Practice Tips

Four Sets of Tips for Music Students


Some Suggestions for Learning New Music

Nadine Dresskell


1. Analyse your music away from the piano. Note similar passages, put in fingerings, notice dynamics, etc. Use a pencil to write in fingerings.

2.  Use the same fingering patterns for all similar passages.

3.  In fingering chords and arpeggios take advantage of the spread between your thumb and fingers. Use the fourth finger in the four-note chords with a fourth in their centers.

4.  Eliminate all unnecessary motion. Play as many notes as possible before changing your hand position and keep your hand position moves as short as possible.

5.  Try out your fingerings. Play each hand alone, up to tempo or faster, and see if your fingerings work. If not, change them. Always play every note at its proper dynamic level and with the proper articulation.

6.  Play hands together ten times slower and use your fingerings, proper dynamics and touch.

7.  Never practice faster than you can play everything correctly. Your muscles remember how you use them-not how you intended to use them. They do not know right from wrong! A muscle has no conscience.

8.  Work out the difficult passages. Dowel them by practicing one or two measures before and after the difficult ones with them.

9.  Keep relaxed at all times. When you feel tension, stop! Relax and then place hands and arms in relaxed position (fingers curved, wrists level, arms hanging from the shoulders) and start again.

10.   Try practicing fast difficult passages softly at first.



Practice Tips

Patricia Cosand


  1. Practice daily whether you feel like it or not! Set aside time for practice. Schedule it in your day.
  2. Relax and warm up before practicing.
  3. Focus on the goals you want to accomplish.
  4. Have a pattern of practice that helps you use time efficiently.
  5. Don’t waste time on what you already know.
  6. Try learning difficult passages backward starting with the last note, then the last two, then the last three, etc.
  7. Take occasional shakeout breaks so you don’t become too tired.
  8. Stay organized and focused!
  9. Enjoy your progress!



Ten Points for Good Practicing

Robert Jesselson


  1. Proper Environment (light, temperature, no distractions)
  2. Regular Practice(same time, place, routine) “It is better to practice one hour a day, but every day, than to make a great spasmodic effort and then stop.”—Ernest Bloch  “Sit down and start whether you like it or not.”—Gordon Epperson
  3. Disciplined Practice(Demand continual progress of yourself. Keep your mind engaged. Divide time carefully. Use a practice chart if necessary.)
  4. Practice Musically. “One should never make any music, not even sound one musical note, without a musical intention preceding it.” –Artur Schnabel
  5. Mental Practice “What is required is . . .for the pupil . . .to visualize the whole without music –that is, to see in his mind what is written, without either notes or instrument.” –Theodor Leschetitzky
  6. Relaxed Practicing (visualization, stretching, deep breathing, slow breathing, wearing comfortable clothes and shoes) “Between every effort in your playing and during every pause, deliberately return to a state of relaxation and softness in all your joints.” –Yehudi Menuhin “One must practice slowly, then more slowly, and finally, really slowly.” –Camille Saint-saens
  7. Set Specific Goals! ”Three minutes spent thinking about your practicing before you start are worth three hours spent in aimless repitition.” –Robert Gerle
  8. Use Successful Practice Strategies.
    1. rote practicing
    2. ear practicing
    3. mental practicing
    4. imitative practicing
    5. memorization practicing
    6. discovery practicing
  9. Be Your Own Teacher/Critic (use mirror, metronome, video camera or tape recorder) “An artist who lacks the power of self-criticism accomplishes but little. It is good if your work stands higher than your opinion of it; bad if it is on the same level. But it is a great disaster if your work stands lower than your judgment of it.” –Leonardo da Vinci
  10. Be enthusiastic!



Practice Suggestions

© Scott A. Anderson


1.     Have patience with yourself as you develop new and improved skills. Slow and accurate practice brings the best and fastest results.

2.     Understand the assigned material presentation, purpose, and the proper approach to study. The mind tells the fingers what to do. Be sure that your mind understands the practice goals.

3.     Identify avoidable practice distractions. Create the appropriate atmosphere for practice. Have all of the materials close by.

4.     Listen to recordings and attend concerts for inspiration. Purchase books and magazines.

5.     Review past exercises and compositions. Technique and musical quality is both reinforced and enhanced. The sense of accomplishment helps your self-esteem.

6.      Too much of anything can cause problems. Too much physical practice causes fatigue and improper practice of technique and musical expression.

7.      Enjoy making music!