Wednesday, 24 November 2010

8 creative ways to practice away from the piano keyboard (or any musical instrument)

I'm a great proponent of living, breathing and inhabiting the music you are playing. If you are getting in a rut in your practice routine, perhaps you're trying too hard. It's time to recreate the music through other perspectives.


1. Listen to a master - find a recording of the great interpreters of your chosen piece/composer (Barenboim for Beethoven, Rubinstein for Chopin, etc.) and hear their recording. You can hear recordings on youtube, download for purchase, or even borrow it from your local library if they have it.
2. Watch a recording or live performance
Youtube is a treasure trove of recordings of the great pianists performing pieces you are probably studying.
3. Summon the composer - Watch a biopic, documentary or drama based on the composer. You'll find it brings to life the music if you understand more about the composer's life, as so much of the music reflects the personality and life events of the composer. Perhaps - has the piece itself been featured in a film -  if so, what emotions does it depict in the film? Find out for instance, from the IMDB database which Chopin pieces featured in popular film.


4. Make it your own: Hum/Sing the piece from memory. Robert Schumann says:

  • It is not only necessary that you should be able to play your pieces on the instrument, but you should also be able to hum the air without the piano. Strengthen your imagination so, that you may not only retain the melody of a composition, but even the harmony which belongs to it  (Advice to Young Musicians, R.Schumann)

5. Visualise yourself playing the piece with your inner hearing
This is one of the best ways to make a piece more musical. You will probably start creating and formulating musical phrases you may have missed in your practice.
6. Make up words or phrases to accompany the music you are playing. Especially make up words that fit the mood of the piece.

7. Analyse the score
Look at the dynamics, think about how you are playing the piece, are there any details that you are missing? Are you being faithful to the score. Read all the markings, indications, etc. What are the passages that you have difficulty memorising and break down the section you find most difficult.

8. Finger practice on the piano foreboard or a table. You can strengthen your fingers and make sure you hand is not getting tense (with webbing of the hand)and that your finger joints don't collapse, also focus on a relaxed tapping of the fingers.

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