Does your playing become worse the more you practice?
This happens with a lot of students.

You start a new piece, and practice it until you get it right. Then you stop. Is this true?

What you fail to realize is (especially if you are beginner) that practice can be divided in two stages. In the first stage you are basically figuring out the notes, the rhythm, the fingerings, the movement patterns and so on. If you are working on a few bars (as you should) this probably means a few hundred repeats where everything is more or less wrong. Then suddenly everything falls into place (or sometimes gradually everything falls into place), and you get it right.

At this point you stop and move to something else. In fact, it is when you get everything right that is when the real practice should start (or the second stage of practice).

Both stages are important. The first one is investigation and study and the second is getting the right thing into your subconscious.

If you stop when you get the section right, it means that in your subconscious there will be stored hundreds of defective renditions of the passage against only one correct rendition. Comes next piano lesson, guess which rendition you will play? Yes, the wrong one!

The solution is to practice not to get it right, but to never get it wrong!

When you practice, write down after each repeat of a passage if it was perfect or imperfect. Stop practising only when the number of perfect repeats exceeds by far the number of imperfect ones.

Here is another important principle. Always stop practising with a perfect rendition of your passage. It is this last rendition that will be stored in your subconscious. If you keep practising, you will start making mistakes out of sheer tiredness. Then you give up in despair “I will try again tomorrow”, and it will be this imperfect rendition that will be in your subconscious waiting for you next time you come to practice.

So you must experiment and decide how many perfect renditions you can accomplish before stopping practice. It has to be a number large enough to counter the wrong repeats, and yet not as large as to induce new wrong repeats caused by fatigue.


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