On Practice

"Let's Practice Together!"
“Let’s Practice Together!”


Many have a misconception that practice is something they do randomly in a set period of time without a plan ahead or knowing what exactly to do and achieve yet hope to get the result they “desire” (? it almost does not make sense to even use the word “desire” as they do not have no set goal in mind what to get from the practice).

I cannot stress enough that we need to structure our practice sessions in a way that we can maximize the result out of every single one of them. And let me just say it again: playing through a piece without thinking about what to do in that playing through is NOT practice. It is an enjoyment of its own, but certainly not a practice.

For most of us if not all, practice is a luxurious business, as we lead such a busy life in this modern world full of distraction in terms of technology and entertainment, not to say work and personal life. So every single minute of our practice is precious and we must make the most out of it.

Now, how do we practice efficiently and effectively?

First, we need FOCUS.

Focus on what we are doing with our fingers, palms and arms. Focus on how we place the fingers precisely on the surfaces of the keys, how we use them to attack the notes, how much weight we use under the fingers to attack the notes, how much weight we are holding the notes with the fingers, how we release the notes: are we pushing the notes off with the fingers, or are we bringing the fingers off the keys with our upper arms? (the latter one is the most efficient and best way for tone control/production and weight transfer/release).

But to complement with Focus, we need AWARENESS.

Be aware of what exactly we are doing and what we are not doing: what we are doing to prevent us from playing most efficiently and effectively, and what we can do to be otherwise.

How do we bring awareness to our practice?


Observe carefully what we are doing with our fingers, wrists and palms, observe our FEELING when we are using them: Do they feel good? Do they feel right? Do they feel easy? These are the feelings you should have when you get the technique right. You should be able to feel much more effortlessness in your playing and execution. You should feel EASE and FREEDOM in your arms and your whole body. You should be able to maneuver your body in such a SMOOTH FLOW that is in sync with the music that you are expressing.

Feel what we are feeling in our body and hands is vital for quicker progress in our practice.

We can only see so much with our physical eyes. In order to understand how the technique truly works and is working in us, we must feel if they are happening under our fingers and in our body.

So I am going to say something very “spiritual” or “new-age-y” now: USE OUR INNER EYES. Music is an expression, it is an expression of our emotion, and emotion can only be felt not seen. We can use words to describe it, yet the only way to understand it is to feel it, ourselves – meaning no one else can feel how we feel, no one else but we can feel ultimately if the technique is really there. We ourselves eventually are responsible for it and be the judge of it. But once we feel it, we get it.

To know how to play a piece at a deeper level, we need UNDERSTANDING.

To Understand a piece means that we need to know what it is trying to say. That means we have to know why the notes are organized in that way they are, in terms of pitch (melodic intervals) and duration (note value) relations in a linear way (a single line/voice) and a co-relational way (with other lines/voices) respectively. Thus, the easy term of such seemingly complicated task is ANALYSIS that most drags to engage themselves in, however, rather important in knowing what to present in a piece in one’s playing.

Last but not the least (I know, such a cliché phrase but I am using it anyway), LISTENING.

Listen to the TONE we are making. Is that what we want? If you don’t know what you want, go find it first. Listen to the great pianists whom you enjoy their playing, listen to the QUALITY of it, find out the reason WHY you like that playing. Then try to achieve the similar tone on the piano with your own two hands (yes, you know that’s one of my piano bible book titles). You can make it. Try anyway.


Until the next post,

Teresa Wong

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *