New practice hygiene + not enough sleep = win!

Sleep-deprived from an overnight duty I worried about practice today, expecting very little progress but lots of mistakes. However, it went surprisingly well! I worked through all three pieces keeping to the following rules:
1. Clear manageable sections, no playing through.
2. Proceeding only forwards, no going back.
3. Proceeding only after I managed three consecutive accurate attempts.
4. Accuracy over speed.
5. No more than five minutes per section, controlled by timer.
6. Solid bars were combined to larger sections.

Despite lack of sleep this was an incredibly productive and fulfilling practice session with focus and progress. I’m very much looking forward to see how much has stuck!


Sight reading

More duet sight reading practice today. I’m definitely making progress: rather falling into a pit of despair and intense self-loathing every time I make a mistake, I have now graduated to cringing inwardly and continuing.

Sight reading. It seems to be 50% playing the right notes, and 50% not caring about the wrong ones.

Practice, practice, practice

My brain, it is dead. Exhausted. Blissfully and utterly thought out. I had a friend over for a practice session this afternoon and between 2.30 and 7 we played, chatted, drank coffee and played some more. Sight reading duets, simply splitting up treble and bass clef, playing the pieces we’ve been practising and more sight reading. I could almost see my reading improve in the space of this one session. Towards the end I realised that at no point in the entire afternoon was I nervous when I played and when I made mistakes!

After she left, I practised some more. My usual pieces, and yet more sight reading. I am absolutely blissed out for being able to spend half a day on something I love, with no pressure that I should be doing something else. How lucky am I?!

Practice partner

For the last eight weeks, I’ve had a weekly practice session with another of my piano teacher’s pupils, Maggie. I wish I had discovered this sooner — practising with someone else makes such a difference!

I feel much less nervous about playing during the lesson now because it’s no longer the only time where I play in front of someone else. Rather it turns the lesson into yet another practice session which takes some of the pressure off. I feel more confident in asking and taking advice and trying out new things. Being able to give someone else advice and tips (and receive them, of course) in turn seems to give me more confidence during lesson because I no longer feel like an impostor.  Instead of grimacing and sighing and approaching a minor meltdown when things go wrong, I now shrug, grin and then practice harder. 

All of this seems to change the way I see myself: Because playing and practice no longer takes place only at home (and the lesson) I feel less hesitant to say of myself that I do, indeed, play the piano. Not brilliantly, not even close to the pieces I want to be able to play, but I do.

Lastly, sight reading duets is such a good practice to just.keep.going. No matter what. Even though we often end up finishing a bar apart … even when counting!  

Currently practicing

Nearly done: Schumann Album for the Young, Op. 68, Part 1, Reaper’s Song

Just started: Schumann Album for the Young, Op. 68, Part 1, Wild Horsemen

Not nearly far enough: Bach, Prelude in F major, BWV 927

I did it!

For the first time, I played piano in front of an audience larger than one!

For the last week I’d been planning to give the open mic a try just to get over this my fear of playing in public, but then I had a very disappointing piano lesson today. A piece I thought I could do reasonably well just fell completely apart. We talked about how I always learn the notes really fast but then slow down in progressing beyond that, and that my progress is “ooookay”. I was so disappointed with myself I was almost crying. I was upset about disappointing my teacher. I felt soooo small and suddenly the open mic seemed like a really bad idea.

And then I realised that I can either attack it head on, or feel like a coward for the next four weeks till I have a chance at the open mic again. So I went, I played two pieces even though after the first one my hands were shaking really badly. It was a small audience, but very supportive, and I played through, with some minor mistakes no one seemed to notice. I am so proud I didn’t stop for any mistakes, I didn’t slow down or speed up, I survived! People said they didn’t notice any mistakes and I know there were a few, but it’s amazing how i can play through them if I know I have to.

I’m still grinning. And I’m so proud that I went and did it.

Huh. Practice pays. Who’d have thunk?

Yesterday I was surprised to notice that I actually have learned things. Yes, I am still surprised. I had wanted to work on a (admittedly relatively easy) new piece, partly to practice sightreading, partly to increase my repertoire. I picked a Waltz (C Major) by Kabalevsky, I read through it, I played it slowly, I had a few attempts … and after half an hour I realised that I can play it. Slowly, but I can. It’s a page long, and I can play it. My flabber, it is still ghasted.

And so another lesson from my piano teacher finally sinks in: I really should work on easier pieces more often. I usually pick new pieces to challenge me, so for the main pieces the difficulty increases most of the time, which means that the time to learn a new piece stays roughly the same. It’s much harder to see the progress that way. It’s only when I pick up easier pieces that I suddenly realise how much faster I can pick them up now – I’m fairly sure that that waltz would have taken me weeks maybe a year ago – and now it’s down to hours! I’m really rather happy about this. 🙂

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