So what it is this New Year?
Eat less chocolate, leave the Pinot Grigio alone, run 3 miles a day? But do you have any musical New Year resolutions? Perhaps you’re taking up an instrument you discarded as a teenager? Or perhaps 2016 is the year you’re determined to master the guitar or piano? Well, there’s one word you can’t avoid……….practice!!
Here are our tips for sticking to your resolution beyond the first week of February.
Don’t call it practice!
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve hated that word. Practising sounds like such a chore. Sports people have got it right – it sounds so glamorous to say one is “developing one’s skills”.
Make achievable aims.
Don’t think you’re going to practise for an hour a night. Unless you’re stinking rich and have oodles of free time, this ain’t going to happen! Why not set yourself the goal of “skill-building” whilst the weather forecast is on the TV, or indeed, any short fixed time.
Leave the machine out.
It’s such a faff getting the instrument out of the case and putting it away again after you’ve played. If you have an instrument stand you can leave it on, it’s such much more immediate to simply grab it and start playing.
Don’t start at the beginning.
If you’re trying to master a particular piece, don’t keep starting at the top. It just means the opening gets better, but not the rest of it. Cut-to-the-chase, find the bar/section/fiddly bit you’re struggling with, and work on that.
Think like a dancer.
If you were learning dance steps, you would, without even thinking about it, walk it through slowly and speed it up….otherwise you’d fall over. Do the same with the tricky section/skill you’re trying to master.
Use the “Inverted Doo-be-doo” Method.
For bits of fast moving music I always use this technique. Let’s say you had a run of equal notes, in a scale, perhaps 10 of them. Play them as if you were a jazz musician –
doo-be-doo-be-doo (long-short-long-short etc).
Now here’s the clever bit! Do the same, but start your rhythm with a “be”! be-doo-be-doo (short-long-short-long).
In this way, you’ve played everything twice as fast as you need to. The first time, notes 2 and 3 are forced closer together. The second time you play, notes 1 and 2 are rhythmically closer together. When you then play it normally, it feels really easy!!
An eminent jazz pianist once said to me,
“If you sound good when you practise, you’re practising the wrong bits!”
Richard Mainwaring is a Composer, Performer, TV Presenter and Educator. He’s presented shows on BBC’s The One Show along with 25 years of teaching experience under his belt. Find more articles by Richard here.