There’s been a lot going on in the studio lately. Everyone (including me!) is preparing for something – group performance class, music festival, exams. The music is mostly ready to go, except for:

  • the place where the memory always breaks down
  • the place where the left hand plays the pattern upside down
  • the place where the dynamics are forgotten
  • the place where the voicing is vague
  • the place where the pedal should really change

Plus, we’ve been chronically short of practise time with school and sports. But the deadlines are immovable. So how do we prepare so that our performances shine?

For a week (or even two) we have ignored what has been going well, i.e. the first line or the first page, and instead hyper-focused on a small section. Depending on what needed to be accomplished, the size of the section varied from four measures to one page. By playing only what really needed attention we were able to be extremely demanding and make a dramatic improvement in a short amount of time.

You’re right, you can’t really cheat at piano. It takes time and discipline to create a great performance. But when you’re close to a performance, you can practise only a small section for a short amount of time and see a big improvement.

P.S. This strategy also works well when you are just learning a new piece. Map out a small section and focus on learning the rhythm, notes, fingering, and dynamics correctly right from the first day.