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Practice Tips

Practice is essential when learning an instrument. Practice should be done three times a week for beginners and five times a week for advanced students. I recommend my students begin with exercises and scales and then work on pieces.

Essential Practice Tips:
1. Practice small sections (two or four bars) at a time and practice each section at least three times.

2. Always use the correct fingering. Don't change the fingering each time you play - this confuses your brain!

3. If you get frustrated, stop and take a deep breath before trying again. You should also take a breath after you've played each small section. Piano players are famous for forgetting to breathe!

Understanding how memory works leads to better practice and becoming a better musician. If you understand how your memory works you can learn faster and, believe it or not, become a better sight-reader.

There are two types of memory - working (or short-term) memory, and long-term memory. Your working memory gets you through the day, it remembers that your teacher just asked you to take out your fountain pen and draw a margin, or that you ordered tea and a scone from a waitress. These are all things that you don't need to remember for the rest of your life, and you working memory only holds on to them for as long as you need them and then throws them away. Your working memory only has seven spaces and doesn't hold very much.

If you need to remember something for a longer time, it goes from your working memory into your long-term memory. Information like your best friend's name, how to get from your home to the local shop and the password for your email account are in your long term memory. This information gets stored in your long term memory because it is information that you use every day.

When you were a baby, your parents taught you how to eat. At first they had to hold the spoon, open their mouths to get you to open yours and then put the food in your mouth for you and pretend to swallow it so that you would copy. Now, you eat food everyday without even thinking about it. This is because you've done it so often.

We practice so that playing each piece of music will go into our long term memory. It is important to remember that information has to pass through working memory before it goes into long term memory. And it's also important to remember that working memory only has seven spaces. So when we practice, we should ouly practice small sections at a time (two or four bars) and each section should be practiced at least three times. As you progress you will find you are able to learn bigger sections at a time. Playing a piece of music from beginning to end over and over is not effective. You will probably learn the pice eventually but it will take longer and if you make a mistake in the middle you will not be able to pick up where you left off.