Spot Practicing at the Piano: It’s Quality, not Quantity

Some call it “spot cleaning,” I prefer spot “refining” to describe THOUGHTFUL, isolated step-wise measure practicing. Needless to say, a troublesome measure is surrounded by others that lead in and exit out of the problematic center, so it’s not enough to have only a focal spotlight on a particular glitch, though it’s a good start.

As piano teachers, we want the student to have a sense of continuity–building a solid early learning foundation as the segue way to a developmental sequence. But for some pupils, feeling “BOGGED down” by a nit-picky process of analysis, attentive listening, and acquiring muscle memory seems to be a holding-back journey and not a forward-moving adventure sparked by big leaps of fate. (I underscore FATE, because as fate would have it, most SPONTANEOUS learners who take big gulps without a necessary breakdown of fingering choices, phrasing, shaping, etc. will ultimately spend inordinate time on the composition without getting to their desired destination.)

In the following videos, two adult students who are both studying the Chopin Waltz in A minor (Op. Posthumous) have an abundance of patience as they explore phrasing in detail.(infusing the vocal model)

The insights that abound are the result of a mutual pupil/teacher exchange that puts both partners on an equal footing as each experiments, revises, and refines. Most of all, NO deadlines are attached to a slow and steady, parceled learning approach that makes QUALITY practicing its ideal.

A sample of focused spot practicing:

About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: OR or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
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2 Responses to Spot Practicing at the Piano: It’s Quality, not Quantity

  1. Laura McAmis says:

    Thanks, Shirley. I find the opportunity to revisit the lesson through your videos and blog very enriching. There are things said or done that fly by me in the intensity of the lesson. When I review it later through the videos and reading your blog, I deepen my understanding of what happened in the lesson and sometimes understand something in a new and different way. Great learning tool!


  2. Thank you, Laura, These revisits are good reminders for me as well as I’m learning right alongside you.


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