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Ordinarily we tend to practise a piano song from top to bottom – from bar 1 till the last bar of the composition sequentially. To improve piano technique this way takes too long, there is a faster method – made a lot more necessary when you have judges and audience to impress in 3 weeks.
The concept is to practise by sections. In a musical phrase of 5 bars for instance, there are probably only several note combinations that are actually a challenge for us.
Repeating the whole phrase to perfect it is inefficient. You can just focus on those note combinations that are difficult. Study the fingering requirement carefully and try to execute them to the best of your ability.
By doing so you can practise the shortened difficult sections 10 to 20 time in few minutes and be on your way towards mastering the song a lot sooner than loosing time repeating a long phrase with bars you can already play well.
We talked about how it is better to play slowly at first and gradually build up speed to gain piano technique proficiency. Herein lies another advantage of practising by sections - we are able to get up to speed quicker.
If you are learning a song sequentially, most of the time the song will be played slowly. It will take a few days before you can play according to the time signature the piece demands.
A shortened section paves the way for us to practise a difficult part of a song more often and soon after figuring out the correct fingering requirements it starts to flow smoothly.
Speaking of which, with all the demands for appropriate speed, rhythm, fingering, timing and coordination involved in developing technique, it is evident that practising the piano calls for deep understanding of the music written in the score.
One has to hear what the music wants to convey, analyse the sounds and gain an insight into the movements the hands and arms. Practising to improve piano technique is work, it is not entertainment.
I used to get frustrated whenever I could not play a section well enough even after an hour of practice, many years later I realized that I am not supposed to play perfectly while practising.
During a practise session we are striving for an unattainable level devoid of flaw, mistakes should occur while practising – they disappear incrementally over a period of time with continuous practise as the piano technique improves.
Knowing this has stretched my endurance for practice sessions that are more intense in nature and much more rewarding.
Scales were something I thought of as a chore, after crossing over into the advanced student level I have to practise octave scales now.
Previously I would have retreated to my bed after a few lines of the latest piece my teacher has assigned to me, now following that up with some fingering exercises from Hanon, Czerny and scales is actually something I look forward to.