Fundamentals of Piano Practice, 2nd Edition by Chuan C. Chang

I have never read a more comprehensive and logical guide on to how to actually practice a musical instrument! And I have read quite a few!

Here is one example of the often counter-intuitive approaches to practice that Chang explains. "What is the purpose of practice?". Answer: "To maximise Post Practice Improvement:quot;. The realisation that PPI occurs, and that it's opposite can just as easily occur, is crucial when deciding how to pace your practice. Because practice can make you worse!

Read more: Fundamentals of Piano Practice, 2nd Edition by Chuan C. Chang

Stress in Piano Playing by Richard Beauchamp

Here are some great observations on how to practice from Richard Beauchamp at www.musicandhealth.co.uk/stress.html

What, and how much, do pianists practise?

"... a musician should be regarded as an athlete, but with an added responsibility for the artistic and intellectual dimension that music requires."

"Time has to be spent on note learning..."

"There is also the need to keep a repertoire going..."

"Simultaneously, and perhaps above and beyond all these kinds of practice is the constant refining of sound..."

"Above and beyond all this is the study of style..."

"Through all this preparatory work, the pianist is striving to find the emotional or ‘spiritual’ meaning of the work, the subtleties and balance of the structure, and to find ways of communicating all this to the audience as though it is a fresh inspiration of the moment."

Other topics discussed in the article:

  • How much practice?
  • Some causes of stress
  • Prevention of injury
  • Sitting and posture
  • Practice technique
  • Building stamina
  • Playing technique
  • Minimising stress
  • Post injury programme
  • Categories of technique

Rhythmic variations on a short passage

Play the same figure continuously while cycling through different rhythmic patterns.

This is an excellent way to quickly imprint a short passage on the brain and fingers.

Here is the principle applied to a simple A minor arpeggio:
A minor arpeggio

Also apply these rhythmic articulations:
Dotted quaver

Reconsidering 'Forward and up'

From Joe Armstrong, flautist and soldier.

" (Alexander Technique) opened a door on a knowledge and experience of psychophysical unity I desperately needed for my development as a performer and for my growth as a person.

I didn't realize it so clearly at the time, but I had just about come to a dead end in my progress as a musician, which had been very "instinctive" and haphazard, relying mainly on whatever "natural talent" I might have possessed.

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And, at the same time, I had also become extremely ill-at-ease in nearly every aspect of my social life. Looking back, I can see that I was probably very close to some kind of "breakdown", but the lessons helped ward it off by showing me how to access the potential for integration and constructive control that most of us have buried beneath our long-standing subconscious habits of reacting, thinking, moving and carrying ourselves."

Joe Armstrong has a Master's Degree in musical performance on flute and teaches Alexander Technique. In RECONSIDERING 'FORWARD AND UP' he describes how Alexander Technique helped him survive basic training in the US Army!

Read more at his site: home.earthlink.net/~jarmstrongatech

The sound they imagine

" ... many violinists struggle for years without ever approaching the sound they imagine."

"... it has been noted many times that the increase in overall coordination brought about by the (Alexander) Technique produces a definite improvement in tone quality..."

"... The Alexander Technique lays considerable emphasis on the freedom of the musculature of the neck. Many of the muscles attached to the head and neck act as an outspreading web of prongs to support the shoulder girdle. By the freeing of this muscle complex one achieves springing and support for the arms. Thus the intrinsic muscles of the arms are free for the finer adjustments needed in the production of good tone quality"

www.alexandertechnique.com/articles/violinist