My students hear my say the same phrase over and over each week:
“You must practice SLOWLY each and every time you’re at your music stand.”
It’s something we’ve all heard throughout our time taking lessons and masterclasses, but it’s so hard to put in place. Even now I find I sometimes lack the patience for this slow, diligent practice and I think to myself “If I can’t even take my own advice, how do I expect my students to take my advice?”
Yes. It’s hard. It’s even harder now that I have a baby at home, work from home, and teach from home. I barely have any time to practice! We’re all busy! But that’s where this slow practice is most important and I’m vowing to be better.
You might be asking what is slow practice? It’s exactly what it sounds like - you start practicing your repertoire slowly and gradually increase the tempo. A good starting point is to play the music as slowly as you need to to be able to sight read the piece accurately. If you’re playing too fast and making mistakes, you’re only practicing those mistakes. Once you feel as if you are able to confidently play each note, you gradually up the tempo repeating the process until you reached your desired tempo or your max tempo. (Important note: Your max tempo DOES NOT have to be equal to the marked tempo. YOU CAN PLAY SLOWER AND IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY. More on that another day.)
You’ll find that practicing in this way allows you to learn the music not only correctly, but actually quicker than you otherwise would have. In this way, you’re allowing your brain, ears, and fingers to process what you’re learning. You’re practicing diligently and in a focused manner and you’re able to fix mistakes quickly.