Making Practice Count

Posted by: jaredm2012

Making Practice Count - 11/16/12 10:40 AM

So I figure that a lot of you can relate to me on this, that sometimes you just don't have much time to spend practicing. I'm a university student in my 5th (and final!) year, so sometimes schoolwork and other obligations become pretty crazy and I just can't seem to find time to diligently practice. For instance, this last week I had a few tests and quizzes and a big project due, so I'm going into my lesson today with maybe one hour of practice since the last one.

When you guys are faced with times like that, where for a few weeks you just can't practice like you'd want to, how do you make it count?

I don't seem to accomplish much with short practices; I'd rather just take an hour or two block of time and really work some things out. But in those times where I might be able to find 20 minutes to practice before something else comes calling, what is a good way to spend that time? I find that often I'm not even fully warmed up by the time it is over!
Posted by: malkin

Re: Making Practice Count - 11/16/12 11:31 AM

Focus on one small thing.
Posted by: dmd

Re: Making Practice Count - 11/16/12 11:44 AM

I would suggest picking a spot in something you are working on that is difficult for you and just playing that small passage over and over until it smooths out. That way you should feel, rightfully so, that you have actually improved something that needed improvement.
Posted by: Cookie74

Re: Making Practice Count - 11/16/12 01:30 PM

Depends on what you want to improve.

Sight reading--use the time to go through pieces that you are unfamiliar with and sight read them.
Speed/Agility--do scales, arpeggios, broken chords and other exercises (not much fun, though)
Learning a Piece--do what dmd suggests.
Jazz--work on reading a lead sheet and improvising off of it.
Posted by: PaperClip

Re: Making Practice Count - 11/16/12 03:23 PM

If there isn't much time to practise, then there is also a lot of concentration spend on other things. Leaving almost no concentration for good learning. At least, that's me.

Doing scales works good. The bad thing about scales - it's dull and no fun - turns out to be a good thing in those times. It takes less switching of focus, less energy. And there are many notes played, giving a good feeling to the ears afterwards that I actually did something in a limited time period.

Unless there isn't time to practise, I don't do scales. So I guess doing scales makes it count.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Making Practice Count - 11/16/12 04:00 PM

you could always find little bits of time away from the piano to practice (before bed, while traveling, etc.) assuming you can carry around your sheet music with you. See a nice article here (under "memorization"): http://grahamfitch.com/articles.htm
Posted by: Derulux

Re: Making Practice Count - 11/17/12 02:55 AM

It's been said already, but I'll put it another way. At first, it sounds completely opposite to traditional/engrained thinking, but if you have very little time to work with, it's the most efficient way to work. The idea is this: do as little as possible. wink
Posted by: justpin

Re: Making Practice Count - 11/17/12 07:32 PM

Bob, carrying around sheet music is dangerous!

My typical day. I wake up and my Casio is in the corner, it gets a quick finger drill to warm up my day...... this sometimes makes me late.

I then go to my main work place (I work in numerous places and always go to the Hub in the morning) and have to walk past a baby grand.... go to my briefing, grab my papers, plans and do some printing, pass the baby grand on the way out.

I work at 6 different sites. At site #1, #4 and #5 there are pianos in various states of repair...

If I carried sheet music I would never get any work done!
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Making Practice Count - 11/18/12 09:21 AM

Originally Posted By: jaredm2012
When you guys are faced with times like that, where for a few weeks you just can't practice like you'd want to, how do you make it count?

When I'm pressed for time at the keys I spend two minutes before work memorising a short section from one of my current pieces which I practise at the worktop while I'm making coffee, on the steering wheel at lights and on my desk when I'm 'on-hold' on the 'phone. I may also practise without moving my fingers while eating or digesting lunch (it grows the connections just the same as playing and avoids wrong notes) and any other convenient moment.

If I forget the section by the time I get to work I either use the previous day's section or look it up on IMSLP.

I spend two minutes when I get home trying it out on the piano and either extending the section to the end of the phrase or prepare the next one for the day ahead. I might get another two minutes on the piano just before bed to work on in my sleep.

I always have an objective (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-limited) and keep a journal of those objectives and how much I do each day.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Making Practice Count - 11/20/12 04:46 AM

Josh Wright just posted this new video; like he says, it's probably his best yet in terms of the magnitude of its message (probably my considerable new favorite on the topic)




I think it's so valuable I might make a new thread just for it, but I'm debating it.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Making Practice Count - 11/20/12 10:23 AM

If I had to choose one set of piano tuition videos from YouTube it would be Josh Wright's. I've found them very impressive and whilst I haven't actually learnt anything new from them myself, I've been using all the techniques he espouses for some time.

This is another that I just recently recommended on the Mendelssohn recital thread.