myself into a trance, my mind is completely focused on the music. It took me ten years to be able to turn on this trance at will. If you have the patience, real, l-o-n-g term patience, it will happen.

#3 Never over-practice, it's worse than too little. My rule of thumb is,
if anything is stiff or sore or if I am just plain tired, I take 3 days off in a row. When I resume practice, I feel strong, totally focused and full of good ideas. Nothing is worse than monotony! Monotony is death to spontaneity and spontaneity is the very essence of artistic expression.

#4 Maintain a routine. My monday-saturday routine is 2 hours in the AM with an emphasis on musical expression and 3-4 hours in the PM, with an emphasis on technique and memorization. I split the practice hours into forty minute sessions with 20 minute breaks in between. I usually use the free time to eat, swim or watch tv. I do what works and discard what doesn't.

#5 I'm always honest to myself. It may be tempting to take shortcuts, but doing that is the worst thing a pianist can do! I never allow myself to lose control.

#6 Realize the difficulty. Whenever I hear a bad performance, I know the cause right away. The pianist did not fully appreciate the difficulty of the task at hand. Coordinating all your bones and muscles (your mind and ears too), is quite an undertaking that must not be underestimated!

#7 I own up to my flaws and fix them. I practice what I don't know how to do. Remember, practice's sole purpose is to cause a positive change. Never overlook a flaw, fix it NOW!

8# Sometimes, I just play. I don't always approach the piano with the one goal of practice. Sometimes just have fun, play an improvised song, set yourself free to be musical. Don't care a bit about wrong notes, on this day it doesn't matter, throw caution to the wind. Play a piece you already know, and experiment with different sounds and textures, enjoy it!

#9 I try to play on more than one piano. Practicing day after day on the same instrument can cause the pianist to devolop subtle habits. When you then give a performance on a different instrument, problems that you hadn't identified, show up unexpectedly in the middle of a recital. Embarassed

#10 I exercise and eat a proper diet. This is overlooked by so many pianists! How does one expect to play well if the body is out of shape? One can't. Through trial and error, I found the best exercises for me are swimming, cycling and walking. Bodybuilding is not compatible with piano playing. I also make absolutley sure to eat enough protein, pianists are athletes and need 25%-50% more protein than non-pianists. Adequate calcium intake is vital. Calcium deficiency will cause stress fractures of the back and neck, resulting in pain, and the eventual development of arthritis. Exercise is also very good for maintaining bone health.

#11 Once a year, I leave the piano completely alone for two or three weeks. I avoid chronic fatigue, by taking a holiday.

#12 I practice in front of a mirror and a video camera. You can't correct a technical problem if you can't see or hear it.
Per Sapientiam Felicitas!

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Postby keyla_c on Sat Aug 19, 2006 9:39 am

I think I have more bad than good habits ;)

good habits

one of my good habits is that i work concentrated, learning a phrase until I'm able to play it and than start the next

and I play the piano with fun, what, in my opinion is most important to make good music

bad habits

i play pieces which are much to difficult for me
I know I should stop that but sometimes, when I hear a song which I really like I have to play it

I never correct my technique- I would like to, but my teacher never told me what is right and what is wrong so I don't know what to change when I notice my hand hurts if I play a phrase very oftenn (but somehow I always manage that, when I finished a piece, my hand does not hurt anymore at any of the phrases :)

and I keep playing when my hand hurts

other habits (good or bad?- I'm not sure)

when I notice a good song is to hard to play I just learn parts of it

I play the piano more than I'm allowed to. from monday to thursday my parents always start shouting at me after 1,5 hours because I'm supposed to do homework... :(
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Postby elvenpianist on Sat Aug 19, 2006 3:58 pm

keyla_c wrote:when I notice a good song is to hard to play I just learn parts of it


hahaha I do the same. It's sooo hilarious, I'll just sit down and whip out the first few measures of, say, Wanderer, and everyone is like WHOAMG YOU CAN PLAY WANDERER-FANTASY?!?!?! HOLY CRAP YOU'RE LIKE A VIRTUOSO!!!!

ahaha

Truth is, I can only play the first 6 pages. :D

Ah, good times.
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Postby lol_nl on Fri Sep 15, 2006 4:25 pm

I wonder who voted 4-5 hours a day (28-35 a week).. Sounds pretty much. I practise 14-21 hours a week on average I guess.

My good and bad habits:


Good: When I practise I'm usually quite concentrated, I go into a kind of trance.
Bad: I sometimes don't know what I'm doing, because I am "too focused and concentrated". I get into a trance too much.

Good: I can practise on for a relatively long time without getting very tired.
Bad: I sometimes tend to overpractise.

Good: I have a lot of interest for piano.
Bad: Sometimes I try too hard to make the piano sound just as I want, resulting in over-practise related things.
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Postby PJF on Sat Sep 16, 2006 3:01 am

"I wonder who voted 4-5 hours a day (28-35 a week)."

That would be me.
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Postby PJF on Sat Nov 04, 2006 8:43 pm

I have the strong tendency to want to overpractice. I fight this irrational compulsion every day. Usually logic wins over habit but it is not an easy thing. Keeping a practice journal focuses my rationale.
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Postby PJF on Sat Nov 04, 2006 10:58 pm

How's everyone's practicing going? Have you developed some really good habits or are there a few places in need of improvement? Do tell!
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Postby Goldberg on Sun Nov 05, 2006 2:16 am

Well, I haven't been posting much lately but it's been a long day...of practice...and this seems to be an appropriate thread. In the past two or three weeks I have actually made some of the first substantial changes in my practice habits, and so in my playing overall, that I have made for the past 3 years or so (during which I found myself entrenched on an agonizing plateau of mediocrity, caused by inattentiveness and the wrong motivations).

The substantial change involves my new seriousness to practicing and the goal of overall refinement in my art. I practice for as long as I can concentrate on something useful, i.e. fixing or learning the technique for a certain passage, constructing musical phrases with the right amount of tonal shading, dynamic fluctuations, etc., and generally just controlling more details than I had been able to before. I apply myself fully to the score now, rather than just giving it a cursory sight-read, accepting my weaknesses as mere hazards of playing difficult music, and moving on. I appreciate the fine details more and more, but try not to obsess about them in such a way that the playing becomes too surgical. Technically, I am relaxed to the point where I hardly worry about technique anymore. It has caused me to feel that nothing is too difficult for me to play, which is in a way the correct mindset but in another way is harmful, because I don't wish to get involved with pieces that I can't grasp intellectually quite yet.

However, my technical confidence does secure a new level of repertoire for me which will, for once, help me grow mentally rather than just physically. I am working in depth on several Chopin-Godowsky etudes, with intentions of some day learning the entire set. I work on these pieces not for the technical flexibility they require (I am playing some of the simplest etudes in the set, at the moment, however, so the notes are rarely an issue--this will be less and less the case as I move forward) so much as for the mental refinement they demand: constant concentration and perseverance. These pieces have been wonderful additions to my practice routines, and I never grow tired of working on them. In turn, each time I play through one I see something new, and learn much about the subtleties of my art. I work in ways that I was too lazy to exploit earlier in my life: I work hands-separately (this is particularly a common practice in left-hand only pieces!) to make sure that each hand is independent, but also equally informed in terms of musical elements, and also to work on technique on a hand-by-hand basis (right hand technique is, I've discovered, MUCH more difficult on the whole than left hand technique, which is a topic Godowsky discusses in his introduction to the etudes). I also try to use my imagination to the fullest extent to play phrases, or sometimes just measures, in as many different ways as possible, to achieve a high level of control. I play everything without pedal first, then I play the passage legato, non-legato, staccato, fast, slow, forte, piano, with crescendos and decrescendos, accented or even, in varying rhythms, as quietly as possible (sometimes just playing over the keys), with my eyes closed, renewing the pedal on THIS note, or THAT note, or holding the pedal down all the way...I can go for half an hour on one measure, or just one hand, like this. I do not typically expect myself to be able to concentrate more than 30 minutes on one problem, though, because then I enter a sort of monotonous state where I'm not really focused, and therefore not really learning anything. I frequently take breaks after one passage, or if not a break, I at least work on another piece or passage.

During this process, mistakes are unacceptable. I might accidentally slip on one note or something, especially while working in a more difficult passage in Godowsky, and I won't stress out about it unless I repeat the mistake later. But usually if I hit two wrong notes in a row, I'll slow the tempo down until I don't make the mistakes again. Mistakes in the old days were usually caused by bad technique on my part (it was built around tense reflexive actions based largely on finger motion), but I'm in a way glad to say that usually mistakes now are caused purely by memory slips...that is to say, I have a greater understanding of technique, but sometimes I just haven't learned the notes well enough to be able to play them correctly. So in a way, nothing is too hard for me because I feel like I understand technique enough to be able to play anything, at least the notes of a piece...it's just that a more complicated piece will take a little while longer to learn. Now I just need to work on refining my memory, which is the next step.

All in all, though, it's been a busy, and happy time for me because I'm finally making progress after years of nothing. I don't follow any method but my own, though I have learned a lot from Godowsky and Busoni on technique and practicing.
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Postby lol_nl on Sun Nov 26, 2006 10:55 am

I've been busy with other things too much the last few months and nearly dropped piano :oops:. But now the so-called "Autumn depression" is over or nearly over, I want to practise again and concentrate more on piano.

The last weeks I mainly concentrated on relaxation and developing a good technical fundament, but I haven't made much progress. If I think when I'm playing I can totally relax and do everything right within a few seconds, but usually I can't concentrate on the score, the notes, the music, the position of my hands and relaxation at the same time, so it fails very often.

The last weeks I was busy with school too and on some days I didn't even had the chance to practise (or I did have, but didn't practise). I started to practise more and more intuitively and playing pieces over and over without any improvement, losing concentration very fast.

So I finally decided I couldn't continue like that and I dropped all my other hobbies. I started concentrating on piano again, being not sure whether it's too late or not. I am practising a little more the last days and I hope I can keep it up.
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Postby PJF on Mon Nov 27, 2006 2:45 am

Yes, we've all had our ups and downs. Don't give up!
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Postby juufa72 on Mon Nov 27, 2006 3:24 am

I tend not to practice when I practice. I don't stop at a passage that gives me trouble. I just keep going. So in reality I never master anything. I just "play" it.
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Postby trinapiano on Thu Dec 14, 2006 11:16 pm

I havnt been that motivated to do alot of practice lately, I think its mainly down to me being so isolated or something..and alot of things that have been happening. I once went through a phase of doing 8+ hours a day at about eighteen...ive gone way down to about an hour or so a day at the moment. Im trying to improve that..I know quality is more important that quantity but still...
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Postby PJF on Fri Dec 22, 2006 9:57 am

juufa72 wrote:I tend not to practice when I practice. I don't stop at a passage that gives me trouble. I just keep going. So in reality I never master anything. I just "play" it.


Stop that! :lol:
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Postby PJF on Fri Dec 22, 2006 10:01 am

trinapiano wrote:I havnt been that motivated to do alot of practice lately, I think its mainly down to me being so isolated or something..and alot of things that have been happening. I once went through a phase of doing 8+ hours a day at about eighteen...ive gone way down to about an hour or so a day at the moment. Im trying to improve that..I know quality is more important that quantity but still...


Being isolated is certainly detrimental to motivation, in piano or anything else; it's up to the individual to remedy that. Eight hours a day is too much, one is not enough. Try two hours and five minutes a day; 125 minutes. To a point, quantity is a good quality. :wink:
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Postby PJF on Fri Dec 22, 2006 10:28 am

lol_nl wrote:I've been busy with other things too much the last few months and nearly dropped piano :oops:. But now the so-called "Autumn depression" is over or nearly over, I want to practise again and concentrate more on piano.

The last weeks I mainly concentrated on relaxation and developing a good technical fundament, but I haven't made much progress. If I think when I'm playing I can totally relax and do everything right within a few seconds, but usually I can't concentrate on the score, the notes, the music, the position of my hands and relaxation at the same time, so it fails very often.

The last weeks I was busy with school too and on some days I didn't even had the chance to practise (or I did have, but didn't practise). I started to practise more and more intuitively and playing pieces over and over without any improvement, losing concentration very fast.

So I finally decided I couldn't continue like that and I dropped all my other hobbies. I started concentrating on piano again, being not sure whether it's too late or not. I am practising a little more the last days and I hope I can keep it up.


Hello, Yiteng. The seasonal depression is a big problem for me, too. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a recognised major depressive disorder; it can range in severity from barely noticeable to completely disabling. If I don't make absolutely sure to go outdoors and exercise, it creeps up on me. Due to our crappy weather, in the last ten days, we've had just a few peeks of sunlight. On super-gloomy days (like today), I put on as many lights as I can; it helps a lot.

It is never too late to return to piano, esp. in your case. You're still very young; time is on your side! The fact that you are concerned about slips in your routine, shows that you are serious about it. Don't fear time off; the piano will be there when you go back. I once completely lost all inspiration and stayed away from piano for two years; it took a year to get everything back, but I came back ten times stronger.

About your attention span: It will improve over time, provided you try really hard! Practicing should feel like doing schoolwork involving your favorite subject, very difficult but very exciting and enjoyable. If your practice feels forced or counterproductive, you're probably doing something wrong. Sit down, write, think and talk about any problems; there are solutions.

Good luck and if you need advice don't hesitate to contact me. Good luck with everything :)
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