"Smart Practice"

by Elena Wu
(California, USA)

I always tell my students there's a difference between "practice" and "smart practice". I say that "smart practice" is achieving optimal results in minimal time. As Clara mentioned, it's not the amount of time you practice, but rather the progress you make that is important. 15 minutes of focused practice can be much better than 30 minutes of sloppy practice.

For "smart practice", I suggest pin-pointing the "trouble measures" and breaking it down. Perhaps play RH only, then LH, then together, but all very slowly and one measure at a time. After the notes and fingering are smooth, work on rhythm, then dynamics, expression, etc. Also practice the measures before and after to make sure the "trouble measures" flow through the piece.

During the lesson, I always guide the students through a few difficult measures and sometimes even time it, to show them the great improvements they can achieve in only a few minutes. We "practice how to practice" during the lesson.

One of the joys of teaching for me is helping students master difficult pieces they deemed "too hard." Slowly but surely. :)

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