Tools for focused practice; strategies for Chopin 25/11; a mediocre performance of 25/2; bits of 25/3 and 25/5; an attempt at improvisation (and a confession that I find improvising a little scary).


Specifically, a practice technique I learned here, and that I assign to my students this way:

Practice Recipe Week

In order to jump-start the fall semester, you will follow and notate a careful plan for your practice for one week, and show your notes to me at the end of the week. In most cases, you do not have to follow these guidelines for the rest of the semester, but you may find them helpful when you need to be extra disciplined. You will use the following guidelines, adapted from Burton Kaplan:

1.      You will figure out exactly when you have time to practice and write it in your calendar for the week. Since it’s the first week, you are required to block out at least four hours every day.

2.      For each day, you will plan your practice time for 80% of your allotted time; for example, if you have blocked out five hours, you will plan for four hours.

3.      For that 80%, you will schedule your time PRECISELY, writing your schedule down. Your schedule might look like this:

10 minutes scales

10 minutes sight-read Beethoven slow movement

10 minutes tricky rhythm Beethoven p. 3, slow and then faster with                          metronome

15 minutes sixteenth notes Beethoven p. 2

15 minutes harmonic analysis of Beethoven first movement

10 minutes play through Beethoven first movement

10 minute play through Chopin under tempo

10 minutes play through Chopin and mark trouble spots

10 minutes Chopin run m. 48  figure out fingering

10 minutes Chopin run m. 90 with metronome slow then faster

10 minutes Chopin sixteenth notes pp. 3-4 in groups

20 minutes read through Bach p & fs (shopping)

20 minutes play through old Mozart and Debussy—sloppy ok but be                        musical!

10 minutes Bartok jumping chords p.2

10 minutes Bartok rest of p.2

12 minutes write out plan for tomorrow

4.      As you practice, you will set a timer (your phone works fine) for each timed section minus five minutes. When your timer goes off, you re-set it for five minutes and finish up with what you’re doing. When it goes off again, you check off the item on your list and you STOP PRACTICING THAT THING. If you’re dying to practice it more, write it down at the bottom of your page.

5.      You will write down exactly when you start and stop practicing. If you answer your phone, or go get a drink of water, or have a conversation with someone, or stop practicing for any reason, your timer stops.

6.      You will probably find that at the end of your list, you’ve used up most of your allotted time. If you have any extra time, you can practice things you wanted to catch at the end, or practice something else, or just mess around on the piano, or stop practicing and go outside. You’re done.

7.      Make sure that the last part of your scheduled practice is your time to write out tomorrow’s plan; that way when you start in the morning, you’ll know exactly what to do.