Learning a new piece? Intimidated? Take these 4 steps and it'll be almost a breeze!

Some of my students look at music I present them with and immediately say "nope! never gunna happen!".  When I ask why they look at me like I've grown a second head and tell me it looks too hard.  Sometimes even I fall into this mode of thinking, but I use these 4 steps to help me make less intimidating and more appealing.

1). Look over the piece.  It's as simple as taking a pencil and an eraser and sitting at a table with the music.  Look for these items

  • What key is it in?

  • What is the time signature (or signatures)?

  • Are there any accidentals or articulations?

  • Check for rhythms that seem tricky or unusual.

  • Look for symbols or terms you know or don't know (if you don't know look them up or ask your teacher).

  • See how the piece is structured - is it in 2 bar sections, 4 bar sections etc.

This last element will help you practice it.  Finally, with your pencil mark out the sections you think make sense for practice.

2) Play it slowly! I'll repeat this one - because it's possibly the most important step.  Play the piece slowly with hands separately or in those small chunks you identified in step 2.  Make sure you watch your fingering and use a metronome! 

3) Write down what you accomplished in your first practice.  

  • At what tempo did you play it

  • What areas did you focus on?

  • What areas do you think you'll have a challenging time with?

  • What symbols or terms did you not know?

All of these items in your practice log will be helpful as you move along with the piece - and help your teacher when you see them next.

4) Listen to the piece with your music.  

  • Follow along as the piece is being played and watch for any dynamic and articulation changes.

  • Look for that tricky rhythm and listen to how it was played.

  • Finally, what was the feel of the piece - what did it make you think of?

Following these steps can help make a piece that seems intimidating less scary!