You’ve heard the saying “practice makes perfect.” The problem with this statement is that the way you practice makes a difference. I often find that my students are not practicing effectively. Their practice is not leading toward perfection at all. In fact, poor practicing can have a negative effect by reinforcing incorrect notes, rhythms, and posture. I think the saying should be revised: “Perfect practice makes perfect.”
But then how do you achieve “perfect practice?”
Perfect Practice Rule #1: Don’t Practice Mistakes
Please don’t misunderstand this rule. Mistakes are allowed, and even expected. The trick is, don’t practice them. When you play the same mistake two, then three, then four times in a row, you are well on your way to becoming an EXPERT at your mistake. Keep it up and you can guarantee that you will make that same mistake every time.
How to Practice Perfect Playing
When practicing, your goal should be 100% accuracy. If this isn’t happening, break things into smaller chunks and slow down to the point that you can play it PERFECTLY, with comfort and ease. Then, continuing with 100% accuracy as your goal, do it again and again until your “perfection” becomes an unbreakable habit.
Perfect Posture Every Time
You might think that it’s okay to slouch a little at the piano, or play with straight fingers. What’s the big deal, anyway? The reason we have a certain way to sit at the piano, to shape our hands, and use our fingers, wrists, and arms, is because this is the most comfortable, efficient way to do it. Students who practice with incorrect posture get in the habit of using incorrect posture. It might feel easier to slouch than to sit up straight, but slouching actually places strain on your body and can lead to pain or even injury. Every time you sit down at the piano, check your posture, and before long the correct posture will feel perfectly natural.
Encourage Perfect Practice with a Game
If you are helping a child learn this principle of “perfect practice,” you might find a lot of success using a practice game. Click on the following link for practice games that I frequently use with my own students.