Through the week I was watching a video from Josh Wright about practice structure. He talks about practicing playing your pieces from start to finish.
The issue he mentions, and that I see, is that often people practice their repertoire from start to finish too much. The interesting thing about this is when you read between the lines, he’s suggesting that your practice structure changes through the lifecycle of the piece you’re working on.
When you’re working on a piece, it’s like a set of scales. Old fashioned one, not digital. At the start one side should be weighed down by the time spent on small or even tiny sections. Places where the problems are. While on the other side you would have hardly any time spent playing the piece all the way through. I was almost go as far to say that there won’t be any weight on the ‘play-through’ side.
As you start to develop each tiny problem section it’s time to increase the size of them in to larger phrases. At this point it’s probably worth trying to play-through on the odd occasion. Sometimes a play-though at this stage can actually show up new sections that are problematic.
It’s only really at the stage where you have a performance coming up that you move to more performance play throughs. Increasing your memorisation as well at the same time. In between play throughs you can work on sections that need tweaked. By performance I mean a recording or performance for friends or YouTube, a grading or a recital.
So how do you know if you’re playing through too often? The tell tale sign is generally that the start of your piece is performance worthy of the Albert Hall then as you get through to the middle and toward the end the performance becomes a complete train wreck.
The last thing is that you may be at different stages of different pieces. You may have just started a piece but you may also have something you’re been playing for a while. Each of these pieces will have a different balance on the scale.