Basic principles of efficient practicing – I

December 14, 2008

Did you ever ask yourself whether your piano practicing is in fact efficient? Or have you ever had the feeling that your exercises on the keyboard are just a boring routine you daily repeat while not knowing why you do it?
Remember first: Practicing means exploring every unknown detail of the score you are studying; it is like disclosing the secret of music and discovering the unlimited power of the composers´masterworks.
A good approach to your daily practice should include a Prelude and Fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier by J.S.Bach. This repertoire represents the absolute fundamental work for a pianist.
Studying meticulously Preludes and mostly Fugues by Bach requires a high concentration, especially when pointing out the plurality of voices (polyphony) relating together through counterpoint. This is the basis of efficient practicing and, in the long term, the perfect construction of high professional piano playing.
After your first approach with Bach, choose a piece which is immediately connected to those specific Prelude and Fugue. Create for your practice session a direct relationship between the pieces you decide to work at. You can set different criteria in doing so, for example if you consider the common key as an esthetic detail of this relationship, thematic similarities or motivic recalls from one piece to another, related characters in the musical message. You should also take care of your mental work. Be concentrated during your practicing and you will notice a speedy development of your skills as a performer. Do not just play notes or push keys down, try rather to shape the musical phrase focussing on a beautiful tone. Be interested in the quality of your daily practicing, because it will affect the quality of your being a pianist.

Suggestions of different piano works for a practice session:

Begin:

J.S.Bach, Well-Tempered Clavier Book II – Prelude and Fugue D Minor BWV 875
Connected work:

L.v.Beethoven, Piano Sonata D Minor Op. 31 No. 2 – “The Tempest” / First movement
Related works:

S.Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto D Minor No.3 Op.30, First movement
Bach-Busoni, Chaconne / First part to the begin of the D major key section (quasi Tromboni)

You can take these practicing ideas to build a large repertoire. Try this every day, rotating with other pieces and being creative in the combination of them for your session. Be sure to remain highly concentrated during the whole practice, otherwise your work will be unproductive and unreliable.