Clavier Companion - July/August 2017 - 16
passage starts to show
wait extra time before
coming back to it.
First practice in small
Most pieces are learned best by practicing
them in small chunks whose sizes correspond
with phrases or half phrases. In many earlylevel books, that's one line at a time, but
as your music gets more advanced, you'll
need to find the phrases yourself. The most
challenging spots may need chunks as small
as one measure (or less), depending upon the
Read notes first, then fingerings
When reading a new piece, be sure to decode
the notes/intervals first, notated fingerings
second-otherwise, you may overlook shifts or
other changes of hand position.
Figure out fingerings and write in
the critical ones
When first learning a piece, spend some
time doing each-hand-separate practice so
you can write in key fingerings which occur at shifts,
thumb-passings, finger-crossings, extensions, and
contractions-anything that takes you out of a fivefinger position. Always use the same fingerings unless
you discover better ones later; then erase the old
fingerings and write in the new ones.
at the same time in both hands. Practice them legato
with ample pausing, then fill in the rest of the notes
with pausing as needed. Finally, play slowly in rhythm.
This technique is also helpful during maintenance
practice with advanced players to solidify rhythm in
Get to hands-together practice right away
Practice no faster than "thinking tempo"
Don't spend any more time on each-hand-separate
practice than necessary, usually only a few minutes.
As soon as possible, put hands together, preferably in
Leave out rhythm while learning the basics in each
passage-play in rhythm only after other basics are
The quickest way to learn most passages is to
practice them with no rhythm, instead mastering the
basics first: notes and fingering, rests, articulation, and
shifts. That's because you can't play in rhythm unless
you know the notes! Trying to do so, especially with
non-advanced players, prematurely leads to recurring
tension, inaccuracy, and lack of control, sometimes
weeks after the poor practice took place (see the
Practice at a speed no faster than what permits you
to think about what you're doing, and pay close
attention to the results. "Thinking tempo" can
surprisingly vary from day to day, so stay in touch
with now-accept what it's telling you.
Use verticals at first to simplify two-handed
An easy way to sneak up on intricate two-handed
playing is to practice just the verticals-notes struck
Establish many starting and stopping points
The more starting and stopping places you have in a
piece, the more secure your learning will be. Those
spots should correspond with the various substructures of the music-phrases, sections, etc.
Use practice repetitions mindfully
When doing successful repetitions of passages,
pause between repetitions long enough to first selfassess, and then reset your concentration (see the
Don't inadvertently change tempos between
repetitions (usually faster)-only do so when you've
decided you're ready, and then make the tempo
change on purpose.