'It's too hard! I can't do it!' An all too familiar cry from an aspiring, young pianist!
One of the hardest things when practicing a piece at home, is not to quit when you come up against a problem. Very often a child will come to a lesson and say they tried to practice but it was 'too hard'. Nine times out of ten it isn't that the piece was actually too hard, but rather that they stopped before they gave themselves a chance to fix it.
When you get to the difficult part, you have 3 options:
1. Play it badly and continue on to the next phrase which will hopefully be easier,
2. Stop practicing and walk away, diss heartened
3. Break it down and practice the tricky section for as long as it takes to fix the problem.
Of course option 3 is the way to go, but how do we help our students to choose option 3?
We have to learn to identify the problem first of all. Is it the rhythm that is catching you out? The notes? The hand position? Coordinating the left and right hand? There are so many things that can be a challenge but the first job of the student is to work out what the problem is.
Then comes the job of fixing the problem. Each problem will require a differnet solution. If you are not sure about the notes, you need to take the time to read every note carefully- however slowly this means you need to go. If it is the hands together that is causing issues you need to go back to playing hands separately first. The solution may be as simple as just playing slower, but finding the right solution is part of the challenge.
This is where the notion of being a detective comes in. Whilst your are playing the piece you need to listen to what you are playing, pay attention to the music, and think about what you are doing. Sometimes it helps to ask yourself, how many points out of 10 would I give myself for this piece? and then the follow up question, what do I need to do to get to 10 out of 10?
Ask yourself, what would my teacher tell me to do next? In the lesson we are constantly modelling how to practice well, and the challenge when the student is at home practicing alone, is to know what to do next without the teacher being there to move them on to the next step.
Empowering our students to manage their practice so that they can get the best out of their time is a huge part of the job. Creating independant learners who can manage and direct their own practice is of huge benefit to their musical development, but is also such a useful skill in so many other contexts.
My students range from age 6-18 and there are some things that don't apply across the board, but the notion that you can FIND it and FIX it yourself rings true from the newest beginner to the most advanced student.