Friday, October 2, 2009

Practice Tip Number 4

Practice Tip Number 4 from Dr. Helen Marlais' 2009 MTAC Conference Lecture

Develop Muscle Memory!

Practice slowly. The only way for the "muscles" to remember is to imprint the actions slowly.

Don't let you mind drift.

  • Think about how the keys feel as you depress them.
  • Look at where your arm is in relation to your wrist and fingers: are you moving across you body, are you moving in parallel or contrary motion: is every part in alignment - are you moving without pain, without twisting, is the hand and the arm moving as a unit, etc.?
  • In scale passages - activate each finger in the passage by trying to get exactly the same sound on each note.
  • Memorize the patterns (sequences, motives, themes, etc.)
  • Listen, listen, listen to the sounds you are making.
  • Think vertically and horizontally (melodically and harmonically)
Unit practice.

  • I wouldn't try to play the whole piece (unless it is under two minutes) this way.
  • Take one measure, one line, one phrase, one page and really concentrate.
  • This is difficult practice, but very efficient practice.
  • About five (5) minutes a day will garner results.

I worked this way on Chopin's Butterfly Etude and learned the piece in 28 days with only 10 minutes of practice a day. It works!

And don't forget this practice gem while developing muscle memory: PRACTICE MAKES PERMANENT!

Oh and by the way, one of my teachers told me that "muscle memory" is the first to go with nerves when performing, so never rely on muscle memory as a memory trick. Grrrrrrrreat!

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