Practice Tips, Reflections

Practise like the Pros

Canadian pianist, Angela Chang

I’ve stumbled upon a few radio interviews (check them out here) with great performers, some Canadian gems. I find it weird (okay, kinda appalling) that some were bribed with candy to practice as a child. I may have a pizza party now and then, but sorry, I won’t be handing out sugary junk every time I hear a C scale. Many have horrible memories of it, or some no memories other than the daily habit of it- waking up at 6:30 to get some time in before school (Louis Lorite). Practicing is not an option- a commitment has been made. But how can we make the most of it? Quality over quantity rules supreme.

The interview with the Kiwanis Festival participants (children ages 10 to 12 in this case) is very interesting. These are children who may be the next Angela Cheng, or Jamie Parker. One boy LOVES scales for the patterning (well, duh, he also loves math!) And another can feel happy about the changes and improvements made through practice. This is not an easy achievement for young children. We can assist by asking those open ended questions, “How did the left hand feel today? Is it better than three days ago?”

Isn’t it a relief that these guys can admit to procrastination, distraction and avoidance of their practice?  Yes, we’re all human!  Lara St. John has figured out a huge key to success: get to your instrument before 2pm! For some kids, it may even be 11am, or 9am. You’ll know your kid best.  And yes guys, I understand evading it every once in awhile. But overall, we know that the pros conquered that, and put the time in just like everything else. Heck, Angela Cheng LOVES to practice and does so for 6 hours a day. How? In 1.5 to 2 hour intervals. So why would you put all your practice until after supper, after homework, after school. How looooong would that take. Yuck! Break it up guys!

Finally, the fact that these accomplished musicians today ENJOY practising, or feel no guilt about taking a month off only to return refreshed, points out (to me, anyway) that all of the early work and dedication must have paid off. We’re not all going to take this pathway to performance, in fact, many will not. But to get the difficulties of practice out of the way early and arrive at a place of enjoyment? Now, therein lies one of my fundamental goals for my students.

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