One of the techniques recommended on Piano Fundamentals is bar-by-bar practice: you take any parts of a score that you can’t play fluently yet, and go over them repeatedly, thousands of times. Why do we do this?
Practicing short segments allows you to practice it dozens, even hundreds of times, in a matter of minutes. Use of these quick repetitions is the fastest way to teach your hand new motions. If the difficult notes are played as part of a longer segment, the longer interval between repeats and the playing of other notes in between can confuse the hand and cause it to learn more slowly.
This is what I’ve been doing for my flute practice – identify patterns of 3-4 notes which I can’t play fluently, and go over them repeatedly at high speed until they’re “under my fingers”. Typically, this means for 60-90 seconds per 3-4 note pattern, done over the course of a few days.
Naturally, one also needs the context for those tricky parts, which means that I slowly build up the notes on the left- and right-hand-sides of the part that’s tricky.
For example: I might find A-C#-E-D# difficult to play. I practice it repeatedly for 90 seconds, as fast as possible. Then, I add in the D#-B that comes in front of the sequence, so that I’m now playing D#-B-A-C#-E-D#. Here’s how this micro-session might build up further:
You can see how it gets bigger. I might also just take any pairs of notes that are difficult and trill between them, if necessary – D#-F#, for example.
Eventually, once I’ve mastered all the tricky bits, it’s time to slot everything together for the whole piece, which I can, by that point, easily memorise. Then, it’s just a case of repeating the process for every piece I want to learn.
The next post will be about language microreps – an expansion on the L2IR method I wrote about before.
Any more ideas out there about musical microreps? Leave a comment!