AMEB Practice Tip #6

Use a mirror

Playing any instrument requires a great deal of physicality. Our bodies often look for the easiest positions to hold, generally those that use the least energy but are not often the best for playing. I find practising in front of a mirror helps me check my stance, my hand positions and other key indicators that can prevent fatigue and injury over long periods of time. Singing teachers, for example, often recommend singing in front of a mirror to check posture and relaxation, tongue position, unnecessary movement etc.


Procrastinate less and do more

This list of tips which I will post over 7 weeks was published by CMuse

Avoid repetition

The importance of repetition is a notion that we are taught upon our introduction to musical training. “Play each passage ten times before moving on” was a mantra we all had to abide by, even though we really did feel annoyed and spaced out at the end of such task. Well, turns out that our brains are not hardwired to pay attention to repetition. They like change! Think of how pre-verbal infants react to stimuli: show a baby the same object over and over again and, at the end of the day, he will just stop paying attention to it. This process is called “habituation.” However, if you change the object, attention will return at its fullest. Even among adults, less stimuli mean a reduced brain activation. So try to vary your practice session as much as you can. In a 25-30 minute session, try to practice at least three different excerpts/passage. You can either devote ten minutes to each of those or divide your schedule into ten three-minute sessions, and sequentially practice each passage within its three-minute time window, and repeat the cycle until you reach your 30-minute goal.

Monday motivation

The following is from a blog post by Samantha Coates.  Over the next 5 Mondays, I’ll post her sport / music analogies

Breaking down practice

I have a student who competes in long jump at a state level, and we recently compared her training sessions to her piano practice:

Long Jump Piano Practice
Jumping from the foul line without a run-up Don’t start from the beginning, concentrate on a small section
Jumping over an obstacle to achieve more height as well as length Practicing a passage in a different way e.g. rhythms, to achieve evenness
Sprint training, to work on run-up Scale practice, to improve technique for fast passages
Turning up to training wearing high heels Coming to lesson with freshly manicured long nails


AMEB Music Hack #5

Master the short-and-focused practice session

You don’t have to wait for a two-hour window to appear in your schedule in order to sit down with your instrument or work on your voice. Long practice sessions can be great for building stamina, but sometimes more can be achieved with multiple short sessions in which you set out to achieve one particular goal. Keep track of your goals and your targeted practice in your practice diary.

Leonard Bernstein says, ‘To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.’

AMEB Practice Tip #5

Practise without your instrument

Similar to number 4, more and more evidence supports the effectiveness of mental practice. Especially effective when you’re unable to access your instrument or need a physical break, try mentally practising by closing your eyes and in detail imagining playing your piece, note by note, phrase by phrase. Try repeating tricky passages, slow them down and really imagine the experience of performing the piece. One piano teacher I know suggested playing pieces on the piano lid, or on a coffee table to sharpen up mental focus. Some professional musicians can even learn entire pieces away from their instrument. Practise on your daily commute or in a quiet space of time in your day, you’ll see improvement!

Procrastinate less and do more

This list of tips which I will post over 7 weeks was published by CMuse

Put off checking your social media handles

facebook musical notes

This tip may, at first sight, contradict what we preached so far, but you may agree that being too plugged in really hinders your productivity. Facebook, Whatsapp, Snapchat, etc.  need constant checking, and they are guilty of breaking focus. So, as a corollary to the pomodoro technique, set aside a few designated times to interact with your social media community of friends. Set a timeframe to respond to emails, another one to engage in sheer social media activity. If your “plugged-in” time becomes an item of your “to-do list” rather than an aimless refreshing and scrolling, mostly dictated by boredom, it will no longer kill your productivity.

Monday motivation

The following is from a blog post by Samantha Coates.  Over the next 5 Mondays, I’ll post her sport / music analogies

Making a practice routine

Most children who take up piano will practice because their parents insist on it. I have done many other blog posts about how best to form a good practice routine. But what happens when the adult is in charge of their own practice?

Many mature age students, who are either taking up piano for the first time or returning to piano after many years’ break, think of it as an intellectual pursuit. They are taking up music – music! – and have a clear idea in their heads of what and how they would like to play, taking much pleasure in the thought of pursuing this musical goal.

Then real life sets in… busy days looking after family… practice only happens once a week or so, if that… and the frustration of not being able to play sets in. A sporting analogy is helpful here, one of personal training:

Imagine you want to run the half-marathon next year, but have not done any running since you were a kid. (Insert ‘play Fur Elise’ where it says ‘run the half marathon’). You engage a personal trainer, paying them each week to have a one-on-one session with you. What is that trainer going to expect you to do in between these sessions? Run. Run every day, a little more each time. Now, if you don’t ever manage to squeeze this running practice into your week, you would not get any fitter and would also not expect to gain much from the sessions with the trainer.