Practise hints: beginners


When you are learning something new: always go through the three essential steps we do in lesson-time:
       1) Say the note-names (don't write them all under the notes - learn to read the music)
       2) Clap and count the rhythm (you can't play anything properly until the rhythm is secure)
       3) Play slowly, counting as you play, alternating with saying (or singing) the note-names as you play


If you are unsure about the steadiness of your counting, use a metronome.  If the ticking confuses you while you play, try clapping and counting with it until you are completely secure with the rhythm.  Then try playing with the metronome.

Backing (CD or midi): 
This is a fun way to learn your pieces.  You can choose a slow speed and do your clapping and counting / playing with the background music.  However:  never use your backing as a substitute for working out the rhythm and notes - don't get into a habit of merely "playing by ear".

Be clear about what to practise:  First check what we've discussed in lesson-time (posture, technique, fingering, hand positions, rhythm, new pieces, older pieces, theory etc.) and decide specifically what to work on.

Define your goals:  
Ask yourself these two questions before starting practice: "What do I want to achieve?", and, "How will I achieve it?", ....and this question when you have finished: "What have I achieved?".

Make sure you come away feeling you've achieved something, no matter how small.

When you make a mistake:
Don't go back to the beginning and play the whole thing over again.  You'll just keep making the same mistakes over and over, and get frustrated.  Always go to the part that needs extra work, sort it out, and then play through the whole piece, noting other bars that need attention.

Keep your daily goals small and manageable:
There are no shortcuts! Be patient and persistent.  With music, as in elite sport or ballet, we improve performance only in small, steady, "baby-steps".  It may feel slow and repetitive at the time, but it leads to the best and fastest improvement.