Teaching students how to practice is the most important part of a piano teachers’ job. We need to make sure students know how to handle problems, manage frustrations and achieve goals without a teacher sitting next to a student. But students make mistakes while practicing and here are some of the most common ones.
Playing the whole piece from the beginning to the end a few times. This is a mistake if you are learning the piece. It can still be a mistake even if you know the piece really well. There are going to be spots in the piece that are more challenging, that you can’t get your fingers around. Stop, isolate, and drill those spots. We call this spot practicing. Once you are comfortable with that spot, add a few bars or a phrase before and after the spot to make sure that you are able to play it through. Then move on!
Practicing scales in the same order every time. Technical exercises are not just an exercise for your fingers, but also for your mind. Change it up. Use flash cards to mix it up. Record how many tries it takes you to play the scale or exercise at the required speed on the first try. When you can consistently play it the first time with no errors then you know it!
Not warming up. Like running, doing technical exercises is super important for your warm up. I advise my students to start with a couple of stretches and finger strengtheners first and then go into Hanon or other finger exercises and then move into their technical requirements. This can take more time than actually practicing a piece - and that’s ok!
Playing your pieces a few times and calling that practice. Unless you have a very limited time to practice this is not practice. Set a goal and achieve that goal during your practice -use your dynamics, make sure you have your fingering or your notes correct, iron out areas of difficulty - there are so many goals to achieve each time you practice - choose one and work on that.
Not recording what you did. How else do you know from day to day what you’ve accomplished. And this is super important if you have to have a break from practicing. How are you going to remember what you did a few days ago unless you have a perfect memory or you write it down!?
Practicing can be hard but it’s easier when you avoid these mistakes! Happy practicing!