“PIANO PRACTICE IS BORING AND PAINFUL.”
Believe me, it does not have to be. Quite in the contrary, it can be fun and enjoyable.
Think about what interests you most that you always feel joyful doing it and cannot wait to participate in it: Enjoying some great food? Playing computer games? Playing golf? Going shopping? Hanging out with friends? Why do you enjoy these activities? Because they are fun to do? Or is it because you can immerse yourself in them and forget about your other daily mundane chores like homework or work project? If that is the case, then why can’t you have fun with your piano practice?
When I was in college and graduate school, I sometimes thought that practice could be a painful process as well – isolation from friends and family, from doing fun activities like going to the movies or having a great day outdoor – even though I already loved playing piano a lot and it was a big part in my life. But in order to know and play the pieces I was learning really well, I felt it was necessary that I suffered from sacrificing myself for all the things I could have done and instead I practised, six to eight hours a day, seven days a week. I justified how good I was as a person and could be as a pianist with how many hours I put in every day, for instance if I practised only six hours that day then i was not as hard-working as when I practised eight hours the other day. (Okay I know you, my students, would never practise that much as I did when I was a student so do not be afraid that I would ask you to do the same!) So sometimes even it was agonizing to practise I still did because if I did not practise I felt really guilty and that I was a bad person who wanted to do something else that was more “leisurely and fun”.
After my graduate study in the States I came back to Hong Kong to teach. I decided to teach only students who were genuinely interested in playing the piano instead of their parents pushing them to do so. Still, sometimes I found even when the students (children and adults) loved to play but they detested practice. And gradually I developed a theory that practice could be fun as well. And here is how you should “play” it.
Practice can be an enjoyable and satisfying experience. First of all, it is all about your mindset. If you THINK practice is fun and enjoyable, it would be fun and enjoyable. But if you THINK practice is painful and boring, it would stay painful and boring. Don’t believe me? Just try it out. Start changing your mind and attitude NOW and your practice and playing will be transformed immediately.
Secondly, PLAN your practice. Aimless practice leads to disorientation, confusion and therefore boredom. What do you want to achieve in this particular practice session? Get the rhythm right? Read the notes faster? Play the articulation better? etc. There you have the cause, the WHAT to practise.
Next you have to know HOW to practise. With an appropriate and efficient method to practise, you can get the result in a shorter period rather than repeating the whole piece or section over and over again, not knowing what exactly you are practising about. Also, do not stick to one single way of practice. IMPROVISE your own practice. Trust me, the same passage can be practised in at least a dozen different ways.
Last (for now) but not the least, LISTEN to your own playing, which is the WHY to practise. Does it sound good? If not, what is wrong with it? How would you want it to sound like? And what do you do to make it sound better? et cetera, et cetera.
And always remember, ENJOY YOUR PRACTICE!
More about fun and efficient practice in the next post,
Feb 28, 2010.