Perfect Practice

By Peter Coraggio
Illustrated by Jon. J. Murakami

Neil A. Kjos Music Company, Publisher ISBN 0-8497-6227-8

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Sample Page from the book:

Learning to make music should be as natural and easy as learning to talk. We learn to speak by repeatedly hearing the sound patterns of our native language. We refine our speech by rehearsal (re-hearing) and practice (doing). The natural way to learn music is the same. We listen, speak by playing the notes, and refine our playing through practice.

Most students spend innumerable hours at the piano struggling to play works until they believe the music is learned. Then, after considerable effort to "learn the notes," they have the added burden to commit the music to memory. Unfortunately, many students cannot remember those works even a few short weeks after last playing them. Being able to perform only a few works by memory after years of study can diminish the desire for piano study.

Keeping the joy of making music and returning the "play" into playing the piano comes from students realizing that they can learn new works faster and perform with greater security than they ever imagined. The ultimate role of the teacher is not to teach students how to play but to teach them how to learn.

It has been the fashion for pianists to perform by memory since the days of Franz Liszt. The act of memorizing leads to more thorough understanding of the music and allows greater freedom in performance. Understanding how memory functions, how to learn new music rapidly with security, how to develop strong focus and concentration, and how to prepare for successful public performance without stage fright is readily available for anyone who is receptive. There are numerous books on each of these subjects, and almost all great performing artists have left us their practice procedures either through their writings or from their students' memoirs.

Productive practice is actually common sense practice, which means to follow a variety of orderly procedures in order to attain the best results. Effective practice consists of first partitioning a composition into workable sections, determining fingering which feels natural for the intended musical expression, refining each unit through reinforcement and repetition while carefully observing all of the composer's directions, reassembling component parts into a completed work, and finally, preparing properly for confident public performance which results in audience satisfaction and a sense of personal achievement.

Peter Coraggio