When you (or your piano- kid) begin learning a new piece you will probably want to play it through first of all to get a general feel for it. You will find some parts relatively easy and comfortable to play, while other sections will need a few attempts before resembling the way you would like them to sound.
Once you've started practicing the piece, if you're not careful, you will end up with those easier areas of the piece sounding good but still needing several attempts before passing through the more difficult ones, just as it was when you started learning the piece.
This can become quite annoying, since you will tend to play the easier parts increasingly faster the more familiar you are with the piece, with the other parts always lagging behind and making you stumble.
After a while you will get used to stumbling over certain parts in the piece and will take it for granted that this stumbling will happen. You will anticipate the harder bits and fear the moment you reach them. Your subconscious will be ready for disaster when you approach these arias. The light bulb in your head that signals the fight-flight or- freeze mode will switch on and there is hardly any chance you will get the passage to sound anything like you would like it to sound.
This is a gloomy but very familiar process anyone who plays an instrument knows well.
So what can you do?
1. Tackle tricky bits directly
Just like you wouldn't scrub the whole surface of a silver tray with the same intensity if you had a few smears on it, take a close look at the tricky bits in the piece. Maybe you can find a better fingering, perhaps you can write something in the music that will remind you to do whatever you are forgetting, etc. Make a note of the places you would like your teacher to help you with in the next lesson.
2. Practice slowly
Once you've sorted out the first stage, the next step is to practice slowly. And not just slowly, but very slowly. So slowly, that you feel very comfortable with every single note of the piece. Even if this may seem like a ridiculously slow speed, it will do the job. When playing at a speed where your breathing is regular and your pulse is steady, your subconscious gets the message that all is well. No emergency and alarm bells, no need to panic .It is a good idea to control this very slow playing with a metronome. The metronome will make sure the playing stays slow and doesn't start speeding up without you noticing.
Once you can play the whole piece throughout without feeling a difference between the easier and the trickier bits, you can set the metronome to a slightly faster speed and repeat the process. It is surprising how easy it is to convince the subconscious that the danger is over using this method.
But beware of the metronome, it is not only a blessing. More about this in the next post.
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